diversity

DÍA: Great Kids' Books about Differently Abled People

Extra extra, bonus list! This afternoon, some great recent children's books about young people who live with disabilities. More on Pinterest!

A splash of red, by Jennifer Bryant.
King for a Day, by Rukhsana Khan
The Pirate of Kindergarten, by George Lyon
A Boy and a Jaguar, by Alan Rabinowitz (this one's newly ordered and will be available for holds later in May)

Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper.
Wonder, by R. J. Palacio
Al Capone does my Homework, by Gennifer Choldenko (third in the trilogy!)

Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein.

DÍA: Great Kids' Books about Latinos

When I first started at OPL, I worked at the César Chávez Branch in the Fruitvale (non-Facebook link here) I could not have a bigger soft spot in my heart for this place. It's sunny, the floors are shiny, the colors inside the branch are radiant. The staff is friendly, and you can get the best veggie burrito in Oakland right across the street.

But for me? It was all about lunch breaks in the staff room with gorgeous old cartoons from Mexico. I dug way into the Spanish-language cartoon section, where there are books you won't find at any other library in Oakland. Also, since Chávez gets the best selection of Latin American DVDs, I brought home Cantínflas episodes, and Chavo del Ocho so I could see what my old coworker meant when he called me "La Chilindrina" Note: that character definitely grew up to be a librarian.

It's true, Chávez Branch has treasures best enjoyed by visiting--a Chicano collection, a gorgeous mural by Daniel Camacho, a seed library, and in the summertime, free lunch for kids--but you can get any of the wonderful Latino children's books on this list at any OPL branch (if your branch doesn't own it, place a hold). Happy reading, happy Día!

Yes! We are Latinos, by Alma Flor Ada. Stories told in short pieces by thirteen different voices about their individual Latino identities.

The best Lucha Libre picture book ever? I'd put money on Niño. Presenting Niño Wrestles the World, by Yuyi Morales. (If you love this book and you love Yuyi Morales, you can meet her in June in San Francisco.)

Mi familia Calaca: my skeleton family, by Cynthia Weill. I kind of adore this little charmer. Its simple text is also perfect for children beginning to read on their own, and it's in English and Spanish, side by side. You can read about artist Jesús Canseco Zarate in the back.

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote, by Duncan Tonatiuh. It's clear that Tonatiuh is a boundary-pusher. This beautifully illustrated story spins a folktale: a young rabbit crosses the Mexican border into the US, with the help of a "coyote" (in both senses), to find his father, who went to look for work but has disappeared. Not a subject many would be comfortable tackling in a picture book, but Tonatiuh does it admirably.

Maria Had a Little llama/Maria Tenia Una Llamita, by Angela Dominguez. "Mary had a little lamb" transported to a Peruvian village, and now the lamb is a llama. I approve of all things llama. Plus Angela Dominguez is local, and she used to share a studio with a friend of mine! Cool, huh? It's like I know her. (I collect children's illustrators as imaginary BFFs.)

Tito Puente, Mambo King/Tito Puente, rey del Mambo, by Monica Brown, illustrated by Rafael López. Spicy-pretty picture book biography of the Mambo great.


Jimmy the Greatest! by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. This one's a bit of a sleeper; and yes, it really is great. Jimmy, a boxer in a small Latin American town, decides to stay and help his neighbors instead of pursuing boxing fame. Makes you think about what it really means to be "the greatest." 

Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Makes a Splash, by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Miguel Benítez. I knew the Freddie Ramos books were a hit when I walked into a third-grade classroom and asked the kids what books they'd liked from the library, and they all yelled as one "ZAPPA TOE!" It took a few seconds, but I put it together. ZaPAHto Power is a fun, exciting series for elementary school chapter book readers.


The Gumazing Gum Girl: Chews Your Destiny, by Rhode Montijo. I can definitively say that Gabby Gomez is the FIRST Latina superhero who is made of gum. Well, not really made of it. There's an origin story. I really, really hope this is the first in a series, but there's no word either way on the author's website.... please, Sr. Montijo? (Looks like there are supposed to be three!)

