Book Spotlight: This Kid Can Fly: It’s About Ability, Not Disability by Aaron Philip with Tonya Bolden

Contributed by Donna Bray, Vice President, Co-Publisher of Balzer + Bray, HarperCollins Publishers

“How many people with disabilities work here?”

This was one of the first questions young author Aaron Philip asked our staff when he and his family arrived at the HarperCollins offices to meet us. We all looked around uncomfortably, because the answer is that we work with few to no disabled employees. Aaron went on to speak passionately about the invisibility he and other people with cerebral palsy – and many wheelchair users – often feel when they rarely see themselves represented in the workplace, in television and films, in books, in the news. Aaron is ambitious – he wants a life and a career in the world. But where are his models? This discussion inspired and has stayed with me, and has made me especially glad to be able to contribute to bringing visibility to disability with the publication of This Kid Can Fly.


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Congrats to the young adult finalists for the 2013 Bisexual Book Awards! 

  • Love in The Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block, Henry Holt and Co. (Bisexual Speculative Fiction and Bisexual Teen/Young Adult Fiction)
  • Bi-Normal by M.G. Higgins (Gravel Road Series), Saddleback Educational Publishing (Bisexual Teen/Young Adult Fiction)
  • The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, Arthur A. Levine Books (Bisexual Speculative Fiction and Bisexual Teen/Young Adult Fiction)
  • Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg, Arthur A. Levine Books (Bisexual Teen/Young Adult Fiction)
  • Pantomime by Laura Lam, Strange Chemistry (Bisexual Speculative Fiction and Bisexual Teen/Young Adult Fiction)
  • Inheritance by Malinda Lo, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Bisexual Speculative Fiction and Bisexual Teen/Young Adult Fiction)
  • The Elementals by Saundra Mitchell, Harcourt Children’s Books (Bisexual Speculative Fiction)
  • Coda by Emma Trevayne, Running Press Kids (Bisexual Speculative Fiction)

What a beautiful list from the unprecedented number of submissions (60 books) that were nominated.

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
  • Deborah Wiles
  • Augusta Scattergood
  • And Scholastic’s “Guide to Teaching and Talking about the Civil Rights Movement with Books for Children and Teens”


Picture Books for Young Readers


Freedom Summer 


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

Ages 5+

Though not specifically about the 1964 Freedom Summer, this award-winning book also deals with the themes of segregation, friendship, and fairness.

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We found three diverse books that are being released this week. The fun thing is that one is historical, one is contemporary, and one is a dystopian. Here they are in chronological order.

Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal by Margarita Engle - HMH Books for Young Readers

Summary: One hundred years ago, the world celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal, which connected the world’s two largest oceans and signaled America’s emergence as a global superpower. It was a miracle, this path of water where a mountain had stood—and creating a miracle is no easy thing. Thousands lost their lives, and those who survived worked under the harshest conditions for only a few silver coins a day.

From the young “silver people” whose back-breaking labor built the Canal to the denizens of the endangered rainforest itself, this is the story of one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, as only Newbery Honor-winning author Margarita Engle could tell it. – Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Drama Queens in the House by Julie Williams - Roaring Brook Press

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Jessie Jasper Lewis doesn’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t surrounded by method actors, bright spotlights, and feather boas. Her parents started the Jumble Players Theater together, and theater is the glue that holds her crazy family together. But when she discovers that her father’s cheating on her mother with a man, Jessie feels like her world is toppling over. And on top of everything else, she has to deal with a delusional aunt who is predicting the end of the world. Jessie certainly doesn’t feel ready to be center stage in the production that is her family. But where does she belong in all of this chaos? — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Wanderers (Wasteland, #2) by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan - HarperTeen

Summary: The former citizens of Prin are running out of time. The Source has been destroyed, so food is scarcer than ever. Tensions are rising…and then an earthquake hits.

So Esther and Caleb hit the road, leading a ragtag caravan. Their destination? A mythical city where they hope to find food and shelter – not to mention a way to make it past age nineteen.

On the way, alliances and romances blossom and fracture. Esther must rally to take charge with the help of a blind guide, Aras. He seems unbelievably cruel, but not everything is as it seems in the Wasteland.…

In this sequel to Wasteland, the stakes are even higher for Esther, Caleb, and the rest of their clan. They’re pinning all their hopes on the road…but what if it’s the most dangerous place of all? – Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Rich in Color always does a great job of bringing attention to new, diverse releases!

For more book recommendations, check out the CBC Diversity Goodreads Bookshelf to find over 2,000 new and classic diverse titles to add to your collection.


10 Diverse YA Historicals About Girls

In honor of Women’s History Month, here are 10 diverse young adult historical novels about girls. Descriptions are from Worldcat.

Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis (Alfred A. Knopf)

Teens Octavia and Tali learn about strength, independence, and courage when they are forced to take a car trip with their grandmother, who tells about growing up Black in 1940s Alabama and serving in Europe during World War II as a member of the Women’s Army Corps.

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland (Houghton Mifflin)

Seventeen-year-old Louisa Cosgrove is locked away in the Wildthorn Hall mental institution, where she is stripped of her identity and left to wonder who has tried to destroy her life.

The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In free verse, evokes the voice of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, a book-loving writer, feminist, and abolitionist who courageously fought injustice in nineteenth-century Cuba. Includes historical notes, excerpts from her writings, biographical information, and source notes.

Willow by Tonya Cherie Hegamin (Candlewick Press)

In 1848 Willow, a fifteen-year-old educated slave girl, faces an inconceivable choice – between bondage and freedom, family and love – as free born, seventeen-year-old Cato, a black man, takes it upon himself to sneak as many fugitive slaves to freedom as he can on the Mason-Dixon Line.

