Here’s a mosaic of the children’s books by or about diverse characters that I read in January. (They were all picture books this month.) Nine books so far — I’m definitely on pace to make my 50 book goal.
I read 24 new (to me) picture books this month, so it’s still less than half of my reading, and six of the diverse books wouldn’t have crossed my radar if I hadn’t been seeking them out intentionally.
Top row: 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert, Can’t Sleep Without Sheep by Susanna Leonard Hill, Dear Primo by Duncan Tonatiuh
Middle row: Draw! by Raul Colón, The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh
Bottom row: Happy Like Soccer by Maribeth Boelts, Green is a Chile Pepper by Roseanne Thong, Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons
“Dear Primo” by Duncan Tonatiuh and “Same, Same but Different” by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw would make great classroom books because of their focus on cultural exchange. The premise is in each is simple: two boys in different countries write each other letters comparing and contrasting various elements of their lives.
For instance, in “Dear Primo,” when Carlitos tells his cousin about riding his bicycle past dogs and cacti on his way to school in Mexico, Charlie counters with a description of a riding a subway, which “is like a long metal snake, and it travels through tunnels underground.” They go on to compare favorite snacks, games, holidays and more. Throughout the text, Carlitos’ notes are peppered with Spanish terms, like cohetes (fireworks), explained in a glossary at the back.
Illustrator Mary Rockcastle recently posted a list of “9 Graphic Novels Every Girl Should Read” that look wonderful. Hat tip to Emily C. for sharing the link with me!
Although the headline refers to “girls,” I don’t think Rockcastle’s suggestions are geared to children. Some would no doubt be good for teenagers, though. I’ve only read two on the list, so getting to the rest is now among my 2015 reading goals.
For younger kids, my top graphic novel recommendation is Cece Bell’s “El Deafo.” Published by Abrams last year, it depicts a deaf girl navigating friendships and crushes while wearing a “phonic ear” device that allows her to hear her teacher anywhere in the school. (Yes, that includes when the teacher’s in the bathroom!) It’s actually a memoir about Bell’s own childhood, though she’s portrayed as a rabbit.
Here’s a video of Bell talking about “El Deafo”:
Got any suggestions for graphic novels focused on social justice events, characters or themes? If so, please share them in the comments!
(And if you feel iffy about the merits of reading graphic novels, go read this feature story I recently wrote on the subject: “Want your kid to read more? Give them graphic novels.”)
The We Need Diverse Books campaign is challenging its supporters to pledge to read a certain number of diverse books this year. I am pledging to read 5o.
What qualifies as a diverse book? As the campaign challenge puts it: “Books where people of color can be first-page HEROES rather than second-class citizens. Books in which LGBTQIA characters can represent social CHANGE rather than social problems. And books where people with disabilities can be just…people.” I’ll also be making sure a majority of those books are also by diverse authors.
The campaign focuses on children’s literature, and the majority a large portion of my diverse reads will probably be picture books, but I will also be counting adult books, like “Half a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which I read at the end of 2014 and highly recommend.
Ngozi Adichie gave a TED talk on the critical misunderstandings created when we only hear one thing about a person or a place. It’s called “The Danger of a Single Story,” and it is also very worth your time.
I have some other goals for my kidlit reading this year in addition to diversity. I hope to share them in the coming days or weeks. What are your 2015 reading goals? Please share them in the comments!