Maximilian and the mystery of the guardian angel: a bilingual Lucha Libre thriller, by Xavier Garza. For that independently-reading kid who loves mysteries AND luchadores.

Luz makes a splash, by Claudia Dávila. Luz is a neighborhood do-gooder, and a leader in water conservation in her diverse community. A good tie-in to this here drought thing we're experiencing.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, by Meg Medina. I'm not sure how many more times I'll have the pleasure of recommending a book for children (okay, teens) with a swear in the title, so I'm going to savor it. This is a powerful book about bullying that captures the dread of knowing someone's got you in their sights... for reasons unknown to you.

Saving Baby Doe, by Danette Vigilante. This one has yet to hit our shelves, but you can reserve it now. Two Brooklyn tweens find an abandoned baby, and try to do the right thing for her, but what is the right thing?

For lots more children's books with Latino characters, click over to Pinterest!

DÍA: Great Kids' Books about African Americans

There's lots of buzz right now (as there should be) about the numbers reported by the Cooperative Children's Book Center: of 3,200 children's books they received in 2013, just 93 featured African-American characters. Noted children's author Walter Dean Myers responded in a moving essay in the New York Times, in which he described his own childhood and coming to find himself in books. His son Christopher Myers, a noted children's author and illustrator himself, wrote a companion piece in which he lamented the fact that when African-American children appear in books, too often they "are limited to the townships of occasional historical books that concern themselves with the legacies of civil rights and slavery." 

Today, we have a list for you of some excellent children's books featuring African-American characters, all of which you can find at the Oakland Public Library. As you read, why not tweet about the books you're enjoying with the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks, especially on May 1, 2 and 3, and be a part of the We Need Diverse Books campaign? And if you have a kid birthday coming up (and who doesn't?), consider giving that lucky child one of the books on this list as part of the Birthday Party Pledge. (Purchased from your local independent bookstore, that is; library books are wonderful, but you have to give them back, which makes them generally lousy birthday gifts.)

For newly independent readers, there are several fresh, happy series featuring African-American children. Karen English, who's been producing the Nikki and Deja books for several years, has launched a series called the Carver Chronicles, which has a boy for a main character. In Dog Days, Gavin deals with a school bully and his aunt's yappy little dog. Ellray Jakes isn't new to the scene, but he's a welcome figure; Ellray Jakes and the Beanstalk is the most recent on our shelves, but watch for Ellray Jakes is Magic (or download the e-book right now). And from author Hilary McKay: Lulu's adventures rescuing animals have been entertaining readers for a couple years now, and the most recent is Lulu and the Dog from the Sea.

Oh, how I love these sweet books for sharing with little ones. Rain! by Linda Ashman is a happy romp on a rainy day--with a grumpy man. Lola Reads to Leo, by Anna McQuinn, is a lovely book about doing an important big sister job--watch for Leo Loves Baby Time to come soon. Author Daniel Beaty tells a story in poetry of a father and son separated, in the Coretta Scott King Award-winning Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me. I can't resist sparkling Lottie Paris, spunky brainchild of Angela Johnson, and it's not just because the "best place" referenced in Lottie Paris and the Best Place is.... oh, I can't spoil it for you.... okay, well, it's a place where I work. Finally, a shout-out to an Oakland author: Aya de Leon's Puffy: People Whose Hair Defies Gravity is a bouncy celebration of natural hair.

Biographies! Sugar Hill: Harlem's Historic Neighborhood, by Carole Boston Weatherford, is a forthcoming nonfiction title about famous people in the Harlem Renaissance. If you like your history more recent, try When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip-Hop, by Laban Carrick Hill. A radiant, iconic dancer hits the stage and the page in Josephine: the dazzling life of Josephine Baker, by Patricia Hruby Powell. From Malcolm X's daughter Ilyasah Shabazz, a picture book about her father's childhood: Malcolm Little, the boy who grew up to be Malcolm X. And finally, because I kind of can't believe this one is happening, The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy Is Enlightening, by Chris Raschka--search our catalog for it in about two weeks, because we've only just ordered it!

