The CBC Diversity initiative was founded in 2012, as part of the Children’s Book Council’s commitment to promoting diverse voices in literature for young people. We believe that all children deserve to see their world reflected in the books they read. We recognize that diversity takes on many forms, including differences in race, religion, gender, geography, sexual orientation, class, and ability.
In addition to championing diverse authors and illustrators, CBC Diversity strives to open up the publishing industry to a wider range of employees. We’ve taken an active role in recruiting diverse candidates, participating in school career fairs and partnering with We Need Diverse Books on its summer internship program.
Tell us about your most recent
book and how you came to write/illustrate it.
My debut novel is Children of Blood and Bone and it comes
out on March 6th, 2018. From a creative standpoint, I came to write
it by discovering the orisha—West African deities—through a stroke of luck while
on a fellowship in Brazil. This gave me the idea for CBB after I discovered a
digital painting two years later that gave me the inspiration for the
characters and events in the story. From a professional standpoint, I came to
write CBB after the first book I tried to get published went nowhere, but
solidified for me that I would be most happy writing full-time. Additionally, I
was heavily influenced by the tragedy of police brutality and felt compelled to
say something about it through my work.
Do you think of yourself as a
Yes because I’m black and
Nigerian-American, and my diverse background has a big impact on what I write,
why I write, and the way I write.
VP & Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers, Random House
Senior Year. Second Semester. It started with a Children’s Literature class
I took with Jane Yolen. I admit, I
hadn’t read any children’s books…since middle school, seventh grade, back in my
day. And I had definitely never heard of
Natalie Babbitt and Steven Kellogg, part of the course reading. I read TUCK EVERLASTING and was profoundly
moved – and horrified that I had missed out on Natalie Babbitt because I was
“too old” when she started writing children’s books. (Then I binge read everything else by Natalie
Babbitt.) Same with Steven Kellogg, only
I was able to read all of Steven’s picture books in one day.
Fast forward. I’ve graduated from college. I’m in Taiwan, teaching English as a second
language and loathing it. Teaching is
not my avocation. For solace, I reread
and reread the three books I brought with me: RAMONA THE PEST, PIPPI
LONGSTOCKING (remember, second semester course reading) and THE JOURNALS OF
SYLVIA PLATH (Remember, I’m all of twenty one, full of recent college graduate
Upon my return to the States, I
have a new career plan. I’m from New
York City. That’s where most all the
publishers are: I should get a job in publishing, children’s publishing. My Chinese immigrant parents are aghast. Odd enough to choose publishing as a career
choice; why am I making it even harder by choosing a niche like children’s
books? I won’t be swayed. Even though I know nothing about the business
(Remember, this is the mid 80s.) out of my newly discovered passion for
children’s books, I’m determined to work in children’s publishing only. And since I’m an English major, a job in the
editorial department makes the most sense.
It doesn’t really occur to me that there are a myriad of jobs in the
publishing sector and I don’t have to limit myself to one department. (Today, I tell students and interns: Don’t do
it this way!)
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.
1. Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Storyby 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]
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]
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]
first diversity question today is how do you self identify?
am a black American woman.
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.
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
Jo Meserve Mach, Vera Lynne Stroup-Rentier, and Mary Birdsell, authors of
Claire Wants a Boxing Name, share their book list “Books Making the World Better Through Inclusion.” Check out the preview below and the full list on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.
1. Emanuel’s Dream by Lauri Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls
I love true stories and this true story of Emmanual Ofos Yeboah is so inspiring! Because his mother believes he can teach himself how to gain the skills he does just that. The fact he is missing part of one leg doesn’t limit him. Emmanuels quote at the end of the book says it all: “In this world, we are not perfect. We can only do our best.” [picture book, ages 4 and up]
2. My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
This is a fun story that takes place at school. It portrays inclusion in a wonderful way. Zulay becomes just another child participating in Field Day. At first she seems different because she is blind but then she is like every other child competing at school. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
3. Max the Champion by Sean Stockdale and Alexandra Strick, illustrated by Ros Asquith
I like this story because it’s about following your passion. Max loves sports and he and other children with all types of abilities enjoy playing together. The fact that Max has a hearing aid doesn’t interfere with his inclusion in the sports he loves. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Mike Mullin, author of Surface Tension, shares his book list “Books for Teens Featuring African-American Protagonists.” Check out the preview below and the full list & 5 book giveaway on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.
1. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
I first read this novel the same year I first saw Star Wars, when I was ten or eleven. Both experiences linger in my memory nearly 40 years later. It wasn’t the first time I’d read books with Black protagonists (that would be Ezra Jack Keats’ brilliant picture books), but it was the first time I’d read about the brutality of racism. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry is set in 1930’s Mississippi—Taylor sets the scene so well that by the time you’re done reading you’ll be able to taste the rust-colored dust of the dirt roads.
Cassie is an indomitable heroine. Every time I read her story, I alternate between feeling terror and elation as she confronts everything from racist insults to horrific threats against her person. But the true brilliance of the novel is the theme of fire running throughout it, beginning with the horribly burnt body of Mr. Berry and ending with a forest fire—it serves as a stark metaphor for the all-consuming nature of racism. [chapter book, ages 11 and up]
2. M.C. Higgins the Great by Virginia Hamilton
I think I loved this book because I identified so strongly with the protagonist: Mayo Cornelius Higgins, a brainy, disaffected young man who watches the world from atop a 40’ steel pole. Like M.C., I climbed everything in sight. (Trees, buildings… I never had a 40’ pole, but I have no doubt I would have tried to climb it. My favorite place was a tree covered in vines—I could climb up, stick my head out the top, and gaze over what looked like a leafy meadow suspended 60’ above the ground.) I also identified with the alliance M.C. builds with his neighbors, the light-skinned, red-headed Killburns. I never tried to build a wall with the Black kids who lived next door to me—Mark, Todd, and Glen—but we did build some wicked BMX ramps together! Years after I first read M.C. Higgins the Great, I met Virginia Hamilton and she signed a copy for me. I wish I’d bought a hardcover, but at that point I was in college and nearly broke. I also wish my handwriting were half as lovely as hers:
If you enjoy M.C. Higgins the Great, don’t miss The Planet of Junior Brown and The House of Dies Drear, my other favorite Hamilton novels. [chapter book, ages 11 and up]
3. Monster by Walter Dean Myers
I could have put lots of Myers books on this list, but this is the one that haunted my dreams for months after I read it. The protagonist, Steve, is facing 25-years to life for a crime he didn’t commit. Myers tells the story entirely through diary entries and a screenplay Steve is writing. But the real story here is Steve’s inner battle, as he struggles to reject the label society has already branded him with: Monster. [young adult, ages 13 and up]