I am so excited because today I have the honor of sharing new diverse books for kids by diverse authors, including superstars like Jacqueline Woodson, Sonia Sotomayor, and Viola Davis.
This is a bigger deal than you might think and certainly a bigger deal than it should be. For while there are more diverse books for children available than in the past, it is alarming that diverse authors still make up only 7% of published children’s authors.
Even so, although it is tempting to simply say that we should support the books below solely for this reason (and this alone would be reason enough to support them), it must also be stated that these books are remarkable in and of themselves regardless of who wrote them, simply because they are wonderful books all children will enjoy.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions mine. This book contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
New Diverse Books for Kids by Diverse Authors
5 decades before the current push for diverse books for children, there was Corduroy, a beautiful little gem of a book about a girl and her stuffed bear. What made it so ground breaking was that the little girl was black, which made a world of difference to children like Viola Davis, who used reading as an escape into an imaginary, idealized world. It was for that reason that when Ms. Davis, the winner of multiple acting awards, turned her hand to children’s literature, she decided to write a sequel to this beloved work.
Corduroy Takes a Bow is a deserving follow up to the original. Davis and illustrator Jody Wheeler bring Corduroy and his friend Lisa back to life in this gentle adventure at the theater, as Lisa and her favorite teddy bear accompany Lisa’s mother to a performance of Mother Goose. A beautiful tale that has the feel of a classic, it is a fitting tribute to the original and a lovely way to continue Corduroy and Lisa’s story.
The Day You Begin is the first of two books in this list by award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson, best known for Brown Girl Dreaming. Her new picture book is a beautiful work that speaks to any child who has felt out of place from everyone else, too different to fit in. So many children can find themselves in the pages – as someone who looks different, speaks a different language, who can’t run as quickly as the rest, or whose mother packs a lunch that seems strange to the other kids.
What’s so lovely is that even as the children in the book find refuge in each other, they still celebrate what is unique about themselves: “This is the day you begin to find the places….where every new friend has something a little like you – and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all.”
A special mention also for award-winning illustrator Rafael López, whose graceful images match the emotional depth of the text.
Sonia Sotomayor is a vocal advocate of reading, telling an audience recently that, “The key to success in my life, it’s the secret that I want to share with kids and how I became successful. I’m here as a Supreme Court Justice only because of books.” And so it is fitting that she write her own life story in the form of a children’s book, Turning Pages: My Life Story. (And as a tribute to her native tongue – learned in New York from her Puerto Rican parents, the book is also available in Spanish, as Pasando páginas: La historia de mi vida).
I was instantly drawn to the personal photos at the front of the book, as well as the wonderful illustrations by the legendary Lulu Delacre. Sotomayor’s story of overcoming adversity is truly inspiring, and I love how she makes the direct connection from books to social justice and the ability to help others. The main message to take away from this work, as emphasized by Sotomayor herself, is that if she can succeed at her dreams, so can any other child who loves to read.
Harbor Me is the book we need at this moment in history, a deeply emotional story about young people forced to grapple with big social issues like racism, sexism, prison, and guns. The pacing of the story is just right, as we gradually come to know this special circle of tween students, brought together by their teacher as a sort of social experiment, in the hopes that they could learn to support and help each other. In this one novel, Woodson manages to highlight a wide range of social issues, without making it seem trendy or gimmicky. Instead, each child’s story is treated respectfully, as are the ways that the other children respond and support them.
What really makes this middle grade chapter book come alive is the authenticity of the children’s voices and the emotional range and complexity they display. As in The Day You Begin, it is a book about finding your voice and learning to respect others’ as well.
While so many of the other books on this list tackle major social issues, The God Gene Chronicles: The Secret of the Gods (Volume 1) is just plain fun. It is a rollicking adventure story whose main protagonists are a trio of friends at a boys’ school in Mumbai. But make no mistake, this is life or death stuff, as two clandestine organizations fight for control over the fate of humanity.
Author Projesh Banerjea was fascinated by the idea of retelling the Hindu myths he grew up with in the style of the modern superhero tales he loved. The result is a page turning novel that older readers will enjoy from beginning to end – from the boys’ shenanigans at school to the underground world of good and evil that simmers all around them.
Through much of the book the boys move in parallel to this end-of-the-world battle, oblivious to what is happening just below the surface all around them, at times involving their teachers and even their own parents. But soon the two worlds collide, and each boy is caught up in a maelstrom that will invoke the ancient tales of the gods and ultimately mean for two of them either life as a bearer of the god gene – or death as a victim of the dark side.
I thoroughly enjoyed this action adventure, and how it brings ancient stories into modern times, reworking the Western idea of superheroes to suit an entirely different Eastern universe. Don’t worry – if you don’t have much background in Hinduism, the author has a primer at the beginning, and does a great job of weaving basic explanations into the story, so you won’t miss a step!
This post is part of the blog tour for Turning Pages: My Life Story. Find all the other stops in the tour below!
August 28 – Here Wee Read – Review
August 29 – Lu and Bean Read – Review
August 30 – DJ Reads Books – Conversations
September 3 – All Done Monkey – Learning Activity + Creative Instagram Picture
September 4 – Mundo de Pepita – Review
September 5 – Babies to Bookworms – Review + Learning Activity
September 6 – Biracial Bookworms – Review + Recap of Meeting Sonia
September 11 – Read. Learn. Repeat. – Review
September 12 – A Buckeye Teacher – Review + Classroom Activity
September 13 – Inspiring English Language Learners – Books as an essential key to unlocking identity and vision to what’s possible.