Growing up, Eloise was my hero, and I forced my mother to read the book to me every night from the age of six until the binding wore all the way through. Always recited to me with a sigh (because, come on, for a picture book its length is EPIC), I loved hearing my mother recite the story nightly of this eccentric little girl and her life in the Plaza, imaging all the while just how much I wanted to step inside her shoes (personality, lifestyle and all).
There’s a reason that to this day, Eloise in particular still resonates with me, along with so many other amazing children’s books. The imagination, the heart, and spirit that Knight and Thompson have funneled into this character is something so tremendously special. Eloise, and so many like her (Madeline, Babar, A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh) shaped my imagination and spirit from such a young age and set a passion that’s made me a reader for life. So it was inevitable to me that this love would naturally translate into my adult career.
“I share my story to give hope to other writers hoping to see their diverse stories in print. While the news can often be dire when it comes to publishing diverse stories, and while it may seem that no one is interested in acquiring stories with diverse characters it is not always the case. Hopefully with time it will never be the case.”—
–Aisha Saeed, Diversity Solutions with Aisha Saeed
Check out the many interviews Maya Prasad conducts with industry professionals on how to achieve what we all seek–greater representation in children’s literature–here.
WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS CAMPAIGNweneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com
On May 3rd, 2pm (EST), the third portion of our campaign will begin. There will be a Diversify Your Shelves initiative to encourage people to put their money where their mouth is and buy diverse books and take photos of them. Diversify Your Shelves is all about actively seeking out diverse literature in bookstores and libraries, and there will be some fantastic giveaways for people who participate in the campaign! More details to come!
This is fantastic, especially Part III of the campaign! We’d like to see this as a launchpad to change the direction of the conversation. When you take photos of your purchased books, make sure to also post them on your social media networks.
CBC Diversity will be following this campaign and would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to post your comments below on the bookstore you visited to purchase your book, what you bought, why you’re so excited to read it, and how this campaign affected you. If you’re a bookseller or librarian, tell us about the interactions you had with patrons and customers on May 3rd. We’d love to hear from everyone!
So what happens now? Book Expo will likely respond with another apology and promise to do better. But it’s too late. The damage is done. “We’re sorry” is no longer acceptable. It is clear that diversity is not a priority for ReedPop and BEA. Either they are not thinking about it at all, or they are actively choosing against diversity because they believe they can make more money with an all-white line-up. These are not our values at Book Riot, and so we will not be supporting, promoting, participating in, covering, or encouraging our community to attend BookCon. We can’t control ReedPop and BEA’s choices, but we can control this. No diversity = no support.
–Rebecca Joines Schinsky, director of content and community for Riot New Media Group
We admire any person or company that appreciates and promotes authors and the creation of more representative stories. Standing up for what you believe in is important as is educating the masses on the issue at hand.
This month, though, story upon story in the news covering the “lack of diversity in children’s literature” have said the same thing. Enough already. Writing one article after another that “talks” about the diversity buzzword isn’t solving anything.
Sometimes what I learn about myself in my work as a children’s book editor is downright embarrassing and cringe-worthy: that despite my best intentions, my predominantly white upbringing, educational background, and chosen profession have not adequately prepared me to be as racially and culturally sensitive as I would like.
I don’t want to admit that about myself. And I really don’t want to admit it publicly on a diversity-themed website in front of the children’s literature community.
But I’m never going to make progress if I don’t call myself out and invite others I work with to call me out as well. And more to the point, since it’s not all about my personal development here, the books I help make aren’t going to reflect reality or drive change in our society if this important process doesn’t happen.
So let me share three lessons I’ve learned from working with Mitali Perkins, a writer as talented as she is kind and ebullient. Her books are terrific: vibrant characters, exciting and believable plots, natural pacing, clear themes—the whole literary package. Mitali is also a passionate advocate for inclusive literature, and she’s not afraid to let me know, in the nicest way possible, when I get in the way of that goal.
