Diversity and inclusion are hot topics in the publishing world at the moment, and while children’s books featuring diverse characters are, overall, on the rise, it is acknowledged that there is still a huge gap. A study in 2013 conducted at the University of Wisconsin in the USA discovered that of 3,200 children’s books released in 2013, only 253 were about people of colour, and only 223 were actually written by people of colour. More recently an Arts Council report in the UK revealed that just 1% of children’s books from 2017 had a black or minority ethnic protagonist.
Why do we feel this is so important? Well, many reasons. Books have the power to encourage and to enlighten, and a lack of diversity in books results in children being unable to see themselves in the stories that they read and unable to chart their future possibilities and ambitions. Children naturally need to identify with characters and settings. But it goes further than that. Of course they need to read about people who think, feel and love the way they do, but they also need to learn that these characters might not necessarily look like them, speak like them or come from the same kind of environment. Kids need to see themselves and people from other diverse backgrounds saving the day, working hard, loving fiercely and overcoming obstacles. Diverse books help promote respect and empathy for all kinds of people. They can take us to places we’ve never been. They satisfy our curiosity about the world. They teach us how other people think, feel, live, dream and thrive.
Whilst it is vital that the publishing industry seek to narrow this gap, librarians, teachers, parents and readers can all help by promoting and embracing stories by and about characters of all types of background. Many of us live in multicultural communities these days, making us ideal ambassadors. There are already many wonderful books out there that reflect and celebrate the rich diversity of our world. Here’s a few ideas to get you started, but we are sure that if you take a look, you’ll find many more.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena (Winner of the Newberry Medal)
Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson
You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner
The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
And for younger readers:
This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe
Pink is for Boys by Rob Pearlman
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai
Grandpa’s Journey by Allan Say
This Love by Isabel Otter
All are welcomeby Alexandra Penfold
Is diversity in literature important to you? Are there other titles that you would like to recommend? We would love to hear your thoughts!
Amelia and her friends embark upon another adventure in this final installment of the quirky and charming Amelia Fang series. The book opens with Amelia’s excitement about attending her friend’s birthnight celebrations but when her parents are struck down with the Frankenflu, she has to take her baby brother Vincent with her. Amelia has rather mixed emotions about her stinky, snotty little bro, especially once she discovers that babysitting is not as easy as it looks. When Vincent disappears into a mysterious land where all squished toads go, Amelia and her friends have to stage a daring rescue. It’s with trepidation that they set off to The Pond Beyond, knowing that it’s strictly off limits to non-toads and Vincent will be very hard to find.
Nine-year-old Rose rates this series finale as “hilarious, with plenty of disgusting bits, a good amount of suspense and a lovely ending”. I’m in agreement; both she and I really enjoyed the latest escapades of Amelia and her friends, appreciating the blend of comedy and adventure. Florence and Tangine are as funny as ever, and the story benefits from the liberal sprinkling of spooky humour found in the rest of the series as well as an abundance of slime and other nose-wrinkling additions. There are some fabulous new characters in this story, our favourite was Freda Frumpton, and the loyalty and bravery shown between Amelia and her friends throughout their quest makes the story particularly heartwarming; their strong sense of friendship and their ability to see the good in someone is a highlight throughout the series. Amelia’s frustration with her baby brother at the beginning of the book will also be very relatable to many readers. As always, Amelia is a little wiser by the end of the book and takes her readers along on her learning journey.
Of course this book is chock full of Laura Ellen Anderson’s delightfully endearing illustrations (we always find the maps especially appealing!) and with Hallowe’en just around the corner we think it’s a toadtastically spooky read. “I’d toadally recommend this book to any readers age 7 and up, it’s witty, funny and exciting. If only there could be more!” says Rose. Hear hear.
Rose A (age 9) and Louise A, Bavaria, Germany
Amelia Fang and the Trouble with Toads, by Laura Ellen Anderson, is published today (Egmont Books).
Winnie Adds Magic by Laura Owen and Korky Paul: This story is about a witch called Winnie and her pet Wilbur who just arrived home from their sister Wendy’s house. Strange and funny things happened with them that afternoon. As soon as they unlocked the door, they were struck with a nasty damp smell. After opening the windows, they checked for food but found nothing in the fridge and cupboard. Winnie had the idea to grow their own food! Winnie waved her wand and instantly corn, cucumber, tomatoes, cows, goats, and chickens appeared. That’s when the chaos started. Several funny incidents happened for which I recommend reading the book.
Winnie and Wilbur are funny and weird at the same time. Winnie is a witch with a big witch hat, a small, magical wand, a long, pointy, pink nose and long untidy hair. Wilbur is a black scary cat with rough fur and pointed ears. Sometimes Wilbur is kind and clever and helps Winnie, for example, when he made a brown onesie from goat wool decorated with chicken feathers. At first, I was scared to read this book because there are so many spiders printed on every page of the book. Then after my mum suggested reading it, I tried the first page of the spidery book and found it so amusing that I continued reading. There are illustrative black and white pictures that helped me visualize the story. The author has beautifully used several adjectives to describe the scenes and has also used rhyming words, like “That’s as cozy as a bug in a rug in a snug hug, that is!” and “yoo hoo snail goo!” I rate this book 9 out of 10 and only deduct one mark for all the spiders in the book!