The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman (Arthur A. Levine Books)

When Jade Moon, born in the unlucky year of the Fire Horse, and her father immigrate to America in 1923 and are detained at Angel Island Immigration Station, Jade Moon is determined to find a way through and prove that she is not cursed.

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano (Scholastic)

It is 1969 in Spanish Harlem, and fourteen-year-old Evelyn Serrano is trying hard to break free from her conservative Puerto Rican surroundings, but when her activist grandmother comes to stay and the neighborhood protests start, things get a lot more complicated–and dangerous.

Anahita’s Woven Riddle by Meghan Nuttall Sayres (Amulet)

In Iran, more than 100 years ago, a young girl with three suitors gets permission from her father and a holy man to weave into her wedding rug a riddle to be solved by her future husband, which will ensure that he has wit to match hers.

Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman (Penguin)

In India, in 1941, when her father becomes brain-damaged in a non-violent protest march, fifteen-year-old Vidya and her family are forced to move in with her father’s extended family and become accustomed to a totally different way of life.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion)

When young American pilot Rose Justice is captured by Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp, she finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery, and friendship of her fellow prisoners.

Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang (Delacorte)

Emmajin, the sixteen-year-old eldest granddaughter of Khublai Khan, becomes a warrior and falls in love with explorer Marco Polo in thirteenth-century China.

What a fabulous round-up!

(via richincolor)

Lives Undocumented: An Interview with Maria E. Andreu

Interview contributed by Lyn Miller-Lachmann


Maria E. Andreu’s debut novel, The Secret Side of Empty (Running Press Kids, March 2014), offers an honest, authentic portrait of an undocumented high school senior who carefully hides her circumstances even from her closest friends, and cannot apply for college despite her near-perfect grades. Even before publication, the novel received glowing reviews and accolades, including a spot on the Junior Library Guild’s spring 2014 list. In this interview for CBC Diversity, Andreu talks about her own life as an undocumented immigrant and how things have or haven’t changed for these bright, promising young people who live in the shadows.

You have stated publicly that much of M.T.’s story is based on your own experience as an undocumented immigrant from Spain in the 1970s and 1980s. What are some of the specific parallels between your own story and that of your protagonist?

I like to say that the facts are all different but the feelings are the same.  I felt the same isolation and hopelessness that M.T. feels.  I didn’t know how I would go to college. I felt the economic disadvantage. But I was a teenager during the 1980s so of course I didn’t connect with my high school boyfriend on Facebook and didn’t have a cell phone. I felt it was important to make M.T. a modern teen so that readers today wouldn’t get bogged down in the 80s references. But the experience is genuine, if fictional. And, fun side note, the post-it scene and the “slow speed chase” both really did happen.

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Growing up in the suburbs of 1960s Connecticut, I was surrounded by WASPs.  I was a Protestant, too—Episcopalian. My father was Catholic, though, so I knew that I wasn’t a true WASP.  I was alert to such distinctions. I also thought I understood what it meant to be Jewish. I had a Jewish friend. Her mother was Christian; they had a Christmas tree.  I thought that the difference between being Jewish and Christian was like the difference between being Methodist and Congregational.


In sixth grade I fell in love with two books. I found the first one in my mother’s room, Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk, a bestseller of the 1950s. It’s not terribly racy, but I knew my parents would think it was too old for me, so I hid it under my bed, reading it over and over. Marjorie is 17 when it opens, from a traditional Jewish family in 1930s New York City, and she dreams of being an actress. I was fascinated by this Jewish girl and by her New York, her view of Central Park from her apartment in the El Dorado. I learned Yiddish words, and about such things as a kosher home, a bar mitzvah, the meaning of Passover, of opening the door to Elijah, the festival of lights at Hanukkah.

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Book Spotlight: Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel


Happiness, anger, love, jealousy, peace, and worry. Everyone has experienced these feelings, especially as a thirteen-year-old, and these are all the emotions Erica “Chia” Montenegro is feeling the summer before eighth grade.

In Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel (coming out this June) Diana Lopez, author of Confetti Girl and Choke, introduces us to Chia, whose life is turned upside down when she learns her mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer and must undergo a mastectomy and radiation treatments. She finds herself juggling the responsibilities of family, school, and friendship, all while keeping up the façade that she can handle it all without help. This story captivated me in its honesty, heart, and humor; the protagonist is funny without forcing it, and the emotions, which as indicated by the title, swing from excitement and anticipation to dread and sadness, are authentic. Chia is a character any reader can connect with. And it doesn’t matter that she also happens to be Latina. 

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Seeing, and Seeing Again

imageWhen the manuscript for Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John came across my desk, I was immediately pulled in by the story of a deaf girl managing a high school rock band. It was full of characters I wanted to know more about, from Piper whose parents have just blown her college fund on a cochlear implant for her deaf baby sister, to Ed who has a secret crush on Piper, to Kallie who is the gorgeous girl with secrets of her own, to Tash, the angry punk-rock chick, to Josh and Will - twin brothers who couldn’t be more different.
It didn’t occur to me that this was a book about diversity when I first read it - to me it was about a group of teens going through the things that teens do, told in an authentic way. It’s about self-expression and self-confidence, creating your own identity, standing up for yourself, falling in love for the first time, breaking out of your shell, being brave. Yet Piper is deaf, Ed is Asian, Kallie is biracial, and Tash, Josh, and Will are white. It is clear in the story that they are, but to me the story was never about them being only those things so I hardly even noticed that first read through.

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