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.
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]
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]
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]
Sonia Patel, author of Jaya and Rasa: A Love Story, shares her book list “Sexual Violence Diversity Books for Young Adults.” Check out the preview below and the full list & 5 book giveaway on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.
1. Rani Patel In Full Effect by Sonia Patel
My debut novel is about how a Gujarati Indian American teen growing up on the rural Hawaiian island of Molokai uses her love for hip hop and rap to navigate the emotional and interpersonal sequalae of incest and rape. The main character, Rani, is based on a mix of my experiences, those of patients I’ve treated and girls/women I’ve known. [young adult, ages 13 and up]
2. Jaya and Rasa: A Love Story by Sonia Patel
My second novel is about the love the grows between a transgender Gujarati Indian boy and a sex trafficked mixed ethnicity girl after their chance meeting on a mountain trail in Hawaii. Both characters are based on amalgams of real patients I’ve treated and their experiences. [young adult, ages 13 and up]
3. Push by Sapphire
I love the main character in this book, a black teenager growing up in Harlem. Her story is brutal and realistic. I’ve heard similar stories in my work as a child & adolescent psychiatrist. [young adult, ages 13 and up]
Read the full list and enter the 5 book giveaway here.
Eric and Natalie Yoder, authors of Short Mysteries You Solve With Math, share their book list “
Middle Grade Spanish/English Bilingual Books.” Check out the preview below and the full list on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.
1. One Minute Mysteries: Short Mysteries You Solve With Math/Misterios de un Minuto: Misterios Cortos Que Resuelves con Matematicas by Eric Yoder & Natalie Yoder
Now you can solve mysteries in English, Spanish or both! This award-winning title is now available as a bilingual book. Use it to expand your language and math skills at the same time. Each math mystery takes just one minute to read, and challenges a child’s knowledge in essential, age-appropriate math topics. [chapter book, ages 10 and up]
2. Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States edited by Lori Marie Carlson
Growing up Latino in America means speaking two languages, living two lives, learning the rules of two cultures. This book of poetry celebrates the tones, rhythms, sounds, and experiences of that double life. Here are poems about families and parties, insults and sad memories, hot dogs and mangos. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]
3. In My Family/En mi familia by Carmen Lomas Garza
This book is a tribute to the family and community that shaped the author’s childhood and life. Lomas Garza’s vibrant paintings and warm personal stories depict memories of growing up in the traditional Mexican-American community of her hometown of Kingsville, Texas. [chapter book, ages 6 and up]
Melissa Keil, author of The Secret Science of Magic, shares her book list “8 Australian Multicultural YA Books.” Check out the preview below and the full list on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.
1. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
Josie Alibrandi navigates life with her wealthy Catholic school peers and her Italian-Australian family, while dealing with the reappearance of her estranged father, and the complexities of romance. With a wonderfully realized protagonist and heartfelt prose, Alibrandi is a modern Australian YA classic. [young adult, ages 13 and up]
2. Laurinda (published in the US as Lucy and Linh) by Alice Pung
At an exclusive private school for girls, Lucy Lam enrolls as a scholarship student, finding herself tangling with a group of girls known as the Cabinet, who wield extraordinary influence over their peers and teachers. Timely and relevant YA that tackles the thorny issues of power, privilege, class and race. [young adult, ages 14 and up]
3. Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Sixteen-year-old Amal decides to adopt the hijab full time, and deals with the repercussions from her schoolmates, parents and friends. With a great voice in the character of Amal, this book is a funny and moving look at confronting stereotypes and staying true to yourself. [young adult, ages 12 and up]
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.
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]
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]
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]
Duncan Tonatiuh, author of Danza!: Amalia Hernandez and Mexico’s Folkloric Ballet, shares his picture book list of “Bold, Creative Girls and Women.” Check out the preview below and the full list on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.
1. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López
This book is based on the story of Millo Castro, a young girl who pursued her dream of playing the drums at a time when girls in Cuba where not supposed to. Engles verses and López’s illustrations add magic to this inspirational story. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
2. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
This fun book in rhymes is about a young girl who gets into a bit of trouble investigating the cause of a mysterious pungent smell. Ada does not give up on her inquiry though because she has the mind and determination of a scientist. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
3. Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same by Grace Lin
This fun book about two Chinese-American twin sisters is broken up into six short stories that connect at the end. It is a great read for beginning readers. [easy reader, ages 5 and up]
Jamia Wilson, author of Young Gifted and Black, shares her own diverse picture book list on Next-Generation Change Makers. Check out the preview below and the full list on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website!
1. Young Gifted and Black by Jamia Wilson, illustrated by Andrea Pippins
This our love letter to the next-generation of black leaders doers, thinkers, dreamers and creators. [picture book, ages 7 and up]
2. How Mamas Love Their Babies by Juniper Fitzgerald, illustrated by Elise Peterson
Celebrate the variety of ways diverse mothers support their children through labor and love. It also happens to be published by the Feminist Press, where I work. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
3. Thunderboy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales
This gorgeous relationship between a father and son also explores the meaning of names and how they shape who we are. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
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 isillustrated
by Gregory Christie.
you only write stories from your own cultural background?
For a long time before I was published, I
wrote only western stories – stories set in western families about children
with western names and their rituals of growing up. This is because subconsciously
I was writing what I was reading. As a child and as an adult, I read mostly
western narratives and that seeped into my writing. But my heart wasn’t in
those stories. It wasn’t my truth. And when I did write stories from India,
either set there or about India and Indian characters, I started getting lesser
rejections (or at least more personalised ones) because my stories now had the
secret ingredient that makes magic – authenticity. For me more than setting the
stories in India or in its culture, it is about personal connection. Why do I
want to tell this story? Why me? Am I the right person to tell this story? If
so, then I would attempt to bring it to life.