“…I was afraid of being stereotypical without realizing it. Afraid someone would take issue with something I wrote and call me racist. Still, I didn’t back down, and did the best I could, because ultimately, I believe diversity in fiction is something we all need to work on. And I truly believe trying is better than not trying. If I got something wrong, and I most likely did, I will learn from my mistakes and work hard to do better in the future.”—
– Lisa Schroeder, Thoughts from a scared, white author on diversity in Kid Lit
Author, Lisa Schroeder opens up about feeling uncomfortable writing outside of her perspective but embracing it because she wants all of her readers to know that they are important and should be able to see themselves in the stories they read.
14 Books for Children & Teens About the Freedom Summer of 1964
The “Freedom Summer” of 1964 was a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark year in American history. Here is a list of 14 children’s books that deal specifically with the remarkable events of 1964 – and 3 additional books specifically for teachers and librarians. Thank you to the following for their invaluable input:
Andrea Davis Pinkney
And Scholastic’s “Guide to Teaching and Talking about the Civil Rights Movement with Books for Children and Teens”
Picture Books for Young Readers
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Summer
By Deborah Wiles
Illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue
Aladdin / Simon & Schuster
Ages 4 - 8
Friendship defies racism for two boys in this stirring story of the “Freedom Summer” that followed the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now in a 50th Anniversary Edition with a refreshed cover and a new introduction.
Freedom School, Yes!
By Amy Littlesugar
Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Philomel / Penguin
Ages 4 - 8
In this triumphant story based on the 1964 Mississippi Freedom School Summer Project, that celebrates the strength of a people as well as the bravery of one young girl who didn’t let being scared get in her way.
The Other Side
By Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Putnam Juvenile / Penguin
Though not specifically about the 1964 Freedom Summer, this award-winning book also deals with the themes of segregation, friendship, and fairness.
Meg Medina Highlights Her Experience at the National Latino Children's Literature Conferencemegmedina.com
Snow outside – AGAIN. Thank goodness for the leftover cozy feelings from the National Latino Children’s Literature Conference this past weekend. On a scale of 1 – 10 in warmth and camaraderie, it ranks about a 50.
One reason was the faculty, a solid collection of Latinas in publishing. It included the fabulous former editor and literary agent Adriana Dominguez; color goddess illustrator Laura Lacámara; multiple-award winning poet and prose author Margarita Engle; Lila Quintero Weaver (who we’ve talked about here); bilingual library pro and storyteller Irania Patterson (how can anyone imitate every accent in the Spanish-speaking world?); longtime publishing icon Teresa Mlawer (“sounds like flour, with an m”); and me.
For three days we worked side by side with teachers and librarians from all over the country who wanted to know how to use multicultural books to serve all kids. Inevitably, we all drew close as we asked ourselves hard questions and generated new ideas. “I’m so glad you guys aren’t divas,” one of them told me as we all sat together.
Read more of this wonderful takeaways post by Meg Medina on her blog here.
My third book, Chasing the Milky Way, is due out in June. It’s about Lucy Peevey, a young girl who wants to win a robot competition for a cash prize and a college scholarship. She lives with her Mama, little sister, and best friend, Cam, at the Sunnyside Trailer Park. As they get ready to depart for the big weekend, Mama’s in the throes of an episode (Mama has a mixed diagnosis of Bipolar and Schizoaffective disorder), and things get complicated.
When my editor at Philomel, Jill Santopolo, and I started talking about Chasing the Milky Way, I realized that I was aching to discuss the stigma of mental illness. You see, my mom has worked in the mental health field her entire adult life. Growing up, she would take us to work with her at a rehabilitation house, and we had the opportunity to get to know the residents there. One said he was a space cowboy and told me his mind was a thousand years old. One could describe in detail how she knew she was Joan of Arc, reincarnated. One had a few baby dolls that she mothered, bringing them on walks and tending to their daily needs. Another took great pride in the yard work he could do around town, but to live on his own would have been too difficult. He struggled with basic functioning. One only appeared every few months or so when her manic depression (bipolar disorder) got really bad. I’d find her marooned on the sun porch holding a cushion like it was a life raft. Sometimes, she wouldn’t move for hours.
