Tag Archives: cultural diversity

A Renaissance of Children’s Literature

29 Dec

I saw this terminology (or something very similar) on Twitter over the past week and it seems to continually be popping up after hearing many librarians, teachers, parents and kids enjoying soooooo many of this year’s books published for children.

Don’t get me wrong, according to statistics, the publishing world still publishes primarily white, cisgender, “traditional” characters, but I think that now, more than ever the world of children’s literature is not only asking, but demanding that every child will see themselves in the books they read.  The quote that so many people continually come back to is a quote that describes books as windows and mirrors:

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That being said, publishers have taken these demands to heart and although I don’t know that more books are being published about diversity, I think that the books that are being published are often times extremely well done and getting a lot of buzz in the children’s literature world. What I most appreciate are the books that are diverse without being about diversity.  You don’t need to scream diversity when writing these books, just be sure to include characters that are diverse.

Award committees both through ALA and across the blogging world are promoting diverse books as well which makes them even more wanted by kids, teachers, bloggers, librarians and parents. What I love about this community more than anything else is everyone’s passion for getting the right books into the right hands.  Every podcast I listen to, every interview I read, continues to amaze me.  Authors and illustrators in the children’s literature field are some of the most kind, humble and beautiful human beings on this planet. I’m convinced. They care so much for getting these stories into the hands of kids and their love for teachers and librarians shines just as bright.

Still not convinced we’re in a Renaissance? Check out the upcoming list of titles for middle grade novels coming out in 2017 from Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook. Check out the Mock Caldecott from Watch. Connect. Read., the Newbery and Caldecott Predictions from Fuse #8 Production and if you Google “best of children’s literature 2016” you’ll be sure to find lists upon lists of amazing literature published over the course of the past year.  Soak it all in and update your TBR lists!

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Book Review: When the Sea Turned To Silver

27 Dec

28449045I just finished When the Sea Turned To Silver by Grace Lin this morning.  And I’m not surprised at how lovely it is.  Grace does an amazing job at integrating Chinese folklore seamlessly into a tale all her own.  This is the third companion novel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky. And what I like most about these novels is that you could easily read them as stand alone stories, but if you pay close attention they are all woven together with characters, stories and locations.

Pinmei’s grandmother is taken away by soldiers of the emperor and it is up to Pinmei and her friend, Yishan to save her because without her grandmother’s stories, Pinmei’s world is in a forever state of winter.  Pinmei and Yishan travel to the City of Bright Moonlight, to the Sea Bottom and to the Emperor’s palace to save her grandmother all the while folktales bring to light more of the story than you would know otherwise.  The beautiful and lyrical storytelling is brought to life by gorgeous illustrations that call to mind the ancient art of China.

This would be a beautiful series to share aloud as I can only imagine the stories would be amazing to listen to and as I said you can read each book individually or read them together for an even richer experience. What I also love is that Grace provides a bibliography of where she found her stories, which leads me to believe that this is not only a gorgeous book to discover, but that it is also historically and culturally accurate.

Twitter Booktalk (14o characters or less): It’s up to quiet, little mouse Pinmei to save her storytelling grandmother from the emperor in When the Sea Turned To Silver by @pacylin

Title: When the Sea Turned To Silver
Author: Grace Lin
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: 2016
Page Number: 370pgs.

Reading Diversely

12 Aug

I am, primarily, a reference librarian in the children’s department which means that I’m sitting at a desk for most of the day answering questions about the computers, looking for books to use for school reports and endlessly answering, “(Insert child’s name here) has read all The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, what can they read next?”

So as a reference and reader’s advisory librarian, I spend a lot of my time outside of work reading – reading new books in a variety of genres so that when a kid asks me for something new, I have at least 8-10 different suggestions from any given genre. I’m also spending a lot of time researching authors and illustrators by reading review journals, following blogs and Twitter accounts to keep up with other librarians and teachers and keeping an eye on award winner and large public movements (like We Need Diverse Books) to better understand and learn about children’s literature.

This is the part of my job that I absolutely love!  Finding the right book for the right kid at the right time – and I take pride in my position to be able to do that and I take it seriously, parents may not know what’s available, many teachers don’t either, so it’s my job to make strong suggestions for kids coming into the library.

So, when a Tweet like this appears on my feed, I’m baffled, but what I really loved was this reaction post on Book Riot – yes, to everything Molly says.  Not to beat a dead horse, but books can be so very powerful to a child – a mirror to see themselves and a window to better understand others.  By not reading diversely, how can any librarian really suggest the right book?

I know I don’t get to everything that’s been published – I don’t of anyone who could, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try.  I specifically pick up books that I most likely will not like, but are important for me to read to suggest to kids.  I pick up books and don’t finish them, but I can sell them to kids, better yet kids love when I say a book wasn’t my favorite.  I read reviews, so that even when I haven’t gotten a chance to read the book, I can get someone else’s reaction to it.  When series come out, I try and make a point to read the first int eh series,I may not read the rest of the series, but at least I’ve got a general idea of what’s going to happen.

I’ll be the first to admit, I come from a privileged background – I’m a white, female who grew up with both parents who not only graduated from college, but have a master’s degree and a doctorate degree.  I’ve gone to college and have two master’s degrees and I’m not saying this to brag, but so that you know, I have it pretty easy in this world.  By comparison, my boyfriend is biracial and has beautiful brown skin and dreadlocks that reach his waist and he will always be seen as black and that’s how he is judged. He doesn’t remember looking for kids like him in books as a child, but he also wasn’t a huge reader.  And now as I read, I’m always looking for the books he would have liked as a child.  Since we started dating many years ago, I’ve shared in his experiences (as much as a white woman can) and it has really opened my eyes to a lot of things, but primarily the fact that my life is easy.  But that’s not the case for a lot of people who live in this country and even in my community where we have a high number of residents who have moved here from India, as well as a large Hispanic population and a very diverse school district where ESL is commonplace.  I want to offer the best books for the kids in my community and that means I need to read diversely and suggest diversely as well!

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