Selected and annotated by Alice Mitchell
There has been an increased awareness about the lack of diversity in children’s and YA books. This bibliography presents books that not only have protagonists of color but also features people of color on the cover, contributing to the visibility of such characters.
Bruchac, Joseph. Killer of Enemies. Tu/Lee & Low, 2013. 361p. Gr. 9-12.
Apache hunter Lozen lives in a post-apocalyptic world devoid of technology. She is forcibly recruited to protect one of the many isolated rural communities, hunting genetically modified monsters in exchange for food and shelter. All the while, Lozen starts developing the ability to read minds, which helps her in her goal of escape.
Bryant, Jen. A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin; illus. by Melissa Sweet. Knopf, 2013. 34p. Gr. 3-6.
Horace Pippin’s interest in drawing and painting was only a hobby before World War I, but after being injured in the war, he turned it into a successful career. Bryant presents Pippin’s life in soft watercolors with a few examples of Pippin’s own work and quotes.
Christopher, Neil. Ava and the Little Folk; written by Neil Christopher and Alan Neal; illus. by Jonathan Wright. Inhabit, 2013. 42p. 7–10 yrs.
Orphaned Ava, shunned by his village, is taken in by the Inugarulligaarjuit—magical little people in the Arctic wilderness. Although he is initially worried he won’t fit into their home (as he is too big to fit through the door), a perspective-altering hunting trip makes him feel accepted in his new adopted family.
Clare, Cassandra. The Bane Chronicles; by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, and Maureen Johnson; illus. by Cassandra Jean. McElderry, 2014. 505p. Gr. 9–12.
Fashionable Magnus Bane returns in these short stories, most of which were originally published online, following his adventures from eighteenth-century Peru to modern-day New York City. Fans of The Mortal Instruments series will see familiar faces in Bane’s various tales.
Dauvillier, Loïc. Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust; by Marc Lizano; color by Greg Salsedo. from the French by Alexis Siegel. First Second/Roaring Brook, 2014. 76p. Gr. 3-6.
When young Elsa wakes to hear her Grandmother crying, she goes to comfort her from what she assumes are bad dreams. Her Grandmother begins telling her about her experience as a child during the Holocaust in this poignant graphic novel imported from France.
Edwardson, Debby Dahl. My Name Is Not Easy. Cavendish, 2011. 248p. Gr. 5-9.
In the 1960s, Luke and his brothers Bunna and Isaac are sent to a boarding school for Eskimo and Indian students to learn white customs and values. Isaac turns out to be too young for enrollment, so he is put into the foster system. Bunna and Luke attempt to escape but are convinced to give the school another try, despite the growing racial tensions there.
Flake, Sharon. Pinned. Scholastic, 2012. 228p. Gr. 7-10.
Wrestling star Autumn keeps asking out intelligent yet arrogant Adonis, facing his repeated rejection. Her learning disability results in her being kicked off the wrestling team due to bad grades while Adonis gradually falls for her in this touching novel about unlikely relationships.
Freedman, Paula J. My Basmati Bat Mitzvah. Amulet/Abrams, 2013. 236p. Gr. 5-8.
Tara is having some trouble balancing her identities as a Jewish Indian-American girl, a task growing more difficult as her bat mitzvah approaches. Her cultural identity crisis combines with more personal crises as she deals with her relationship with her mother and navigates the world of dating and crushes.
Hill, Laban Carrick. When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop; illus. by Theodore Taylor III. Roaring Brook, 2013. 32p. 6-10 yrs.
Young Jamaican immigrant Clive “Herc” Campbell inadvertently became the creator of a new style of music when DJing his sister’s birthday party, after which he embraced the name DJ Kool Herc. His legacy of working with duplicate vinyl records on two turntables led to the formation of a new hip hop culture.
Honeyman, Kay. The Fire Horse Girl. Levine/Scholastic, 2013. 321p. Gr. 7–10.
Born under the unlucky fire sign in the Year of the Horse, Jade is considered unmarriageable in her 1923 Chinese community, leaving her free to accompany her father and his friend to the United States where they are falsely promised a fulfilling life. After uncovering a web of deceit, Jade must make difficult decisions in order to avoid being sent back to China.
Kristoff, Jay. Stormdancer. Dunne/St. Martin’s, 2012. 313p. Gr. 9 up.
Yukiko and her father are sent by a power-mad shogun to find a mythical flying creature, but once they find the creature, Yukiko is stranded with it and a cult member on an island where they fall in with resistance fighters.
La Marche, Una. Like No Other. Razorbill, 2014. 347p. Gr. 7-10.
When they’re inexplicably stuck together in an elevator, nerdy Jaxon coaxes Hasidic Devorah out of her shell, leading her to stray away from her family’s traditions in order to see him more. Unfortunately Devorah’s brother-in-law is getting suspicious, leading to trouble for her and Jaxon.
LeBox, Annette. Circle of Cranes. Dial, 2012. 341p. Gr. 5-8.
Although Suyin’s ethnic minority in China is known for their needlework, her father refuses to let her learn the trade after the death of her mother. When a stranger comes to her village, she is chosen to be sent to work in America.
