Labeled women’s fiction but with a fourteen-year-old character, I believe The Girl with the Louding Voice (Dutton, 2020) by Abi Daré will be a good read for teens, too. It’s such a moving story of hardship and perseverance. And a reminder of the importance of education that we so often take for granted.
In a small village in Nigeria, Adunni just wants to go to school like Papa promised her mother when she was dying. But her father needs money and sells her to an old man who already has two wives. Not only does she have to deal with being forced to have sex (not described graphically), but also with the resentment of one of the other wives. When Adunni is put in an even more terrible situation, she runs away. Only to be sold again–this time as a housemaid in an abusive rich lady’s home in far away Lagos. But Adunni is willing to risk working and speaking up for a chance at a better life no matter how hard things are.
I love the voice of the character–it’s clear from her words that English is a second language–but more than that Adunni’s determination and sense of right and wrong comes through. She is a so admirable. It’s satisfying to see her learning, too.
This great book became a New York Times Bestseller. I wish everyone would read it.
Amazingly, this is Abi Daré’s debut novel. You can read about her here.
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
Mañanaland (Scholastic Press, 2020) by award-winning author Pam Muñoz Ryan is a wonderful tale of growing up and discovery.
Eleven-year-old Max likes to make up stories and wonder about big things, like what lay beyond the horizon, why his mother left, and if he’d ever meet her. But Papá does not like questions. He does give Max a compass that belonged to Renata. Max hopes he can find his mother and give the compass back to her. When Papá is out of town and someone comes looking for a guardian to help a traveler along the way, Max decides to be the escort to the next guardian who might have traveled with his mother. Maybe he’ll make it all the way to Mañanaland.
Here’s an interview with the author about what inspired the story. Read about the author here. Go here to check out her many many books.
Perfect Picture Book Friday
Going Down Home with Daddy (Peachtree, 2019) by Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by Daniel Minter is a sweet and touching story of family. Plus it’s lovely art made it a 2020 Caldecott honor book. Go here to read about the other awards this story has garnered.
It’s family reunion time and Lil Alan doesn’t haven anything for the celebration. Everyone will have something to share. Except him. Granny (great grandmother) welcomes them when they arrive. Other family members arrive until there are more cousins than he can count. Others talk about what they’ll share for the celebration, but Lil Alan only has empty hands.
You’ll have to read the book to find out along with Lil Alan that he has something to share after all.
Check out the author’s numerous other books here. Read about how Kelly became an author here.
See the illustrators some of his other books and art here. Read about Daniel and his work here–there are links to follow from that page, too.
Nowhere Boy (Roaring Brook Press, 2018) by Katherine Marsh is a fascinating tale of two boys whose lives intersect in Brussels, Belgium. Ahmed is fourteen and from Syria, and all alone. Max is thirteen and from America. From different cultures and struggling with both sides of the refugee question, the boys form a bond of friendship.
Don’t pass this book up. It’s a 2019 Bank Street Best Children’s Book and a 2019 American Library Association Notable. See other praise here.
Read about author Katherine Marsh here. Katherine is not afraid to venture into difficult subjects in her books. I recommended one here. I need to read her other middle grade books, too.
I have 271 book recommendation posts on my blog–some of those include multiple books. When I started the blog ten years ago, there wasn’t such a big push for diversity as there is now. Recently, I was curious how many of my entries were about diverse books. Doing some research, I discovered 49 of the entries had books with diverse characters who were integral to the story. (That’s about 18 percent.) The books were not necessarily fully focused on diversity, but at least presented an important character who was nonwhite or other “abled.” (If you want to see what books are included, search my blog for diversity.) If I’d looked at the fantasy books, many of them would fit the diversity category too, as fantasy books often deal with characters who are different from the mainstream of their culture, but I don’t think those books are usually counted as diverse.
I didn’t set out to read “diverse” books specifically. Fortunately, I was raised to believe people are people despite skin color, cultural differences, etc., which means when I hear of a good book, or pick up a book, I’m not automatically offended because the main character is not like me on the outside. What I see as I read is that these characters are so like me on the inside. Which is why it is so important for “white” kids, “abled” kids, poor, middle class, and rich kids to read these books. They need to see we are more alike than we are different!
On the other hand, according to the 2015 Census, about 62% of Americans are white only, 17% are Hispanic or Latino only, 13% are black only, 6% are Asian only, 1% are Native American or Alaskan, and 2.5% are two or more races. (Note: Arabs are classified as “white” for censuses.) And these statistics don’t include “differently abled.” But even with these skewed figures, it’d be hoped that good books are written by/about 40% nonwhite “abled” people. Because people who fit these “other” categories deserve to see themselves represented in story too.
The reality is we’re not there yet. Look closely at the above infographic. You might find this source post from September 2016 of interest. And here’s an interesting post on CCBC on how books are counted.
What can I as a white writer do? Deliberately support those writers who write diverse books by blogging about those books, buying them, sharing about them, etc. And support diversity organizations. I just came across this list: 2016 LINKY (Diversity Children’s Books Reviews). It can be a source for me to find books. Plus, I can let people know about it through twitter, etc. And, of course there’s the We Need Diverse Books organization. This site has links to awards for specific types of diverse books. Again, it’s another source to find books that I can share. SCBWI has a page on their site that focuses on diversity, plus has two diversity grants. Several of these diversity sites want you to notify them if you know of books, awards, etc. not on their lists. That’s something any of us can do.
FYI, Multicultural Children’s Book Day is coming up on January 27th. You can download a free kindness kit here.