This book was totally irresistible, I couldn’t put it down. The main character is 11 year old Addie who is angry and upset because she has been taken to a rural farm in the south of England to stay with a foster family. She really hopes that it won’t be for long. While she is there, the son who lives on the farm finds a foal in the snow and Addie helps him out with the foal. She is determined that she will reunite the foal with its mother, as well as being reunited with her own. The subject matter is heartwarming and it is so well written. I could really relate to the characters even though the story was sometimes pretty sad. The whole story is just so lovely to read and makes you think about others. I loved this book so much that I really recommend it to readers aged 9 or older.
Pages & Co: Tilly and the Book Wanderers by Anna James: I totally loved Tilly And The Bookwanderers, it was a fascinating book about a girl who discovers she has the ability to go in and out of books and talk to the characters. I loved this idea! The main characters are enjoyable and I thought that the storyline was great too with some really interesting twists. It made me wish I could go inside books and I ended up thinking about which characters I would like to meet. I found it hard to put the book down and I finished it fast, so I’m glad there is a sequel! I would really recommend this book, to those who like magical books aged 9 or older.
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder: This is a very exciting book with plenty of ups and downs and a few scary bits too. It is well written by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. I really enjoyed the imagination in it and the storyline was very good too . I also like the fact that the main character of the story didn’t want to be there at the start, but when she can go back to where she was she says no. This was an interesting change. I would recommend this book to children who enjoy fantasy and fiction.
Diary of a Wimpy Kidd: Old School, by Jeff Kinney: There are seven main characters in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Mom, Dad, Wimpy Kid, Manny, Rodrick, Grandpa, and the pig. I enjoyed some parts of this book, like the part at the town pool when Wimpy Kid came out of the pool and his bathing suit fell off. Two people took his photo and one person said, “This kid really cracked me up”. Other funny parts were where Wimpy Kid had cabbage in his tooth so he took mom’s phone to see the cabbage and when Manny ran after dinner without pants.
Some things in this book were interesting. For example, Wimpy Kid said “No mayonnaise” to a robot and the robot brought him mayonnaise on purpose, and when Wimpy Kid was thinking about the past, he thought that maybe people from 1,000 years ago might not even have spines. But there are also some things that I disliked from this story, like when Manny doesn’t wear pants after dinner and when everybody slept outside in the cold and Wimpy Kid slept inside. Overall, I think it is just a fun book without any moral message.
The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Date, by Zillah Bethel: Auden Dare is a totally ordinary eleven year old boy, except that he can’t see colours. He discovers a secret in an old shed and it changes his life. This book is set in England in the future, when there is a war raging over limited water resources. It tells an exciting, uplifting and moving story of friendship, family and adventure. With his clever new friend Vivi, Auden embarks upon a thrilling journey of discovery. I loved every page, it was hard to put it down. The plot is intriguing and unpredictable, and I really liked that. I also like that it tackles an environmental issue too (about climate change and the importance of not wasting water). I think that anyone over eight years old who likes science and adventure, and a little bit of mystery, will enjoy this book.
Judy Moody Was in a Mood by Megan MacDonald: In Judy Moody Was In A Mood, I read that Judy, the main character, made a My-name-is-a-poem-club in the first chapter “Rhyme Time”. Judy had to make up a project on “Around the World in 8 and a 1/2 days”. She also made a pizza in the last chapter named “Eats a Pizza”. There are funny things, bad things, and good things. The funny thing is when Judy and Amy Namey crack up. The bad thing is when Rocky was not friends with Judy. The good thing is when the book ends, they all eat pizzas. I liked this story!
The Wreck of the Zanzibar, by Michael Morpurgo: I thought that this book was really well written and a very interesting story. The story is about The Dairy Of Laura Perryman and how her life was years ago on an island called Bryher. My favorite part was that the book is about a diary but written in the form of a story. I think that this is a good story that people should read.
Tyler S, age 11, Germany, 16.04.20
The Wreck of the Zanzibar, by Michael Morpurgo: This book is about the diary of Laura Perryman and her life years ago on the islands of Scilly. Laura died and everyone in her family received something from her. Her nephew got her diary… which tells us the main part of the book… There is a watercolor painting on the cover of a four-masted ship keeling over in a storm and heading for the rocks. I would recommend this book to young readers because it is a bit sad.
Dennis D-P, age 11, Germany, 15.01.20
The Wreck of the Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo: I think this book is very well written and original because it starts in a normal book style but then it twists the story into diary format, which I find makes the book unique and different from others. In the book we hear about the diary of Laura Perryman and how she lives on the remote island of Bryher, and also about her brother Billy, and his adventures. I’d definitely advise you to read this book because it represents the issues of family and life.