2015 Diversity Reading Challenge Children

Taking the Mystery out of Black History Month

It’s February and that means Black History Month! YAY!!!! A month dedicated to celebrating African Americans and all the talents that they bring to the world. Black History Month is a great time to try something new: a book, a work of art, piece of music, etc., anything that was made special by people of color.

The problem is, where do you start?



To many people, deciding what to do or how to participate in Black History month is a mystery. That’s what ya have me for! I’ll help take the mystery out of what books, why, and for whom.

To kick off Black History Month I’d to remind you of Moses aka Harriet Tubman. This beautifully illustrated picture book written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by my crush Kadir Nelson is a great place to start.

The lils can look at the glorious illustrations. The older ones can listen attentively as you read about Harriet Tubman as she led her people (just like Moses) through the Underground Railroad; parts of which dissect Philadelphia, which is where I live.  You might learn something and you might find a new fave picture book.

Also? This book counts toward the 2015 Diversity Reading Challenge, as it’s written by a person of color AND there’s a person of color on the cover.



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So This is Paris: The Greenland Breach by Bernard Besson

Ok, this title sounds right out of a James Bond flick:

The Arctic ice caps are breaking up. Europe and the East Coast of the United States brace for a tidal wave. Meanwhile, former French intelligence officer John Spencer Larivière, his karate-trained, steamy Eurasian partner Victoire, and their computer-genius sidekick Luc pick up an ordinary freelance assignment that quickly leads them into the glacial silence of the great north, where a merciless war is being waged for control of discoveries that will change the future of humanity. The author is a former top-level official in French intelligence and a prizewinning thriller writer. Translated by award-winning Les Misérables translator Julie Rose.

Well, let’s get to it!

Greenland, the north face of Haffner Bjerg

GreenlandBreach800-194x300 Lars Jensen felt the ground tremble beneath the snow. He straightened up and abandoned his position, petrified by what he was seeing to the west, toward Canada. The last phase of global warming had begun just as a big red helicopter flew past from the east. It doubtless belonged to Terre Noire, the Franco-Danish oil-and-gas company that was carrying out geological surveys.

From the rocky slopes of Haffner Bjerg, events were taking an unimaginable turn worthy of Dante. With a sound as ominous as the crack of doom, the Lauge Koch Kyst had begun to tear away from Greenland and plummet into Baffin Bay in the North Atlantic Ocean. A colossal breach a mile and a half deep was opening up in the middle of the island continent. The trench ran for miles, as if an invisible ax had just split the ice cap in two.

Terrified, Lars backed away, forgetting what he had come to the top of the world to do. He’d guessed that his presence on the slopes of Haffner Bjerg had something to do with the death of the Arctic. The advance wired from an anonymous account on the island of Jersey was every bit as incredible as the cataclysm under way.

A mist shot through with rainbows rose from the depths of the last ice age. Behind the iridescent wall, thousands of years of packed ice raked the granite surface and crashed into the sea, stirring up a gigantic tsunami. He pressed his hands to his ears to muffle the howling of Greenland as it began to die.

It took Lars awhile to get a grip. His hands were still shaking as the thunderous impact reached him. It was even more frightening than the ear-splitting sound. Greenland was plunging into Baffin Bay. In a few hours, the coasts of Canada and the United States would be flooded. He fell to his knees like a child, overcome by thoughts that had never before crossed his mind. An abyss was opening inside him, and it was just as frightening as the one in front of him. It wasn’t until his fitful breathing slowed and his lungs stopped burning that he was able to get back to the tawdry reality of his own situation.

He lay down again on the hardpacked snow. With his eye glued to the sight of his rifle, he found the trail that the dogsled had taken from the Great Wound of the Wild Dog. That’s where the team would emerge, heading for Josephine and the automated science base that sounded the great island’s sick heart. The Terre Noire geologists were known for their punctuality, but at two thousand euros an hour, he would wait if he had to. Say what you like, the end of the world was good business.

[Later in the story]

Paris, 18 rue Deparcieux

John, Luc, and Victoire walked back to Fermatown via the Rue Deparcieux, which was parallel to the Rue Fermat. Surrounded by a garden visible from the sidewalk, the huge house usually cost a fortune to heat. But winter hadn’t arrived this year. Global warming had saved Fermatown’s finances.

The sun had set the neighborhood ablaze. Spring would be a scorcher. John told himself there had to be a way to accept Harper’s offer. There was no point in resorting to espionage to find out what Terre Noire was hiding. Ninety percent of all corporate information was freely available to the public, especially in France. All you had to do was ask the right people the right questions and search the appropriate databases. As was his habit, John quickly glanced up and down the street before unlocking the garage door. They savored the semi-darkness of this space, where they parked the two cars and the two motorbikes that constituted Fermatown’s fleet. He left Luc to close the door behind them and bent down to Caresse, the Persian house cat.

“Come here, gorgeous,” he said as he picked her up.

