We need diverse books!

In Search of Diverse Books

There’s a popular saying here in Kansas. “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” We have some of the most diverse weather patterns I’ve ever seen, with everything from heat waves to snow.

And that was in one twenty-four hour period.

While some may grumble, many of us here in the Midwest embrace that diversity and consider it almost a point of pride. Imagine what the publishing world would look like if authors, readers, and publishers embraced the idea of diverse books with the same enthusiasm. The concept is not so farfetched; many independent publishers are stepping up to fill a void that is becoming more and more obvious to readers everywhere. We asked some of our fellow Pickles to tell us about their favorite diverse books, and they offered up some fine suggestions.

Khadijah Lacina not only handles our sales with a deft touch, she also knows a thing or two about diversity. “One series that really says diversity to me (and which my children love!) is the Anna Hibiscus books by Atinuke. My younger children love Anna Hibiscus’ Song, a lovely picture book, and the older ones read the chapter books again and again. Anna Hibiscus lives in amazing Africa with her mother, her father, her baby twin brothers, and lots and lots of her family. Her dad is from Africa, her mom is from Canada. These books are just lovely. They are funny, sweet, interesting, and totally different from anything else out there!

Another that I like is the Lion Boy series by a mother and daughter team that goes by Zizou Corder. The series is about a young boy named Charlie Ashanti, whose dad is African and whose mother is British. Charlie can talk the language of cats after accidentally swapping blood with a leopard cub. When his parents get kidnapped, Charlie sets out to find them, traveling all over the world, including Morocco and Venice, meeting a wide variety of very interesting characters along the way.”

Award-winning author Elizabeth O. Dulemba is proud of her multi-cultural publishing history, which includes the following picture books:

Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante written by Keith Polette (Raven Tree Press)

Soap, soap, soap ~ Jabón, jabón, jabón by Elizabeth O. Dulemba (Raven Tree Press)

The 12 Days of Christmas in Georgia written by Susan Rosson Spain (Sterling)

“My ParentSmart Kid Happy™ books have lots of diversity in them: Ready for Bed; Ready for the Day; and Ready to Play (Free Spirit). I think I’ve become somewhat known for doing diverse characters, because I’ve been working towards that since the beginning of my career. I was actually pitching a picture book about how people say “I love you” all over the world when LPP asked if I had an environmental novel and purchased A Bird on Water Street. After all, it’s boring to have all your characters look the same. My neighborhood is extremely diverse, my books should be too!”

Jodi Carmichael, also an award-winning author, had this to say: “The one that immediately comes to mind is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It is a story of hope, joy, and love amidst poverty and despair. The voices of our First Nations peoples are often ignored not only in literature, but in everyday life. As a Canadian, a focus on Native stories is where I see a bright and important future in children’s literature.”

The hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks has become an excellent promotional tool for raising awareness of the gulf between readers and books that they can truly relate to. Tell us about some of your favorite diverse books in the comments section, and please consider “tweeting” some or all of these titles along with the hashtag. We talk about broadening our horizons; don’t we deserve to broaden our bookshelves as well?

5 thoughts on “In Search of Diverse Books

  1. New to me today: Anna Hibuscus’ Song – since I don’t buy a lot of picture books for small children anymore, this one just got put on my list.

    My favorite on this list is Sherman Alexie! That one doesn’t stay on the shelf in our school library and I’m tempted to just buy several more copies for students.

    This whole month I’ve been introduced to new titles and I am loving it. That means my list is getting longer by the day.

  2. Kelly, make sure you check out the Anna Hibiscus chapter books as well, they are not to be missed! Yes, I read them too, can’t help myself.
    Jodi recommended the The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian a week or so ago on FB. Now that you’ve endorsed it as well, I am going to have to get it.

  3. My board book, My Amazing Day: A Celebration of Wonder and Gratitude, depicts a biracial toddler enjoying the simple and amazing pleasures of everyday life, and ends with a little-kid-friendly expression of gratitude. Here is a link to Sharon Chang’s review, on her Multiracial Asian Families blog–both a review I very much appreciate and one where she eloquently discusses ways that children’s literature can address race and identity: http://multiasianfamilies.blogspot.com/2014/04/book-review-my-amazing-day-celebration.html.

    Others that stand out for me are Oh, Oh, Baby Boy! by Janine MacBeth; “More, More, More,” Said the Baby and A Chair for Mother by Vera B. Williams; and Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold.

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