Books That Celebrate Diversity 2017


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Readers- especially young readers- should have access to texts that provide mirrors and windows.  Mirrors in literature enable our readers to see reflections of themselves within the pages of books.  Windows allow for glimpses into worlds, cultures and perspectives that are outside of a reader's personal experience.

These remarkable books of 2017 allow for both- and they are calling for a place on your classroom bookshelf.

 

EARLY READERS
 

This is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World

Matt Lamothe (Chronicle Books)

This visually engaging picture book follows one day in the lives of seven children from countries around the world.  From Uganda to Russia, from Peru to Iran, we find that while differences do exist, we are all connected by our human qualities and the world we share. 

 

My Beautiful Birds

Suzanne Del Rizzo (Pajama Press)

My Beautiful Birds is an eloquently written story of a boy who is forced to flee his home in war-torn Syria.   He finds purpose in caring for the birds that surround him.  Del Rizzo, through words and fascinating mixed-media illustrations, tells a story of human resiliency with clarity, compassion and a firm sense of hope. 

 

A Different Pond

Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui (Capstone Young Readers)

Author Bao Phi relays the touching story of a father and son in honest, captivating simplicity.  Each day, the father and son fish a Minneapolis pond for the family’s evening meal.  During these precious moments together, the father reveals more of his own memories of fishing in Vietnam and of his migration to the United States.   The illustrations are equally as moving, making A Different Pondan impactful and digestible sharing of the human experience. 

 

A Family is a Family is a Family

Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Qin Leng (Groundwood Books)

This vibrant picture book tells the story of a young girl who lives with her loving foster family, but is hesitant to share this information with her classmates.  When a class project reveals the diversity of other students’ home lives, she becomes empowered to share- and to find pride in- her own unique version of family.

 

All the Way to Havana

Margarita Engle, illustrated by Mike Curato

Full of energetic sounds and illustrations, All the Way to Havana highlights the adventures of a young boy and his parents while driving to Havana, Cuba.  “Cara Cara”, the old family car, chugs and rumbles and zooms through streets filled with musicians, vendors, bustling activity and colorful buildings.  All the Way to Havana is a delightful celebration of culture, sight and sound.

 

Danza!: Amalia Hernandez and El Ballet Folklorico de Mexico

Duncan Tonatiuh

Danza! celebrates the life of famous dancer and choreographer Amalia Hernandez.  It tells of her dreams as a young child and her eventual founding of El Ballet Folklorico de Mexico.  With this troupe, she performed all over the world, sharing her unique blend of ballet, modern and traditional Mexican dance.  Danza! is engaging, informative, inspiring and a visual treat for young readers.

 

The Journey

Francesca Sanna (Flying Eagle Books)

Italian author and illustrator Francesca Sanna examines the kinds of journeys a refugee might take and the difficult decisions a family might endure when confronted with the unimaginable.  The Journey does not detail the refugee experiences of a specific region, giving the main characters a sense of universal relevance.   The book is expressive, beautifully depicted and incredibly timely.

 

The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid

Jeanette Winter

Zara Hadid, famed Iraqi architect takes the stage in this uplifting non-fiction picture book.   Readers learn of Hadid’s struggles to achieve her dream of becoming a great architect, despite the obstacles she encountered because of her gender and religion.  The World is Not a Rectangle encourages young readers to dream big and work hard to reach their aims.

 

Malaika’s Costume

Nadia Hohn, illustrated by Irena Luxbacher (Groundwood Books)

The culture of the Caribbean comes alive in this delightful picture book.  Maliaka, living with her grandmother in Canada, work together to create the perfect carnival costume.  Malaika’s Costume celebrates the values of family, cultural pride and imagination.

 

 

MIDDLE READERS

Refugee

Alan Gratz (Scholastic)

Refugee details three separate accounts of the refugee experience, from

Nazi Germany to 90’s Cuba to modern day Syria.  Gratz weaves these stories together in suspenseful ways, making clear that each refugee experience is significant and deserving of human attention.  While each character's search for refuge is unique, hope is the overarching sentiment throughout.

 

Amina’s Voice

Hena Kan

In this coming-of-age story, Amina and her best friend Soojin must navigate middle school and what it means to be American.  Faced with the idea of “fitting in”, Amina contemplates changing her name and hiding her most obvious cultural markers.  When her local mosque is vandalized, Amina is forced to reconcile with her own identity.  Amina’s Voice is a brave story of finding balance between cultures new and old.

 

Illegal

Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano (Hodder Books)

Illegal is an engrossing graphic novel that tells the harrowing story of Ebo, who is forced to leave his North African homeland.  At only twelve years old, Ebo must make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, experiencing a vast range of emotions and experiences along the way. 

 

The Epic Fail of Artura Zamora

Pablo Cartaya

Growing up in Miami, thirteen-year-old Artura Zamora is about to embark on a summer of challenges, complicated by the presence of Carmen, who moves into the neighborhood and consumes Arturo’s thoughts.  Artura becomes a hero in the community when he uses poetry and the art of Jose Marti as a form of protest against neighborhood gentrification.

