Author Q&A with Sayantani DasGupta

Why is diversity in science fiction and fantasy so critical?

I grew up on science fiction and fantasy – Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time to The Hobbit to Star Wars, Star Trek, and Carl Sagan’s amazing show, Cosmos. Science fiction taught me to imagine big, to envision things beyond my reckoning. It taught me to dream. But of course, science fiction and fantasy back then didn’t let me see anyone who looked like me in a central role. As a brown skinned, immigrant daughter, I loved science fiction and fantasy. But science fiction and fantasy didn’t really love me back.

I think over the years, we’ve seen a vast improvement in terms of representation in many genres of children’s fiction. My own kids got to read a much more diverse array of books than I ever did. But not across all genres, unfortunately. My son, in particular, was a huge fantasy reader – if there wasn’t a talking bird, or flying horse, or a wizard in the tale, he wasn’t having it! Yet, the same gaps in representation I found as a young lover of science fiction and fantasy are still around 30+ years later. That’s a problem, because if all books are in the business of building our imaginations, then sci-fi and fantasy are in the business of building radical imagination. And if there’s ever been a time during which we need a collective radical imagination, it’s now. That’s part of the reason I wrote The Serpent’s Secret.

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MCBBD Feature: Family and Food: A Multicultural list for Preschool through 3rd Grade

JaNay Brown-Wood, author of Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story, shares her book list “​Family and Food: A Multicultural list for Preschool through 3rd Grade” Check out the preview below and the full list & 3 book giveaway on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.

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1. Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story by JaNay Brown-Wood

This is a cozy counting picture book about the relatives visiting Grandma and eating until they are all stuffed. It’s a sweet, rhyming counting book introduces young readers to numbers one through fifteen. [picture book, for ages 2 and up]


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2. Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park

This story is written in rhyme, showing the preparation of a popular Korean dish and the excitement of a hungry, young child. All the family members come together at the end to eat. The lines are rhythmic and the illustrations are fun. [picture book, ages 2 and up]


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3. Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell

This book is an oldie but goodie. It follows an African American family as they get ready for a dinner with loved ones. It actually counts to ten twice, and is also written in rhyme. [picture book, ages 2 and up]



Read the full list & enter the giveaway here.

In Conversation with Author JaNay Brown-Wood

By Julie Bliven

The first diversity question today is how do you self identify?

I am a black American woman.

How did your background influence your early reading and writing habits, if at all?

I grew up in a family where education was of utmost importance. Reading, writing, and all things academic were as normal and mandatory as breathing. I am thankful for how much my parents valued education. They read to us each night and exposed us to different texts ranging from poetry and children’s literature to newspapers and encyclopedias. I still remember when my dad ordered a collection of Encyclopedia Britannica that filled an entire bookshelf in our living room. I do admit that I initially didn’t like reading for fun, but I thoroughly enjoyed writing my own stories, poetry, and songs. Reading grew on me, and, to this day, both reading and writing are integral parts of my life.

Growing up, did you see and/or envision yourself in the stories you read?

I didn’t see myself in many stories that I read, but two do come to mind: Vera B. Williams’s Cherries and Cherry Pits and John Steptoe’s Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. I don’t remember loving those books, but they do stick out in my mind—possibly because they had black girls in them. As a teenager I remember reading Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and while the protagonist was black, I didn’t feel like I connected to her that much. I think I insulated myself from not being represented in books because I wrote my own stories where I was the main character. I wrote a bunch of stories starring Detective JaNay Brown where I’d go on adventures and solve mysteries. I also remember writing stories with black girls that were similar to me, even if they didn’t have my name. So although I didn’t really feel myself connecting to published books, I definitely connected to my own work since I was the one solving all the problems!

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MCCBD Feature: Eight Picture Books with Diverse Family Constellations

Megan Dowd Lambert, author of Real Sisters Pretend, shares her book list “Eight Picture Books with Diverse Family Constellations.” Check out the preview below and the full list on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.

