Diverse Kids Books–Reviews

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Monthly Archives: March 2015

Rad American Women A-Z –Diverse Women’s History ABCs by Kate Schatz #DiverseKidsBooks

Rad American Women A-ZWhat’s not to love about an alphabet book with twenty-six profiles of two centuries’ worth of diverse, accomplished women in the arts, sciences, sports, and politics, especially when they’re accompanied by bold, wood-cut style portraits in primary colors?

Children and adults alike will enjoy reading about artist Maya Lin, writer Zora Neale Hurston, Dr. Virginia Apgar, Olympic-winning Flo-Jo, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, and more. Each of these women’s stories alone is inspiring, but the collective argument they make is even more powerful: that women can be anything and do anything, and have.

Of the mix, X will likely be the favorite profile of many readers, as “X is for the women whose names we don’t know.” It credits the unsung, the unrecorded, uneducated, matriarchs, ancestors, “all that’s happening now and all that is still to come.” It’s not just for girls and women, either: “It’s for you and for me, the girls and boys and men and women and everyone in between helping to make the world safe, compassionate, and healthy.”

Rad American Women A-Z is a truly inclusive alphabet book for all readers, and even comes with suggested activities, “26 things that you can do to be rad,” a resource guide, books about rad women, further reading, and a list of websites and organizations. Great for home use, this book is also perfect for libraries and classrooms to incorporate into diverse curriculums.

Recommended: Highly, ages 5+.

Reviewer: Yu-Han Chao

Buy Rad American Women A-Z


Call For Submissions: Anthology By Ethiopian Adoptees

Light of Day Stories

Announcing a new and much-needed book for the adoption community.

Tentative Title:


 Editors: Aselefech Evans, Annette-Kassaye Berhanu, and Maureen McCauley Evans

IMG_8620 © national parks-worldwide.info

We are delighted to invite Ethiopian adoptees from around the world to submit essays about what Ethiopia means to you, and how being adopted has affected you. Your voice deserves to be heard. The book’s tentative title–Lions Roaring, Far From Home–is related to Ethiopian history and culture.

Here are some ideas for an essay: Recollections of early childhood in Ethiopia, and what you remember of life in Ethiopia prior to adoption. What life has been like for you in your adoptive country, and might have been like for you had you been raised in Ethiopia. Reflections on family in the country where you were raised, and family in Ethiopia, known or unknown.

You can write…

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Award Winning Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown_Girl_Dreaming with all the awardsJacqueline Woodson’s lyrical memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, is memorable, and not only because it won the prestigious National Book Award in 2014, the 2015 NAACP Image award and is a 2015 Newberry Award Honor Book. At its roots, Brown Girl Dreaming feels distinctly American.

Woodson’s memoir speaks of a connection and separation with family as she reflects on her birth in Ohio, her early years in South Carolina, and her family’s move to New York City. Throughout the memoir she recalls the absence of her father, the strength of her grandparents’ love, and the disconnect of what makes a place “home” as she moves between the American North and South during the 1960s and 1970s.

Woodson’s narrative is linear: the book is organized into four parts and chronologically follows Woodson’s life from her birth to the later stages of her childhood. Told completely in poetic free verse, Woodson’s poetry is easily accessible, following more traditional modes of form and lineation. Each poem is powerful, yet they work cohesively to tell Woodson’s childhood stories of learning to love writing and herself.

Brown Girl Dreaming is not a story that will disappear lightly. Its themes are strikingly contemporary as Woodson’s young narrator lets the reader in on a journey that seeks to understand how race and faith shape a person’s childhood, family, and friendships. This book is one that walks quietly and affects deeply. In short: Brown Girl Dreaming is a book to return to, and a book that will continue to hold its head high for a long time.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended, Ages: 11+

Reviewed by Erin Koehler

Buy Brown Girl Dreaming

Call For Book Reviewers –Diverse Children’s Books

Для ИнтернетаMixed Diversity Reads Children’s Book Review www.mixeddiversityreads.com is growing. We’ve just created a relationship with one of the largest publishers of children’s books in the United States and we need more Readers and Reviewers!

We review children’s books with protagonists who fall into all categories of underrepresented races, religions, family structures, disabilities, sexual orientation and gender identity. We need volunteers who love to read picture, chapter, MG, and YA books and write about them. We often “compensate” with a free copy of the books you review although half of our reviews are of digital copies of the books.  Although we have reviewers of all identities, we especially appreciate the “insider” perspective in our reviews so we strongly encourage those who are members of underrepresented populations or who teach or do library work with kids and/or teenagers from underrepresented populations to apply.

weneedreviewerscollage.jpgTo apply, send a short bio including why you are interested in working with us and attach two samples of your non-creative prose with a word count between between 250-300 words to mixeddiversityreads@gmail.com.

In the subject of the email write: Become a Book Reviewer.

Please visit our website and the “Volunteers Needed” Page of the site at http://mixeddiversityreads.com/internships-and-guest-reviewers/  before responding.

Newberry Honor Book, El Deafo by Cece Bell

020115 ALA MidwinterReading Cece Bell’s graphic memoir, El Deafo, is an experience. El Deafo, a 2015 Newbery Honor Book, tells the story of Bell’s childhood, beginning at age four when she loses her hearing from meningitis. The story follows Cece through the universal triumphs and insecurities, friendships and failures that come with growing up.

