We need diverse books
We need diverse books. The movement that started as a hashtag earlier this year has grown into an organization with a mission to promote diverse books and authors. This is great news for children’s lit lovers everywhere who want to see books that reflect a wide range of experiences and cultures. Last September, I shared novels for middle schoolers that explore our diverse world, and I hope to continue highlighting books like this on Books in Bloom. Here are three books, one for elementary, middle, and high schools, to consider as you try to increase the diversity of your library collections.
Anna Carries Water takes readers to the Jamaican countryside. Their water doesn’t come from a tap. The children have to walk to the spring every evening and carry the water back home. Anna is the youngest in her family, and she trails behind her siblings on the way to the spring. On the walk home, her siblings carry their water on their heads, but Anna is too little to balance her container without spilling the water. “It just happens,” her sister assures her, and it does happen for Anna one day when she least expects it. At its heart, this is a story about growing up, but you can also invite young readers to look closely at the illustrations for glimpses of Jamaican life. Pair it with Barbara Kerley’s A Cool Drink of Water to add to a classroom discussion on the way that water connects us all. (9781896580609. January 2014. Gr. Ps-2)
The Red Pencil is a powerful story of a girl in the Darfur region of Sudan during the conflict there in 2003. As the book begins, Amira lives with her family in a village. She dreams of going to school, but her parents are traditional and they need her to help at home. Still, it’s a happy life, full of love. Until her village is attacked, her father is killed, and she must travel with her mother and sister to safety as refugees. They have very little food to take with them, and they have to travel through dangerous places. She says, “We keep walking, / In darkness. / Not talking. / Only wanting / this misery over.” When they finally arrive at the refugee camp, it’s hardly an improvement from the journey. But it is there that Amira receives a red pencil and yellow paper for writing. Amira has always loved to draw in the sand with a stick, and she is excited to draw with the pencil, but it isn’t easy at first. The more she draws, the more she heals, the more she dreams. (9780316247801. September 2014. Gr. 5-8)
In A Time to Dance, Veda has a dream too. She dreams of becoming a dancer. Her parents want her to do something practical, like engineering, but for Veda classical Indian dance is all there is. “Nothing else fills me with as much elation / as chasing down soaring music, / catching and pinning rhythms to the ground with my feet, / proud as a hunter rejoicing in his skill.” When she loses her leg in an accident, it seems as though she will have to give up her dream until an American doctor gives her a prosthetic leg. This gift gives her hope of returning to dance, but her dance teacher still tells her she will have to find a new dream. Veda’s story is, not only a look at Indian culture and religion, but also an example of how assistive technology can make a big difference in the life of a person with a disability. (9780399257100. May 2014. Gr. 7-12)
What books with diverse characters have you added to your library this year?