Guest blogger Katie Cunningham is an Assistant Professor at Manhattanville College. Her teaching and scholarship centers around children’s literature, critical literacy, and supporting teachers to make their classrooms joyful and purposeful. Katie has presented at numerous national conferences and is the editor of The Language and Literacy Spectrum, New York Reading Association’s literacy journal.
As we unravel the tragic events that took place in Newtown, CT, I am reminded of the dedication Jan Spivey Gilchrest wrote in When The Horses Ride By: Children in the Time of War:
For the beautiful, powerful and courageous children of the world, you are far more than dolls and toy trucks. You are real people only smaller. Know that we are here to love you, listen to you, respect you and protect you.
Gilchrest’s words remind us as educators, parents, and writers that there is great beauty and strength in the children who fill our lives. As the process of healing begins, stories can remind us of just how beautiful, powerful, and courageous children are. Stories can celebrate the simple acts of care people bestow on one another. Stories can, in turn, inspire acts of kindness.
Every semester I ask my students to consider how they will use children’s literature to help their own young students understand traumatic events. Rather than turning to texts that offer generic historical accounts, I find my students selecting stories that center the human spirit. The Classroom Bookshelf has generated a wonderful book list for supporting children with grief and loss. It’s a resource to turn to in the days and weeks ahead as we come together to grieve and to take action. As we move forward as a nation, we will also need books that celebrate children and the power of love and remind us to give thanks. The following books are stories that I continue to come back to as I work alongside teachers. Consider how these and other stories can provide comfort and build a community of care in your classroom. Let’s continue to recognize what’s most important in our classrooms—the children, their stories, and stories that inspire them.
In honor of the upcoming release of our new YA anthology, Diverse Energies, we thought we’d put together a list of dystopias with diversity. For the purposes of this list, our definition of diversity is: 1.) A book with a main character of color (not just secondary characters), or 2.) A book written by an author of color. Of course, all types of diversity are worth celebrating, so if you know of other diverse dystopias (with, for example, LGBT diversity) please share them in the comments as well.
Note: I have not personally read all of these books, but have tried to confirm the inclusion of diverse main characters whenever possible. However, mistakes are bound to be made, so if you’ve read something and don’t think it belongs on this list, please let us know. Likewise if we’ve missed something that should be here.
If you’re a visual learner, the whole thing is on Pinterest:
And now, onward:
Above World, by Jenn Reese: (middle grade) In this dystopia, overcrowding has led humans to adapt so that they can live under the ocean or on mountains.
The Boy at the End of the World, by Greg van Eekhout: (middle grade) In this dystopia, the last boy on earth teams up with an overprotective broken robot to survive.
In celebration of July 4th and all of summer’s fun activities, I asked a few Lee & Low authors and staff members what their favorite beach reads are. I’m sure it was difficult to pick just three, but here’s what they came up with:
Don Tate, author of It Jes’ Happened, says: “Reading here has been slow lately. But here’s what’s tops on my summer reading list, books written by friends and critique partners in my local writing community.”
- Laugh With The Moon by Shana Burg
- Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith
- Think Big by Liz Garton Scanlon
Jaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, explains why she made her choices:“During the summer, despite my best intentions, I seldom actually make it to the beach, so here are my favorite travel-centric reads that help me imagine I’m on vacation.”
- A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful by Gideon Lewis-Krauss