Cece fears that she’s too different from her hearing classmates and worries she won’t find any friends because of her clunky hearing aid, the Phonic Ear. El Deafo is the story of how Cece learns that her Phonic Ear is not only an aid for hearing, but a tool used to create her alternate identity and superhero counterpart: El Deafo.

Bell’s illustrations are clean and bright, paying tribute to the colorful characters that inhabit the memoir, while El Deafo‘s graphic novel form, coupled with the use of present tense and zoomorphic representations of characters as rabbits, creates just enough distance and immediacy for the reader to be constantly engaged. The graphic novel form, coupled with Bell’s neverending humor, provide the perfect highway to drive home Cece’s ability to accept and understand that her differences are her superpowers.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended; Age: 8-10+

Reviewer: Erin Koehler

Buy El Deafo

A Child’s Calendar by John Updike; illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman

cover for A child's CalendarA Caldecott Honor book, first published in 1965 then reprinted in 1999 with new illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman, A Child’s Calendar takes readers through a year’s worth of verse as a racially mixed family enjoys each month. Updike has written one poem for each month of the year. We are ushered through the seasons with sweet, simple stanzas that celebrate all the varied scenes and rituals that children—and those former children, adults—treasure over time.

Hyman’s illustrations are crowded with what appears to be a tight-knit, racially mixed family as well as a racially mixed, easygoing small-town community.

Hyman’s vision and Updike’s verse offer up a world where race matters far less than things like gathering together to share a meal, to rake leaves, or plant tomatoes. This is an ideal world of simple pleasures—a visual representation of the harmonic dream adults should hold on to and to which children should aspire to create.

Buy A Child’s Calendar

Reviewer: Maggie Trapp

We Need Diverse Books #WNDB Short Story Contest

WNDB_ButtonThe We Need Diverse Books Short Story Contest

We Need Diverse Books (“WNDB”) is a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. WNDB is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality. We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process.

WNDB is proud to announce that Phoebe Yeh, VP/Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House, has acquired publication rights to the Middle Grade WNDB Anthology, working title “Stories For All Of Us.” Ellen Oh, President of WNDB, will edit the anthology, which will have a January 2017 release date. Contributing authors include: Kwame Alexander, Sherman Alexie, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Pena, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Rachel Renee Russell, and Jacqueline Woodson.

The anthology will be in memory of Walter Dean Myers and it will be inspired by his quote: “Once I began to read, I began to exist.” Every new story contribution to this anthology will be by a diverse author.  Continue Reading about the Short Story Contest Rules and Deadline

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

cover for BreadcrumbsIn Breadcrumbs, Anne Ursu has penned a lively, wistful tale that gets at so much of the poignancy that is being a 10-year-old. This is a moving story that offers a modern-day account of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” In Ursu’s version, Hazel, a ten-year-old Indian-American girl with white (adoptive) parents is best friends with Jack, the boy next door until Jack mysteriously changes. The adults around them chalk up this change to typical pre-teen turmoil: it’s not unusual for girl–boy friendships to become awkward. But the reader can feel Hazel’s sadness. It’s hard to grow up, it’s hard to change and watch others change. Hazel is caught between wanting to fit in and wanting to keep her special friendship with Jack the way it is. At its heart, this is a story about how we can hold onto our real selves even as we change along with our friends. (more…)

Reading in Two Languages Just Makes Sense by Rachelle Escamilla

Back when I was teaching the young ones, I tried to read books with more than one language. I liked to read, out loud, in Spanish and the kids loved to hear languages that weren’t the ones they used most often. Those unfamiliar words seemed to travel into their brains and absorb or create little synaptic pathways; and because the word is so new and interesting, the child has to mouth it:           You say sun or sol. They repeat.    You say arbol or tree. They repeat.

When I teach reading to my students at a Community College in California I tell them:

reading-with-kids500You have to be active when reading! You have to read, speak, write and do!

So why not apply that principle to reading to children? Why not apply it to reading in two languages? It just makes sense. And now, even if you don’t know the words, you could just Google the pronunciation. Or you could brush up your Spanish or whatever on Duolingo. So reading a book with more than one language is super good for you, and probably fantastic for your child, who is always listening.


Rachelle doesn’t have children, but was a preschool teacher while she was getting her BA in Lit at San Jose State University and was a preschool substitute teacher while getting her MFA in Poetry from Pitt.

World of Children’s Books Still Very White; Real U.S. Children Increasingly People of Color

Five Thirty Eight Life image of children of color reading white characters

Spike Lee and Toni Morrison are two of my students’ favorite authors. Of course, their inclusion on our syllabus is not without controversy. For instance, Morrison’s beloved “Peeny Butter Fudge,” a collaboration with her son Slade, includes a recipe on the last page, and my students really want to make it. While there are no peanut allergies in my class this year, the recipe is much too sugary.

My students are 4 and 5 years old, and finding excellent books for them featuring people of color, kids with two dads, kids with no dad, or girls who slay dragons is a persistent challenge. Like many educators, I find myself returning to a handful of treasured titles, including “Peeny Butter Fudge” and Lee’s “Please, Baby, Please.”

Annual statistics from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center bear out what I know from visits to my local library. For three decades, the librarians at the center, a modest outfit at the University of Wisconsin, have tracked one dimension of diversity in books for children and young adults: racial diversity. Children’s and young adult literature (“kid lit”) represent a stubbornly white world even as U.S. children are increasingly people of color.

Since the center began tracking data in 1985, it has found underrepresentation of people of color both as authors and characters. Originally, it only tracked African-American authorship and content, finding just 18 new titles by African-American authors that first year.

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