The facility, and the people in it, were quite normal to me. They had good days and bad days, interests, skills and worries. They had family and friends. But it didn’t take me long to realize that some of my classmates at school knew the facility, and were wary of it. They often had stories about what went on there (mostly fashioned by those on the outside, not bothering to look in). It became apparent that some people didn’t think the house should be in the community at all. This was my first brush with stigma. That was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. The stigma remains in both public and self perceptions.
“POINTE is the third book I’ve written about a teenage black girl, but it’s the first in which her race was not the focal point or even a subplot of the story. As someone who grew up black in a predominantly white town in southwest Missouri, I wanted to write a character who dealt with some of the day-to-day issues and obstacles I’d experienced without that being the point of the book. I was very involved in academics and extracurricular activities as a child and teen, and although it was a little tough almost always being the only black person in the room, or being the first black person to, for instance, join my high school’s dance team, I think those years were instrumental in shaping the person I am today. Overall, I had a great time in high school and tried to make the best of it. If people were going to notice me for being different anyway, I wanted them to especially notice me for my accomplishments. I believe Theo has a similar attitude.”—
author Brandy Colbert (@brandycolbert) talks about her debut novel Pointe, writing a girl of color, her writing advice and much more in our Twitter-style interview.
We’re also giving away a couple of finished copies of Pointe. This is a knock-out contemporary YA novel.
A Conversation With Ruth Tobar, Chair of the 2014 Pura Belpré Award Committee
Interview conducted by Wendy Lamb
Can you please tell me something of your background, and your work in children’s books?
I worked as Publisher and Executive Director at Children’s Book Press and have been involved with REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking for over a decade. In that time I have helped to plan and identify resources for the 10th and 15th Pura Belpré Anniversary Celebraciones and served on the 2010 Pura Belpré Award Selection Committee. I have participated on other committees and have worked with the leadership of REFORMA to strengthen the association at many levels. I have volunteered at REFORMA’s RNC IV Conference in Denver and have assisted in any way I can. As a person of color and a publisher of multicultural children’s books, I saw the value of having children of color reflected in published works and involving the community that is reflected in the books as well.
Though hardly fluent in English herself, my mother had tried very hard to read me English fairy tales when I was young. As a child, I was familiar with Anderson, Grimm and many stories written by Enid Blyton. I remember thinking then, questions like: Where was my snow? Why aren’t there fairies living in our garden? What does a Christmas pie taste like? And especially hated it whenever my mother would say, “We don’t have any of those things here, my dear; they are all in English places overseas.”
When Values Collide with Business: Ethnicity in Children's Bookshuffingtonpost.com
I want my two children, who are biracial, to see themselves reflected in the picture books we read together. In fact, my husband and I started a business, called Zoobean, to better curate children’s books and apps. We previously gave our customers, for whom we make personalized selections, the option to choose the ethnicity of the main characters featured in their books. However, we recently stopped offering this added service. To better understand why, let’s dig into some of our data and observations:
1. The majority of our customers selected “I don’t have a preference,” when given the option to choose the ethnicity of the main characters in their children’s books.
This indicated that most people don’t care or, perhaps, don’t feel comfortable saying so. Our customers seem to assign more value to our curating based on a child’s reading level and interests.
–Jordan Lloyd Bookey, Chief Mom and Co-Founder at Zoobean
Check out the full article containing two more very interesting insights Zoobean has captured through user data and suggestions of “how families might better encourage the publication of more books (and other media) featuring people of color.”
If you read the recent PW wrap-up of the 2014 Bologna Book Fair, you’ll notice its buoyant tone, at least for those of us who occasionally publish realistic YA fiction. I have no shame in admitting that I love everything John Green has published. If the current industry narrative mandates thanking the “John Green Effect” for changing the heart of The Market, so be it. And if The Market—that all-powerful “villain with the ferret” (awesome metaphor care of Christopher Myers in The New York Times), that Dark Force upon which we Publishers project our inertia, insecurity, excuses for failure, and self-congratulation in the wake of success—will now welcome brilliant coming-of-age books about, say, a girl who writes fan fiction about a fictional series…I’m in.