March 19, 2012

Guest Post: Characters of Color by Katie from Book Love +GIVEAWAY

Today I welcome Katie from Book Love.  She's a fantastic blogger that even I was just introduced to.  If you want to find out about some fantastic MG books, you need to check out her blog!  She's a teacher and school librarian, so she really knows her stuff!

Today she is talking about MG books featuring characters of color.  I love that she picked this topic because I want all of you to learn about these books!  She's also offered a giveaway so don't miss it!

Welcome Katie!!

In my first year as a teacher and librarian in Baltimore City, I quickly came to a realization: the faces peering out from the covers of my carefully assembled classroom library books had very little in common with the faces staring back at me from those rows of desks. Nope, the tweens and teens on those book covers were a whole lot more, well... white than the living breathing tweens and teens who sat before me. 

And if there's one thing that all book lovers know, it is this: books have power. They have power to shape one's self image, and to shape perceptions of the world around us. So what kind of powerful message was I sending to my students if they couldn't find more than a small handful of literary characters who looked like them? Not a very positive one. And let's be honest, my and my students' experience is not unique. The US population is rapidly becoming more and more diverse, and Non-Hispanic Whites are the slowest growing ethnic group in the country. The MG and YA publishing world needs to catch up!

Writer Zetta Elliott shared on her blog that out of approximately 3,000 MG and YA releases last year, only around 60 were written by an African American author. That's 0.2%. And I have a hunch that the number published by writers of other minority ethnic groups is even lower. So clearly, that's an issue in the publishing industry. But really, what is published is a reflection of what sells. And I know that as a reader, teacher, librarian, and all around book pusher, I have a responsibility to read, and call attention to, more books written by and about people of color if I want to see more published.

Many readers already know about the utterly fabulous MG release The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis. But guess what? There are many more, outstanding MG novels, featuring people of color, out right now which also deserve some love and attention. Here are just a few highlights:

Something to Hold 
by Katherine Schlick Noe
Kitty Schlick is the only girl living on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Oregon who is not an American Indian. Over the course of her sixth grade year and the following summer, Kitty is forced to confront hateful stereotypes, her own insecurities, and one heck of a forest fire. Based loosely on the author's own experiences growing up, Something to Hold is a powerful story about friendship and facing one's fears.

The Whole Story of Half a Girl
by Veera Hiranandani 
This is one I've already reviewed on Book Love, but I just had to give Sonia's story another shout out because I am a little obsessed with it. Sonia is half Indian, half Jewish, and struggling to figure out where she belongs. In this contemporary novel, our main character is one that almost any middle school girl could relate to - she is torn between the fashionable cheerleaders, and the less popular girl who shares more of Sonia's real interests. And on top of her identity crisis, Sonia is trying to cope with her father's depression, following the loss of his job. The Whole Story of Half a Girl is a must read.

Maximilian and the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller
by Xavier Garza
Max's colorful cover first caught my eye when it won a 2012 Pura Belpre Honor. Told in both English and Spanish, this is a fun filled glimpse into the Mexican tradition of lucha libre - or professional wrestling. With the mystery twist and the addition of author Xavier Garza's comic style illustrations, Maximilian would be an easy sell to middle school boys - especially those with an affinity for WWE!

by Barbara Wright
Hoooooo boy, I just finished Crow last night and it completely blew me away. Moses is only 11-years-old when his family falls into the eye of a political storm in Wilmington, SC. Based on the true story of the only successful coup in America's history, Crowwas a bit of a slow starter for me, but I held my breath as I raced through the last 100 pages. It seems impossible that the events in this story actually happened, and I'm dying to discuss it with someone. Have you read Crow? Let's talk!

The Giveaway
As a part of this celebration of multi-cultural MG novels, I'm giving away a copy of any of the titles listed above - winner's choice
To be entered, just leave a comment with your own recommendation for a MG or YA novel written by or about a person of color, along with your email address. I'd love to hear your suggestions! 
This giveaway will end Friday, March 23rd - 
US entries only, please.


  1. I recommend Jessamine by Eugenia O'Neal (Expected publication: June 2012). I recently received an ARC copy.

    Thanks for the giveaway,
    Katrina @ Kindred Dreamheart

  2. I know it's not new, but I love Copper Sun by Sharon Draper.

  3. Hey! I'm in Canada so don't enter me...

    A couple of suggestions from me is VANISHED by Sheela Chari and HOME OF THE BRAVE by Kathleen Applegate.

    Great guest post. Thanks!

  4. Until now I never really payed attention to how little different ethnicities are mentioned in books. That's horrible that there is a wider range in both characters and authors! I mean 0.2%, that is insane! That is truly awesome that you want your students to be able to connect to the books on your shelves. I love how interesting The Whole Story of a Half Girl sounds, I'll definitely be adding that to my to be read pile. Thanks for the incredible and eye opening post Katie! :)

  5. That was awesome!
    Books do have power.
    (not an entry)

  6. Thanks so much for having me, Jill!

    To Katrina and Deb - I will Definitely be checking out Jessamine, Vanished, and Home of the Brave. Thanks for the suggestions!

    To A Bookshelf Monstrosity - Copper Sun is one of my absolute favorites! Awesome recommendation.

    Hi Katie and Juju :) Katie, maybe it could be a MG Monday feature someday?! No pressure :)

  7. This is a great post! I know I just got Crow in for my public library but I definitely need to check that I have the other titles listed. Maximilian in particular looks like a fun book! Great post. (Not entering)

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. I had the same feelings about Crow and wonder if the beginning will hold kids interest until the second half when the book gets exciting.

    A few of my favorite MG books about people of color are Chains, Home of the Brave, and Bud Not Buddy.

  10. I agree with everyone who said "Home of the Brave" and wanted to put out "The Color of My Words" by Lynn Joseph and "Viva La Paris" by Esme Raji Codell as amazing MG books.

    I would love to share Maximilian with some of my ESOL students. Thanks!


  11. I liked A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg
    mearley1979 at gmail dot com

  12. LOVE this post (and Katie). I think she's spot on. My favorite books by and about persons of color are The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon. I've also been meaning to read Marcelo in the Real World for ages...

  13. Oh! And my email address: celialarsen(at)gmail(dot)com.

  14. I have a personal quest to seek out MG books with characters of color in the fantasy genre. Here are a few titles that I featured on my blog under the "colorinYAMG" tag.
    - The Remarkable & Very True Story of Lucy & Snowcap

    Hopefully I will get to add more to my list this year. :)

  15. and I forgot to leave my email. (sorry)


  16. One of my favorites is Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis. And I also really enjoyed The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich.

  17. Ooops - forgot to announce the winner on Friday! There were TONS of awesome suggestions (I've already brought Home of the Brave home from the library!) so thank you, thank you all for expanding my (and each other's!) to-read lists. 5 people "entered" by leaving a suggestion with their email address, so I used the very scientific method of asking my mom (visiting for the weekend :) to pick a number between 1 and 5, and then counting down to that comment on the list. The number is THREE and the winner is MEGAN who suggested A Thousand Never Evers!

  18. I have been looking at one called "The House of the Scorpion" by Nancy Farmer.
    Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net