The month of February is a time when many communities pause and celebrate the great contributions made by African Americans in history. At Lee & Low we like to not only highlight African Americans who have made a difference, but also explore the diverse experiences of black culture throughout history, from the struggle for freedom in the South and the fight for civil rights to the lively rhythms of New Orleans jazz and the cultural explosion of the Harlem Renaissance. Continue reading
A new year means a new chance to get to all the things you didn’t get to last year. And by “things,” what we really mean is BOOKS. We also know that reading diversely doesn’t happen by accident; it takes a concerted effort to read a wide range of books.
So, we thought we’d help on both counts by offering up a list of the diverse authors we’re resolving to read in 2015. Some are new, and some have just been on our list for years. This is the year we plan to get to them – perhaps this will be your year, too?
November is Native American Heritage Month! Native American Heritage Month evolved from the efforts of various individuals at the turn of the 20th century who tried to get a day of recognition for Native Americans. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a resolution that appointed November as Native American Heritage Month. You can learn more about Native American Heritage Month here.
For many years, Native people were silenced and their stories were set aside, hidden, or drowned out. That’s why it’s especially important to read stories about Native characters, told in Native voices. Celebrate Native American Heritage Month with these great books by Native writers: Continue reading
Today is Mix It Up At Lunch Day, an annual day started by Teaching Tolerance over a decade ago to encourage kindness and reduce prejudice in schools by encouraging students to sit and have lunch with someone new, one day out of the year. Teaching Tolerance offers some great resources to help schools celebrate Mix It Up At Lunch Day, and we thought we’d add our own list of recommended books that encourage kindness, giving, bravery and open-mindedness!
- Lend a Hand: Poems About Giving written by John Frank and illustrated by London Ladd- A collection of poems showing the many ways individuals can make differences.
- Antonio’s Card written by Rigoberto González and illustrated by Cecilia Álvarez – Antonio’s classmates make fun of Leslie, Antonio’s mother’s partner because of her paint-spattered overalls. Antonio decides to make a card for his mother and her partner.
- First Come the Zebra by Lynne Barasch – Abaani, a Maasai boy, sees a Kikuyu boy, Haki, tending a new fruit and vegetable stall alongside the road and they take an immediate dislike to each other. A short while later, a dangerous situation arises near Haki’s stall and Abaani and Haki must overcome their differences and work together.
- King for a Day written by Rukhsana Khan and illustrated by Christiane Krömer – Malik wants to become the king of the kite festival, Basant. Using his kite Falcon, Malik becomes the king of Basant! When he sees a bully take a kite from a girl, Malik uses Falcon to give her a nice surprise.
Banned Book Week started yesterday.
For those of you who don’t know,
“Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” –American Library Association
Here at Lee & Low Books, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite banned/challenged titles (in no particular order).
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – banned for use of racial slurs and profanity.
- Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling – banned for depictions of witchcraft and wizardry/the occult.
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – banned for racism, sexually explicit language, and profanity.
There has been a lot of controversy this week surrounding that now-infamous Slate article saying that adults should be embarrassed to read YA. Here at LEE & LOW, we couldn’t disagree more. We don’t think your enjoyment of a book should be limited by your age (or anything at all, really). YA novels are great. They can be entertaining, literary, thought-provoking, funny, sad, or all of the above at the same time.
There have been several excellent lists of YA recommendations floating around this week, so we thought we’d add our own. Here is a list (a diverse list, of course!) of YA novels that made us think, featuring some great books from LEE & LOW and some of our favorites from other publishers:
1. Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Tu Books)
When Odilia and her four sisters find a dead body in the swimming hole, they embark on a hero’s journey to return the dead man to his family in Mexico. But returning home to Texas turns into an odyssey that would rival Homer’s original tale.
2. How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents by Julia Alvarez (Algonquin Books)
Uprooted from their family home in the Dominican Republic, the four Garcia sisters – Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia – arrive in New York City in 1960 to find a life far different from the genteel existence of maids, manicures, and extended family they left behind.
3. Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Lee & Low Books)
As the oldest of eight siblings, Lupita is used to taking the lead—and staying busy behind the scenes to help keep everyone together. But when she discovers Mami has been diagnosed with cancer, Lupita is terrified by the possibility of losing her mother, the anchor of her close-knit Mexican American family.
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a lot of talk lately about the need for more diversity in books. We already know that the population of the United States is rapidly changing, and people have been demanding books that reflect this. From the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign to this recent article from School Library Journal, the demand for diverse titles grows louder every day. One category we often get asked about is recommendations of books featuring Middle Eastern and Muslim characters, so we thought we’d put together a list of some favorites:
- The Butter Man, by Elizabeth & Ali Alalou, ill. by Julie Klear Essakalli: As young Nora waits impatiently for her mother to come home from work and for her father to serve the long-simmering couscous that smells so delicious, her father tells her about his childhood in Morocco.
- Coming to America: A Muslim Family’s Story, by Bernard Wolf: With captivating photographs and engaging text, Bernard Wolf invites us into the life of this close-knit family — a family whose love and courage speak for all immigrants who work hard and make sacrifices in the pursuit of a better life.
- Deep in the Sahara, by Kelly Cunnane, ill. by Hoda Hadadi: Lalla lives in the Muslim country of Mauritania, and more than anything, she wants to wear a malafa, the colorful cloth Mauritanian women, like her mama and big sister, wear to cover their heads and clothes in public.
- The Flag of Childhood: Poems From the Middle East, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye: In this stirring anthology of sixty poems from the Middle East, honored anthologist Naomi Shihab Nye welcomes us to this lush, vivid world and beckons us to explore.
Jill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
As the holidays charge forth, many teachers reach for their tried-and-true holiday read-aloud bin. It can be very tricky to select just the right text for the holidays. November and December are wonderful months to expose our children to as many cultures as possible and share how different families celebrate holidays in their homes. I encourage teachers, librarians, and literacy advocates to use this time of year not only to explore rituals, traditions, and core values, but also to recognize and celebrate the different kinds of families our children have.
Like many of our literacy partners, we are always looking for fresh stories that demonstrate the core values of the season: empathy, respect, gratitude, service, honesty, community, self-reflection, and responsibility. What better way to teach these abstract concepts than with books that reflect our students’ experiences at home and relationships?
Oh the weather outside is frightful, but a middle school sense of humor is so delightful! When the temperature is freezing, what better way to spend your time than by reading a hilarious book? We’ve put together a list of middle grade humor books (all of which feature diverse main characters), so get ready to have your funny bone tickled!
Note: In general, middle grade books are appropriate for kids ages 8-12. If any of these books fall outside that range, we’ve tried to note that below.
For you visual learners, we’ve also pinned these titles on Pinterest:
These books have been recommended in various places – we haven’t (yet) read them all ourselves. If you have other recommended humorous middle grade titles that feature characters of color or are written by authors of color, let us know in the comments! For more on middle grade humor, check out Cat Girl’s Day Off author Kimberly Pauley’s guest post she wrote on How to Write Humor for Young Readers.
Let the giggles and laughs commence!
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Babies, Burglars, and Other Bumps in the Night by Lenore Look, ill. by LeUyen Pham: Alvin Ho is an Asian American second grader who is afraid of everything—elevators, tunnels, girls, and, most of all, school. But at home he’s a very loud superhero named Firecracker Man, a brother to Calvin and Anibelly, and a gentleman-in-training, so he can be just like his dad.
Halloween, thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival Samhain, is just around the corner! Whether you’re planning to spend the holiday pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, or just relaxing with a cup of steaming hot apple cider, we have six diverse books full of thrills and chills to add to your Halloween festivities!
1. Ghosts for Breakfast by Stanley Todd Terasaki, illustrated by Shelly Shinjo
In this humorous story set in the 1920s, a Japanese American boy and his father investigate their neighbors’ report of ghosts in a nearby farmer’s field.