Diversity Reading Challenge Roundup
Identity and Compassion
It’s SUMMER! Summertime means more time for reading, YAY! Not sure what to read? Your fave unconventional librarian has got you covered. I’ve compiled a list of kids books that contain diversity. No need to scour the internet or ask your friends to find the right book. I’ve got them here. All you’ll hafta do is go to your local bookstore or library and start reading.
#1: Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
I cannot love this book any harder if I wanted to. There is such a need for books representing the Latinx people and I feel like Julian is a Mermaid is a beautiful example. Young Julian is riding the train with his Abuelita (Grandmother in Spanish) and he sees three very beautiful women dressed in mermaid costumes (I mean it’s New York, right so anything’s possible?) and oh how his imagination soars, pretending to be a mermaid. Once home Julian’s creative thinking allows him to make himself a mermaid costume. I won’t give away the ending but I wept as Julian was caught by his Abuela in his dress up clothes.
The representation of the community is stunning in its accuracies with their different shades, body shapes and hairstyles. I feel that we were all Julian at one time.
Except I was never a mermaid. I was a pirate. But you get my meaning.
Snag this book today!
#2: The Little Tree by Muon Van
As the little tree sends her little seed out into the world, she wonders what will become of it. One day she finds out. And when she does, OMG will you cry! There are so many different ways to love this book! The author of the book is of Vietnamese descent and discusses the families emigration from Vietnam to Hong Kong and then to the U.S. These feelings are depicted in the illustrations as well. Parents will appreciate the story because that’s exactly how it feels to send a small child out into the world: magical and frightening at the same time. Children will love the story because of the gentle way the tale unfolds, the soft drawings and the feeling of magic and wonder. So much diversity and multiculturalism without saying a word about it. LOVE!
The Little Tree is sure to be a favorite! Add this to your Diversity Reading Challenge.
#3: This Way Home by Wes Moore Shawn Goodman
Elijah Thomas knows one thing better than anyone around him: basketball. At seventeen, he’s earned the reputation of a top-level player, one who steps onto the court ready for battle, whether it’s a neighborhood pickup game or a tournament championship.
What Elijah loves most about the game is its predictability: if he and his two best friends play hard and follow the rules, their team will win. And this formula has held true all way up to the summer before their senior year of high school, when a sinister street gang, Blood Street Nation, wants them to wear the Nation’s colors in the next big tournament.
The boys gather their courage and take a stand against the gang, but at a terrible cost. Now Elijah must struggle to balance hope and fear, revenge and forgiveness, to save his neighborhood. For help, he turns to the most unlikely of friends: Banks, a gruff ex-military man, and his beautiful and ambitious daughter. Together, the three work on a plan to destroy Blood Street and rebuild the community they all call home.
I’m so glad to see more books aimed at an urban or African American young adult reader. This would qualify for the Diversity Reading Challenge!
#4: Chocolate Mixer by Jason Armstrong
The children in Chocolate Mixer, happen to be brown like chocolate milk (and who doesn’t love chocolate milk??) even though they are a mixture of a white (vanilla) mother and a chocolate (Black) father. The very BEST line in the easy to read rhyming book is the line from Dad:
“He sat me on his lap and said “my rainbow you see” we are all some kind of mixer, just look at a family.”
Isn’t that cute? Even the youngest kiddos can look at families (possibly their own) and see how everyone is different shades of color, just like a rainbow. What a great way to discuss similarities rather than differences with the littles. There are SO many teachable moments in this book!
#5: Peter’s Chair
Peter stretched as high as he could. There! His tall building was finished.”
Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats is the CUTEST book around for children and parents experiencing the joyful addition of another child into the house. Peter, however, is none too thrilled to have a little sister who uses all his old baby things: his crib, his high chair, etc.
I’ve reviewed Ezra Jack Keats before and I love the multicultural vibe he brings. He purposely choose an ethnic variety for his main characters, and this was over 40 years ago! It’s only natural that I should review Peter’s Chair for Black History Month. The author is Jewish and the main character is African American; I LOVE the diversity!
If you’ve not read this book, you MUST DO IT NOW!! It is delightful and easy for kids to understand; all kids everywhere can relate to being dethroned by a little sib.
#6: Belle Prater’s Boy
So, I just finished reading an endearing book called Belle Prater’s Boy, by Ruth White. The tale is of two cousins, Gypsy and Woodrow, living in 1950s Virginia. Both children have lost a parent and both children struggle to understand why their parents left them. Gypsy is known for her long beautiful hair and Woodrow is a story teller. The language of the book is a blend of 50s charm and southern backwoods vernacular, which spoken through a child’s voice is particularly effective. I can see why the book was a Newberry Honor book.
I chose to read the book because I thought, given that the setting was the rural South, the story might contain a multicultural element. I was mistaken. While the characters within the story are Caucasian, there is a multicultural feel to the book, especially since Woodrow did not grow up in a family with money. In fact, Woodrow’s family was poor. Blind Benny adds a musical touch to the story and could certainly be African American, although not specifically stated.
Although Belle Prater’s Boy doesn’t specifically provide the multicultural blend that I was looking for, it is surely a good read: the characters are engaging, the story flows well, and the very small town lifestyle is different from what some readers may be familiar with.
#7: Little Shaq by Theodore Taylor III
When you think of Black History month do you think of politicians or just of musicians and actors? What about famous athletes? African American have contributed to society in so many ways! I’d like to share with you a great little book about Shaquille O’Neal, the basketball player. He has a series out called Little Shaq.
Little Shaq is a book for emerging and middle grade readers, depending on their interest.
When Little Shaq and his cousin Barry accidentally break their favorite video game, they need to find a way to replace it. That’s when Little Shaq’s science project inspires a solution: a gardening business. They can water their neighbors’ gardens to raise money for a new game! Little Shaq and Barry make a great team both on and off the basketball court, but will their business be as successful as they hoped?
The best thing about this book is that it shows kids (and maybe some adults) that athletes can have other talents than on the ball field or the court. Friends, family, business, and fair play are lessons that readers will enjoy.
This title also counts toward the Diversity Reading Challenge. Way to go Little Shaq!
#8: Don’t Forget DEXTER! by Lindsay Ward
Dexter T Rexter might be the cauuuuuutest T-Rex I’ve ever met! And sadly, I would be devastated if he were mine and got separated from me. But you know what, that’s exactly what happens in this adorbs story. Poor Dexter gets left behind in the doctor’s office waiting room. He’s sure his best buddy would never leave him behind on purpose so he sets out to figure out what happened and then tries to help himself get rescued.
The illustrations are multidimensional and so clever. I love love love this story. No spoiling the ending either, so you’ll hafta find out for yourself what happens.
PS you’ll be singing the dinosaur song all day!