Conversely, do you feel restricted in the subjects and settings you can choose?
I’m a nomad. Although I was brought up in
India, I have lived in Singapore and now in the UK. I travel a lot and I gather
stories where I go. But I always remember that all the stories filter through
my own experiences – of what I know and what I don’t. I have fallen in love
with folktales from Antwerp and Prague but I worry about retelling them because
I’m not sure I would have the depth of the cultural context. Even to retell a
small story, I would need tremendous amount of research and understanding. So I
pick and choose projects I can actually invest time and energy into. On a side
note, India is a big country with language, ethnic and other diversities and I
research a lot even to tell Indian stories.
The CBC program “Diversity in Our
Digital World: Visual Literacy Across Borders” was a great success at the
International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) regional conference
sponsored by USBBY (usbby.org) at the University of Washington in Seattle,
October 20 - 22. The CBC session featured two illustrators, Suzy Lee and Keith
Negley, as well as a publishing professional, Tucker Stone.
Janet Wong, poet and publisher at Pomelo
Books, and Susan Polos, school librarian from NY, introduced the panel. Wong
and Polos serve as co-chairs of the American Library Association/Children’s
Book Council (ALA/CBC) Joint Committee. Coincidentally, both are board members
of USBBY, Janet representing the International Literacy Association (ILA) and
Susan, ALA. Tucker Stone is also a member of CBC and represents CBC on the
USBBY board. CBC’s commitment to diversity, evident in its work and its blog,
proved a perfect fit for the conference theme, “Radical Change Beyond
Borders—the Transforming Power of Children’s Literature in a Digital Age,”
inspired by the work of Eliza Dresang.
The CBC breakout session opened with an
introduction to the work of CBC in the area of diversity. Slides showcasing
current CBC Diversity Blog posts made clear to all present that the range of
posts, including a storytime guide, authors’ posts, book guides, book lists,
Q&As, and more, highlight and encourage diversity in all formats and forms
for publishing professionals. Both illustrators selected for this panel, Suzy
Lee and Keith Negley, have been featured on the CBC Diversity Blog. Wong
explained that one goal of this panel was to expand the discussion of diversity
in children’s literature beyond race and ethnicity to feature “diverse
thinking” in the creation of children’s books.
Suzy Lee: “It all depends on the readers”
Suzy Lee (suzyleebooks.com) shared illustrations from her
work and spoke about three of her books, Wave, Shadow, and Lines
(published by Chronicle Books). She mentioned the importance of borders in her
work both through her use of the physical book’s bindings and gutters and as
story tools, taking the reader from a realistic scene to a metaphysical
understanding of the artist’s process. She explained how readers of “silent”
books can see what she, the illustrator, has intended them to see; readers also
bring their own interpretation to the reading. “When there’s no word pointing
out what to read, the readers can read more. It’s because the meaning of the
image is not fixed. It’s always changing. And it all depends on the readers;
they read as they want in their own way.”
One anecdote that Lee shared involved an
autistic boy whose teacher said that when Wave was shared in their
classroom, “the room was silent, and [the boy] could hear [the book] in his
head … he was captivated.” As Lee noted, this is the kind of moment “when
the ‘silent’ picture book shines.”
Keith Negley: “Toxic masculinity has run
Keith Negley (keithnegley.com) worked as an
illustrator and designer for magazines before writing and illustrating
children’s books published by Flying Eye, the children’s imprint of Nobrow, an
international publishing company. Negley’s books, while not wordless, tell
stories primarily through illustration and contain minimal text.
He shared work from two published books, Tough
Guys Don’t Cry and My Dad Used to Be So Cool, as well as a
forthcoming book, Mary Wears What She Wants (Balzer +
Bray/HarperCollins). Negley wants to break barriers of gender expectations,
showing that both boys and girls can resist the stereotypical boxes—and to show
dads who are affectionate and sensitive.
Tucker Stone: “Helping small publishers get
the word out”
Tucker Stone anchored our panel with a
reminder that our real challenge, when it comes to diverse children’s
literature, is with distribution.
Stone spoke both of his former position as
US Sales & Marketing Director with Nobrow US/Flying Eye Books, as well as
his current work as Client Marketing Manager for Children’s and Comic titles for
Ingram’s Consortium Book Sales & Distribution. In this new role, Stone
strives to communicate the interests of international readers to independent
publishers and to promote the titles he represents.
Outstanding International Books (OIB) Lists
Suzy Lee’s first book was signed during a
visit to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. She advises international authors
and illustrators to go to Bologna and to learn from the editors and agents
there, if possible. “Bologna was a real-wonderland … I was amazed at the
various perspectives and styles” of the international books on display. For
advocates of diverse books who are not familiar with international books and
are unable to travel to Bologna, Wong and Polos recommend downloading USBBY’s
annual Outstanding International Books lists for the past decade (http://www.usbby.org/list_oibl.html).
International books provide a valuable glimpse of additional approaches to celebrating
Polos is a School Librarian in the Bedford Central School District. Janet Wong
is a poet and co-founder of Pomelo Books (PomeloBooks.com), a CBC member.
Together, they serve as co-chairs of the ALA-CBC Joint Committee.