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1. Fred Stays with Me by Nancy Coffelt, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

A little girl whose parents are divorced splits her time between her mom’s house and her dad’s. Her dog, the eponymous Fred, also moves between homes, which gives her a sense of stability and consistency in her co-parenting, joint-custody family arrangement. [picture book, ages 3 and up]


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2. Stella Brings the Family by Miriam Schiffer Baker, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

Stella has two dads and isn’t quite sure what to do for her class’s Mother’s Day celebration. Ultimately, she decides to bring both of her parents, as well as other family members who nurture her, and they are all affirmed and welcomed by everyone at school. [picture book, ages 5 and up]


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3. Real Sisters Pretend by Megan Dowd Lambert, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

Inspired by two of the author’s daughters, this is a story about adoptive sisters, Mia (who is multiracial) and Tayja (who is Back), who affirm their bonds with one another after a stranger questions whether they are “real sisters” since they don’t look alike. They punctuate their pretend play with conversation about their adoption stories, and it all culminates in a warm family hug with their two moms. [picture book, ages 4 and up]


Read the full list here. 

MCCBD Feature: Diverse Books with Food (and Recipe)

Aram Kim, author of No Kimchi for Me!, shares her picture book list of “Diverse Books with Food (and Recipe).” Check out the preview below and the full list on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.

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1. Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia, llustrated by Ken Min

Aneel enjoys his grandparents’ visit, especially his grandpa’s fairytale-like old stories from India. This book intertwines contemporary Indian-American life, traditional Indian lifestyle, great storytelling, and intergenerational bond over stories and food. It is a great mixture of everything! [picture book, ages 4 and up]


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2. Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore, illustrated by Kristi Valiant

Cora is the youngest and always stuck doing a “kid’s job” in the kitchen while her big brothers and sisters do a cool job. When Cora is in the kitchen with her mom alone, she finally gets to do a grownup job and plays a big part in cooking a delicious Filipino noodle dish pancit! Readers can feel the excitement of little Cora and follow her delightful journey. *Recipe included. [picture book, ages 4 and up]


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3. Jalapeño Bagels by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Robert Casilla

Pablo helps out in the family bakery and picks an item to bring to his International Day at school. The bakery carries his mom’s various Mexican sweet bread and his dad’s Jewish bagels and challah bread. All kinds look delicious to Pablo, but he finally picks jalapeño bagels that seem to represent himself. The story carries multicultural fare effectively and deliciously. *Recipes included. [picture book, ages 4 and up]


Read the full list here.

Author Q&A with Carole Boston Weatherford

Why did you choose Arturo Schomburg as a subject?

My mission as an author is to mine the past for family stories, fading traditions and forgotten struggles. Add to that unsung heroes. When my friend and frequent collaborator Eric Velasquez pitched the idea of a Schomburg biography to me, I was intrigued. Like Schomburg, Eric has roots in Africa and Puerto Rico. I detected Eric’s passion for the project and I could not refuse. I believe this is the book that Eric was born to create. Even though the book had a ten year gestation, I am honored that Eric asked me to collaborate. This is our fifth book together.

When did you first learn about Schomburg?

I knew of the Schomburg Center before I knew about the man behind it. I did picture research there in the early 1980s. That was long before there were digital archives online. Back then, I had to wear white gloves to handle vintage photographs. I recall being in awe of the Center’s vast holdings. What I did not know is that Schomburg the man was a bibliophile and a leading light of the Harlem Renaissance, a period I first wrote about in Sugar Hill: Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood. That picture book is illustrated by Gregory Christie. 

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Q&A with Author Nic Stone

1)  Why do you think there’s such a dearth of diverse children’s books?

In a couple of words: white supremacy. The fact that there are more books published about animals than about black kids says a lot, not only about our society, but about “Western” sensibilities and colonization on the whole. About the perception of “race” and the role of literacy in the development of societal hierarchies. The English staked their claim on land in various places around the world and forced the people in those places to learn the English language, but literature and the arts were reserved for members of the highest social classes. Who were all white.

The fact that we’re almost two decades into the 21st Century and just now beginning to see books written in English that reflect the realities of the English-speaking world says a lot about who, historically, has been expected—or even allowed—to achieve English literacy. When all the business-related rhetoric is stripped away (“Those types of books statistically don’t sell well.” “The numbers don’t suggest that this would be a good investment.”), the implications are that 1) certain groups of people don’t read and 2) the people who do read wouldn’t want to read about x-type of people. The marginalized wind up doubting the validity of their very existence, and the privileged continue to see themselves as the protagonists of the only stories that matter. I’m sure I don’t have to explain why this is detrimental to everyone.

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