Diversity in kid lit

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On a recent trip to the library I happened to see many of the books on my to-read list on the shelves. The theme this time is diversity! All of these books are about a culture/time different from mine. It was nice to read them together. There are picture books, poetry, and chapter books too.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena – I think this was a fine book but there are many more deserving books for the Coretta Scott King and Newbery Medal. It wasn’t even the strongest one among these five books. I guess that goes to show more diverse books need to be read and recognized.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate – I read this within 3 hours and I loved it. It is a little like The Wild Robot and Pax because it reads like a fable. Very allegorical! It was uniquely told from a tree’s point of view. I loved the tree’s flashbacks and how everything connects.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser – I’ve wanted to read this book for a while and am so glad I finally found it. I think I am into family novels lately. It’s cozy to read books about big families and I love how the hustle and bustle of New York City came through in this story.

Yagua Days by Cruz Martel – I read this book because my mentor mentioned it. She said it had “weird words” that students could figure out using context clues 😛 . Indeed it does! It had a lot of Spanish words but also words that are unusual even in Spanish. I love the illustrations in this book. Here’s to yagua days in our future.

Caminar by Skila Brown – I think this might be my favorite. It is a historical novel-in-verse, set in a context I have never read about. It’s about the Guatemalan Civil War from 1960-1996. It didn’t feel foreign at all because it is told from the point of view of one boy, who became a man, and his decision. Caminar means “to walk” in Spanish, the the reader walks with Carlos over the course of the book. I think the epilogue is the most personal part of the book. I love how years later, when Carlos has a daughter, he saw Flora and remembers. I wonder what it must feel to have an experience like war or other trauma in your past, and to be decades removed from it yet still hold it close in the your heart. I am so so glad I got a chance to read this. Thank you Skila Brown!

Love of Raymie Nightingale

img_0458This book holds a special place in my heart. Of the books I’ve read this past month Raymie Nightingale is my favorite. It is my type of book for the following reasons:

1. I love Kate DiCamillo’s writing. I like simple but unique prose.

2. I read novels, fiction, and mostly middle grade books. Middle grade books just appeal to me the most.

3. I love the characters in this book. Raymie, Louisiana, and Beverly were such a treat.

4. I’m introspective and I loved this book’s theme about struggling with yourself and finding a way out of it.

I related to Raymie. She wants her dad back and she can feel her soul shrinking and expanding. Sometimes things are just the way they are– unfortunate. Whether you are a kid or an adult, people will fail you. Although, I can imagine how much more disappointing it would be as a kid to learn that adults are flawed.

Speaking of adults, the adults in this novel were wacky but fun to read.

DiCamillo did a great job of touching upon some serious themes in a gentle way. Raymie dealt with her dad running away with a dental hygienist, while Louisiana and her grandma were hiding from CPS or foster care. Beverly’s parents were a former beauty queen and a New York City cop. Even though it is unlikely that three unfortunate girls would meet and become friends, I loved that the book brought them together. From my description you would think that their lives are a drag to read but DiCamillo wrote them in such a charming way. Their misfortunes did not define them and perhaps that is the message of the story.