 

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

Vashti Harrison (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Little Leaders features forty inspiring role models in history, including Sojourner Truth, Bessie Coleman, Alice Ball and Maya Angelou.  The text is beautifully illustrated and captures the imagination of readers of all ages.   From science to poetry to advocacy, Harrison relates these true stories of determination with poise and clarity.

 

Somos Como Las Nubes/We Are Like the Clouds

Jorge Argueta (Groundwood Books)

We Are Like the Clouds is an honest collection of bilingual poems that relate the experience of child migration from Central America to the United States.  The poems tell stories from a variety of perspectives and capture sentiments of fear, sorrow, adventure, desperation, hope, and resilience.  

 

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

Karina Yan Glaser (Houton Mifflin)

Celebrated as a New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2017, this book swallows readers up in the story of a large bi-racial family known as the Vanderbeekers, and the beloved brownstone they’ve always called home.  When Beiderman, the not-so-nice landlord, refuses to renew their lease, the Vanderbeekers must use all of their combined creativity to keep their home.

 

YOUNG ADULT

The Stars Beneath Our Feet

David Barclay Moore (Knopf)

Lolly Rachpaul is a twelve-year-old boy living in Harlem.  He and his mother are still grieving the loss of Lolly’s older brother, who was lost to gang violence.  A gift of Legos changes the course of Lolly’s life, marking a path toward friendship, purpose, overcoming and eventual healing.   This remarkable coming of age story is heartfelt and speaks to the combined power of self-determination and human connectivity.

 

The Hate U Give

Angie Thomas (Walker)

Thomas’ debut novel about Starr Carter is a Black Lives Matter inspired testament to our times.  Starr’s friend Khalil is shot and killed by a police officer as she watches.  The consequences are many, rippling into the community and rattling Starr’s existence.  This is a potent look at modern race issues, tempered by the goodness of community and the strength of human resolve.

 

See You in the Cosmos

Jack Cheng

See You in the Cosmos is an endearing story of 11-year old Alex, who records his travels throughout the American southwest on his iPod, with the hopes of one day launching the device into space.  Sharing in Alex’s adventures are his troubled mother and sidekick of a dog, Carl Sagan.  Alex’s experiences lead him to recognize that the destination is the journey and that family is where- and what- you make of it. 

 

American Street

Ibi Zoboi (Balzer & Bray)

Teenager Fabiola Toussaint expects to find joy and ease after making it from Port-au-Prince to Detroit.  She is faced with a different version of reality when her mother is detained by U.S. immigration.  Fabiola now wrestles with high school in a new country, the overbearing presence of her cousins, a feeling that must certainly be love- and at the forefront, a desperate drive to free her mother. 

 

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

Erica L. Sanchez

Julia has always been compared to her “perfect” sister Olga.   In fact, Julia's family struggles to understand her motive to leave the family and move away to college.  When her sister is killed in a tragic car accident, Julia faces even more pressure to live up to the daughter Olga was.  Julia is already juggling new life and new love- and now must face the loss of Olga and the truth about who her sister really might have been.  In all of this, Julia begins to reconcile with the past, make peace with her Mexican heritage and discover her own self worth.

 

Piecing Me Together

Renee Watson

Jade is a determined and bright young women fighting an upward incline of social mobility.  She has set out to leave her neighborhood to find success.  She is awarded a scholarship to a predominately white school and is taken under the wings of powerful black female advisors.   Yet, Jade struggles to identify completely with her old world or her new one.  She eventually learns to value all that her less-privileged upbringing taught her.  These lessons are part of her identity and become part of her own success story.  Watson elegantly tackles race, privilege, and identity in this coming-of-age treat.

 

When Dimple Met Rishi

Sandhya Menon

Menon has crafted a lighthearted YA romance that places her protagonist at the crossroads of cultural tradition and modern aspirations.  Dimple Shah has recently graduated high school and is off to a summer academy for web developers.   There, she meets Rishi, the same boy her parents selected as her “suggested arrangement”. While Dimple shuns the idea of an arranged marriage, Rishi welcomes it.   Despite their differences, the two are drawn together, and eventually discover a connection that surprises them both.  New York Times bestseller and winner of multiple book awards

 

The Girl from Aleppo: Nujeen’s Escape from War to Freedom

Nujeen Mustafa and Christina Lamb

Lamb, co-author of I Am Malala has joined with Nujeen Mustafa to relate another incredible true story.  Sixteen-year-old Nujeen was forced to flee Syria amid the destruction and terror of civil war.  Her journey is complicated by the fact that she is has cerebral palsy is bound to a wheelchair, making her escape more challenging and dangerous.  Nujeen’s quest for safety becomes a sixteen-month odyssey across the Mediterranean and through a number of countries before at last finding haven in Germany.  A Girl From Aleppo offers a window into the tragic events in Syria and through one young woman’s story of hardship, perseverance, and overcoming.