Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Great Diverse Books for Younger Readers!

This is my third in a series of posts about great diverse books by age / grade level. The first post shared some of my favorites for middle school, and the second contains my favorite middle grade books (think grades 4-6th). This post focuses on younger readers (1st-3rd grade). I love giving books as gifts and hope this serves as a useful resource!

Diverse Young Reader Books

  • Ling & Ting series by Grace Lin. Asian-Americans Ling and Ting may be twins, but they are not the same! This book geared at early readers captures both the fun and the difficulties of twin life.
  • Anna Hibiscus series by Atinuke. These stories about plucky Anna Hibiscus are set in West Africa (the author is Nigerian) and feature a series of individual stories for each chapter, as Anna goes about her daily life, gets into trouble, and deals with her siblings. (Look for these at your library, as they seem to be out of print.)
  • Juana & Lucas (2016) by Juana Medina [Pura Belpré Author Award winner]. Juana is a young girl who lives in Colombia with her family and dog, Lucas. She has a best friend, gets in trouble at school, and cannot figure out why she needs to learn the tricky English language. Only when Abuelo reveals a motivating reason, does she dig in with earnest. I found this a charming story and one that I think many kids learning Spanish would relate to. Language learning is hard work!
  • The Tia Lola series by Julia Alvarez. Miguel and Juanita move with their mother to Vermont after their parents' divorce, and their Tia Lola comes up from the Dominican Republic to help out. Though geared towards younger students, these books tackle some of the big issues around immigration, family, and fitting in.
  • Emma on the Air series by Ida Siegal. This charming series features third grader Emma who has decided that a TV reporter is a perfect job for her to become famous! With the help of her dad (a "boring" newspaper reporter), Emma breaks her first story about a mysterious worm-burger, which sets her off on a detective-style search for the truth. Emma's dad is from the Dominican Republic, and there are a variety of Spanish phrases thrown into the story too. I can imagine this series inspiring quite a few citizen journalists. The series currently has four books.
  • Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer (2015) by Kelly Jones and illustrated by Katie Kath. This is a delightfully humorous and spunky book told entirely through letters written by main character Sophie. After her family inherits her Great Uncle Jim's farm, Sophie begins to slowly discover some of the farms secrets, including the fact that there should have been chickens! Mystery, intrigue, and chicken superpowers, this book has it all, as well as a diverse main character (her mother is Mexican-American and her father's family hails from Norway) and some hilarious illustrations. 
  • Pack-n-Go Girls is a book series aimed at 6-9 year olds that features strong girl characters from many countries and ancestries. "Pack-n-Go Girls® specializes in creating innovative stories and toys for girls that deliver positive messages around independence, adventure, and global awareness." The books take place in countries around the world including Austria, Brazil, Mexico, and Thailand (with more on the way). Each country series features two girl characters, one a knowledgeable local and the other a diverse girl from the US. This linkage allows the books to share a lot of great inside insights into each country, while also promoting cross-cultural friendships.

What are YOUR favorite diverse books for young readers?

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