We Need Diverse Books has issued a challenge for all readers:
From the website:
By pledging to read, 5, 10, 15, 25, or even 100 DIVERSE books.
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.
This is a challenge I can get behind! I’ll list and link to the books I and my darling boy read (and provide some brief annotations) in hopes that folks will read along with us.
- Joshua By the Sea, Angela Johnson: makes me long for summer; an African American family spends a wonderful day at the beach; Joshua explores; board book, beautiful illustrations
- Whose Toes are Those? Jabari Asim, board book, great way for babies to play along while they find their toes
- Whose Knees are These? Jabari Asim, board book, similar to Toes, funny and affirming
- Goodnight Baby, Cheryl Willis Hudson, board book, cute illustrations, short and great for trying to get a baby into some sort of bedtime routine
- Pretty Brown Face, Andrea Davis Pinkney, another affirming book, though illustrations remind me of something that came out of the 70s (the father has an Afro that’s pretty dope, lol), board book; there’s a mirror on the last page so the baby can look at him/herself. I love that.
- The Boy Who Didn’t Believe in Spring, Lucille Clifton: one of my all-time favorite books. Hands down. Two boys, one of whom is named King Shabazz, go out in search of spring. Their quest leads them through their urban neighborhood. Wonderful illustrations, great interracial boy friendship. Delightful.
- Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children, Sandra L. Pinkney, Photographs by Myles C. Pinkney: a board book that describes shades of black and brown in creative, empowering language (my favorite “I am the midnight blue in a licorice stick”) that all kids need, black and brown kids, particularly. With photographs of actual children, some words you’re probably going to need to look up (well, I looked up Unakite, which is one of the words used as a descriptor), and the repeated phrase “I am Black. I am unique” this is a great book that depicts various shades of Blackness.
- So Much, Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury: A raucous celebration of family members who all come over to see the baby–well, so it seems. From uncle, to aunties, to others, this book is such fun to read. The language is reminiscent of, I’m thinking, Cooke’s cultural background, as some of the linguistic patterns seem West Indian (which makes sense given Cooke’s background). One visitor, the cousin, arrives and wants to fight with the baby, which did give me pause. Everyone else wants to hug and kiss the baby except the young cousin, who wants to fight. I imagine that we will have to have conversations about why hitting and fighting is inappropriate, eventually. However, for now, and even then, we will keep this book as one to read again and again because it is simply a delight: Black families, engaged in preparations for a great surprise, overly positive and loving.
- Ask the Passengers, A.S. King: I’m taking a course through a fantastic PD program called Teachers as Scholars. My seminar is about LGBTQI young adult literature in the classroom and this novel is one of the first ones I’m reading for my class. It’s an interesting concept: a young woman is in her senior year of high school, questioning if she’s a lesbian. She lives in a small town with awful parents (her dad’s a pot head and her mother is just…vile), plus her two closest friends are both in their own secret gay relationships. To get through it all, the main character, Astrid, sends her love out to passing airplanes. The book is cute for the first third but I was frustrated with Astrid and her seeming helplessness, though she gets an extra boost from Socrates and her supportive Humanities teacher. I also detested the mother. I found her so awful that she was beyond believable, but, that gives me something to talk about during my seminar. There are also two random mentions of people of color (I think Astrid’s girlfriend is Black and there’s a school board member whose race is mentioned), which absolutely confused me. Then, one of the characters disappears and reappears as the author is trying to tie up loose ends. Okay, so this book is one to add to a classroom library because it’s a portrayal of coming out, small town, lesbian. I’d imagine that this would be useful in a broader collection of LGBTQI stories.
- ABCs of African American Poetry, Ashley Bryan: I took to my bookshelves to start reading many of the books I’ve collected over the years to my son. This picture book has excerpts from the work of 26 Black poets. Sometimes the initial letter is not the first letter of the word (that threw me off a bit but once I realized that, it was fun to see where the letter would appear), promoting new discoveries. Additionally, the full information of the poets and their poems is at the end of the book for further reading. Bryan’s colorful, beautiful illustrations provide a wonderful pairing with the poems.
- Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan: I LOVED this book. The narrator–or Greek chorus?–felt like many of the friends I’ve known and loved. As the story played out, of two boys who wanted to break a record, of another couple that had been together for a while, of a different, new couple and of a lonely young man, I wanted to know every single story these kids had to tell. Every single one. I didn’t find any parts of the story contrived, and I think that’s because there’s also a part of this story that resonates with older readers, those of us who actually were around when AIDS took so many from us (and still is)…I could write forever about this book. For now, I’ll just recommend it wholeheartedly. An excellent young adult book that is also just write for grown-ups, too.
- Gracefully Grayson, Ami Polansky: Grayson is a boy who knows he is a girl. Living with his aunt and uncle in Chicago after his parents die, Grayson struggles to tell others what he has always known to be true. A great middle grade novel, largely because it is thoughtful and gentle and has some great examples of what it means to be an upstander when we see something wrong.
- Nino Wrestles the World, Yuyi Morales: In this delightful picture book, Nino wrestles various figures of his imagination in the custom of the Lucha Libre wrestlers. Nino is imaginative and Morales’ drawings are fantastic. Nino does meet his match at the end of the book, and it’s an even bigger challenge than a Lucha Libre!
- My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood, Tameka Fryer Brown: One worry I have is that Black boys get labeled as “angry” far too quickly. Rather than helping them to use their words to express how they are feeling, they are punished. More patience! I think this adorable book will help. The Black boy at the center of this picture book uses all kinds of wonderful adjectives to describe his various moods. Readers can’t help but be encouraged to try their own descriptive words to express the many moods they’re in.
- Adaptation, Malinda Lo: This science fiction novel grabbed me at the beginning when birds started falling from the sky. I found it to get my adrenaline pumping as I wondered why the protagonist, Reece, had wounds that seemed to heal quickly, why she and her bestie spent time out in the middle of the desert and can’t talk about what happened. She has an encounter with another young woman that lets her explore her sexual orientation, too. Engaging, compelling, fast read for those who love Sci fi and those who don’t. I am the latter and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
- Too Many Mangos, Tammy Paikai: I love it when friends give us books as gifts! This delightful picture book helps understand the gift of sharing. The illustrations feature a varied cast of Hawaiian characters beautifully drawn. Readers will also get a joyful glimpse of life as they learn about mangos and much more. This book will be in our permanent collection.
- Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, Isabel Quintero: Gabi reminds me of a well-developed Ugly Betty if you remember that TV show from the early 2000s. She describes herself at various times as “overweight,” “nerdy,” “Mexican,” but that doesn’t really scratch the surface. Gabi is also a loyal friend to her besties who have their own challenges (including coming out and teen pregnancy among other things), a father who battles substance abuse and a mom and aunt who don’t believe that she is actually a good girl. Oh, and Gabi is also a senior who has her mind set on going to UC-Berkeley. With an irrepressible sense of humor and a voice that rang amazingly true and reminiscent of young people I actually know, this book is one I’d consider reading as a whole class novel. It’s that good.