For older chapter book readers, I can't recommend highly enough the wonderful pair of books by Rita Williams-Garcia about three sisters growing up during the Black Power movement. The first, One Crazy Summer, is set here in Oakland; the sequel, P. S. Be Eleven, takes the sisters back to Brooklyn. Both will leave you delighted. A powerful story out of Hurricane Katrina, Jewell Parker Rhodes' Ninth Ward is an eerie read, best for middle grade readers. Finally, one I haven't read yet, but all the kids are talking about it: Kwame Alexander's The Crossover. Track it down!

That's just a few--click over to Pinterest for a complete list of kids' books featuring African-American characters

DIA: Great Kids' Books with Multiracial Characters

This week is the library holiday with the longest name: Día de los Niños / Día de los Libros; Children's Day / Book Day. It's come to be called just DÍA!--Diversity In Action. Want to come party at the library? Click here!

A lot of people are talking about diversity in children's books right now, which makes me very happy. Oakland is one of the most diverse cities in the nation, and every family in our city deserves to find books on our shelves with characters who look like them, talk like them, have seen and felt what they've seen and felt. 

If you're still searching for your book, the library's giving you a little help this week. Each day, we'll be pinning a new list of recommended children's books with characters of various racial backgrounds; characters who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender; and characters who live with disabilities.

You'll be able to find all of these books here at OPL; or, if you're taking the Birthday Party Pledge and promising to "give multicultural books as gifts to the children in [your] life for one year," take these lists to your local independent bookseller.

Today: a list of children's books with characters who are multiracial! I'm listing just a few here; for the complete list, click over to our Pinterest page.

Got little ones? Try Whoa, Baby, whoa! by Grace Nichols. This little guy gets around! Or, if you'd rather spend your days at an A's game than crawling the kitchen floor, pick up Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon. Party girls can look for Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash / Marisol McDonald y la Fiesta Sin Igual, by Monica Brown. And for a story about the different kinds of families we have, check out Who's In My Family?: all about our families, by Robie Harris.

  

Did you know you can put books on hold before they hit our shelves? Get in line now for these next two. The first has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal: The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond, by Brenda Woods. Violet may be the first biracial character in children's literature to lighten her hair, but I can't vouch for that. If you're feeling something a bit heavier, try Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick; Zane visits the family of his late father, who was African-American, in New Orleans, and ends up facing one of the worst natural disasters in recent history. There's some fear and sadness and death, but it's a gripping story, and appropriate for grades four and up.

A few already on our shelves: first, Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi, which I ended up plowing through in one afternoon (and it's 300 pages). It's funny, exciting, fast-paced, and while definitely not for kids who are young and/or sensitive, not as gory as you might expect. Rabi, a baseball stats geek from a mixed white and Indian family, has to help an undocumented friend whose family has been deported to Mexico, and oh, by the way, there's a zombie apocalypse. Fun, thoughtful, and checked out almost everywhere, so you know it's good. 

 

Doodlebug: a novel in doodles, by Karen Romano Young, for your Wimpy Kid fan who likes a more substantial story. Includes a strong depiction of a multiracial family. And if fun and fluffy's what you want, go for Amy Hodgepodge, a series by Kim Wayans (yes, that Kim Wayans) about a girl who is African-American, Japanese, white, and Korean. Her latest adventure is Digging Up Trouble, and if you like it, there are more!

 

Older readers may want to dig into Mexican Whiteboy, by Matt de la Peña, in which a San Diego teen spends a summer with his dad's Mexican family. So hot when it first came out, it took me weeks to get it. (Related: check out de la Peña's powerful essay "Sometimes the 'Tough Teen' is Quietly Writing Stories," but only if you have some Kleenex handy.) Finally, one that I really enjoyed: Kekla Magoon's Camo Girl. Ella is biracial and has a skin condition that makes the colors of her face uneven; she faces bullying and growing up and away from her best friend, who is autistic.

Want even more kids' books with multiracial characters? Click over to Pinterest for the complete list. Oh, happy Día!