They took the spiral staircase up to the second floor. When they reached the big main room, Victoire asked the touch screen wall to light up and display the news channels. Hubert de Méricourt had asked Fermatown to test this latest technology before installing it in the agency’s offices at Les Invalides. The prototype was nine feet high and six feet wide. The wall responded to fingerprint and voice command. It could show television channels, websites, newspapers, and documents from databases and had a host of apps.

Forgetting the cheese and wine, they stood glued to the screen. After inundating Baffin Island and the Labrador coast, the Greenland tsunami was heading for the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. Boston and New York were filled with scenes of panic. The most predictable of catastrophes was taking the world by surprise. Several Canadian ports had been submerged by a wave more than twelve feet high. The number of victims was still unknown, but a Quebec channel was talking about scores of deaths and extensive damage. Photos of two faces kept popping up on the news channels: the climatologist and Nobel Prize winner Romain Brissac and Loïc Le Guévenec, captain of the Bouc-Bel-Air.

BONUS: Here’s a pic of the author with Caresse.


Isn’t she adorbs?

How’d you like that title? See you next time.


Young Adult


Deborah Ellis Q: How did you learn about the two young women who inspired Moon At Nine? A:The real-life Farrin now lives in Canada, and I met her through my publisher.  We spent time together and she told me what her life was like growing up in post-revolutionary Iran.  She told me about falling in love with the real-life Sadira and what happened to them both as a result of that love Farrin and Sadira’s tale is, sadly, not unique – not in Iran and not in many parts of the world.  It varies by degree, and in some places it is getting hugely better. But it still goes on. Q: Moon at Nine is fiction but based on true events.  Is it harder to write stories based on reality? What aspects of the story changed between fact and fiction? A: Most of my books are based on real-life situations of war or other forms of injustice, so I am used to working hard to make the stories as realistic and factual as possible.  One of the differences with this book is that I was basing the story on the experiences of real individuals who did not want to share their identity.  I had to honor the essential truth of their story while creating enough fiction around it to preserve their anonymity.  Also, the real-life Farrin and Sadira story is much more brutal than the one I felt competent enough to relate in a book for young people.  Plus, I wanted to leave the reader with a sense of respect for the strength, beauty, compassion and diversity of the Iranian people.  Putting all the brutality these young women went through into the story might leave the reader with the impression that the whole country is brutal.Q: Farrin writes fantastical stories about a demon slayer, and Sadira imagines her past as if it were a story that happened to someone else.  What do you think makes storytelling so important, especially in a situation like this? A: Telling stories allows us to see ourselves as heroes. Whether we are slaying vampires, opposing dictators, escaping religious oppression or standing up to family, we can get strength from picturing ourselves as braver than we think we are.  Stories help us feel connected to others.  They can give us a sense of community, even when all around are hostile, and they can remind us that our sorrows are not original – others in history have shared the same pain. image005Q: How have LGBT rights changed or advanced in Iran since l988? A: Homosexuality is illegal in nearly 80 countries.  In seven countries, including Iran, gays and lesbians can be put to death.  According to the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR), lesbians in Iran are also forced into marriage, are victims of extortion, are raped and tortured.  It is still very dangerous to be lesbian or gay in Iran.  Having said that, Iran is also a nation with a wide diversity of opinion, as reflected in their film industry.  A female film-maker, Maryan Keshavarz, recently made a film about women falling in love with each other in Iran. Q: With this and all your books, you are known for your extensive research.  What is the most surprising thing that you discovered regarding Iranian life/history/culture? A: Iran is a nation that values education and has a highly educated population.  It is a nation of strong women who hold and exercise power in a multitude of ways.  A rich body of literature stretching back thousands of years, extensive artistic traditions and a huge diversity of cultures combine into a country that is complex and fascinating.  I hope to be able to travel all over Iran some day. Q: All of your books focus on hard-hitting social justice issues.  Do you approach these topics differently for younger readers than you would for adults? A: Younger people often deal with the fallout of adult decisions without really understanding those decisions.  When writing stories for young people, I have to try to see the situation through the young character’s eyes.  What would they see, what would they feel, what would they understand and what would their choices be?  The stories also need to end with at least a little bit of hope. Even if the situation is still bleak, the character has a bit more wisdom and a bit more strength to be able to face the next challenge with at least the hope of success. Q: What advice would you give readers who are facing prejudice themselves? A: First off, survive.  Stay alive.  Look after yourself.  Eat healthy, study hard, stay away from drugs and booze.  Find things you enjoy.  The adults around you who have created or tolerated the environment of prejudice might never let go of their ignorance.  They might not change, so you may have to stop wanting them to change, for your own sanity.  You might have to learn how to thrive and succeed without their approval, which will feel very lonely at times – but you can get through it.  There are allies out there for you.  Keep looking until you find them.  Build a healthy supportive community around you and learn to give that support to someone else.  Volunteer in your community to keep yourself busy and feeling good about your contributions.  Get strong.  Achieve.  Find joy.  Stay alive.  Build a new world over the stupidity of the old. Wow wasn’t that a great interview? I love Ellis’ advice to young people facing adversity: STAY ALIVE. Thank you Ms Ellis! Have you read Moon at Nine? What did you think? Are you facing any prejudice? How are you dealing with it?