Lin, Grace. Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same!; written and illus. by Grace Lin. Little, 2010. 43p. Gr. 1-2.
Twin sisters Ling and Ting are as different as can be. In six self-contained stories, they explore everyday things from getting their hair cut to learning how to use chopsticks. This book’s structure makes it a perfect easy reader for those readers venturing into learning how to read on their own.
Look, Lenore. Alvin Ho: Allergic to Babies, Burglars, and Other Bumps in the Night; illus. by LeUyen Pham. Schwartz & Wade, 2013. 183p. Gr. 2–4.
Reader favorite Alvin is worried about a rash of burglaries in the neighborhood, but there are greater concerns on the horizon: his mom is pregnant. He develops “simply pathetic pregnancy” symptoms, which spreads to all the second-grade boys in his class.
Magoon, Kekla. Fire in the Streets. Aladdin, 2012. 321p. Gr. 9-12.
In this sequel to The Rock and the River, Maxie is following in her brother Raheem’s footsteps and joins the Black Panther Party. Although she wants to patrol the streets protecting black people from police brutality, everyone thinks she is too young, so she is stuck in the office. Everything changes as the police attack the office and her family is evicted.
McKay, Hilary. Lulu and the Rabbit Next Door; illus. by Priscilla Lamont. Whitman, 2014. 91p. R Gr. 2-3.
Lulu has taken a shine to new neighbor Arthur’s rabbit George, since Arthur isn’t giving George much attention. She and her friends devise a plan to coax Arthur into giving George the care he deserves.
Morales, Yuyi. Niño Wrestles the World; illus. by Yuyi Morales. Porter/Roaring Brook, 2013. 36p. 4-7 yrs.
Niño is ready and raring to face off against any monsters that might come his way. He introduces readers to his defeated foes and his clever maneuvers to vanquish them. Yet there’s another demon he has yet to conquer: his little sisters…who are just about to wake up from their nap.
Neri, G. Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty; illus. by Randy DuBurke. Lee & Low, 2010. 94p. Gr. 5-10.
In graphic novel format, Neri shares the tragic story of eleven-year-old Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, an abused and neglected child who went on a crime spree in Chicago in 1994, evading the police for several days before being executed by member of his own gang. This fictionalized historical account has a considerable collection of sources in its bibliography.
Pinkney, Andrea Davis. The Red Pencil; illus. by Shane W. Evans. Little, 2014. 308p. Gr. 6–9.
When the Janjaweed invade Amira’s idyllic South Darfur farm, they kill her father and leave her and her family to flee. After finding shelter in a refugee camp, Amira begins succumbing to grief until a relief worker gives her paper and a pencil and Amira learns to write.
Pinkney, Andrea Davis. Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down; illus. by Brian Pinkney. Little, 2010. 42p. Gr. 3-5.
The Greensboro Four were famous in the 1960s for staging a sit-ins at the lunchroom counter in a South Carolina Woolworth’s. Pinkney describes the efforts of these four African-American friends who faced extreme adversity and hatred by repeating their request for “a doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side.”
Rhodes, Jewell Parker. Ninth Ward. Little, 2010. 217p. Gr. 5-8.
With the ability to see ghosts, Lanesha is shunned by her wealthy family. Her grandmother and her Ninth Ward community encourage her to follow her dream to become an engineer. They all start preparing as Hurricane Katrina approaches, but Lanesha’s grandmother sees something more sinister in their future.
Tonatiuh, Duncan. Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation; written and illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. Abrams, 2014. 40p. 6-9 yrs.
In this nonfiction chronicle of an important legal case, the members of the Mexican-American Gonzalo Mendez family are in quite a predicament: their kids have been put in two different schools, with the darker-skinned kids attending the “Mexican” public school and the lighter-skinned kids at the white school. Mendez raises the call to stop this segregation that puts their kids at a disadvantage and finds a prosecutor to bring their case to court.
Venkatraman, Padma. A Time to Dance. Paulsen/Penguin, 2014. 307p. Gr. 7 up.
Dancing is Veda’s passion. When she gets in a car crash on her way home from a competition, complications result in doctors amputating her leg. Initially distraught, Veda melds her pain and passion for dance together when she receives a prosthetic leg and starts training with a new teacher.
Williams-Garcia, Rita. P.S. Be Eleven. Amistad/HarperCollins, 2013. 274p. Gr. 5-8.
After an exciting time with her mother and the Black Panthers in One Crazy Summer, Delphine and her sisters return home to find that her dad has a new girlfriend. In the meantime, a new schoolteacher from Zambia challenges Delphine academically, and her mother writes letters that encourage her to “be eleven.”
Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. Paulsen/Penguin, 2014. 337p. Gr. 7-12.
Woodson chronicles her own childhood in a collection of free verse poems as she details her childhood living with her mother and grandparents before she moved to New York with her mother and new brother, leaving her grandparents behind. It is in Brooklyn that Jacqueline finds her voice and develops a love of writing.
Woodson, Jacqueline. Pecan Pie Baby; illus. by Sophie Blackall. Putnam, 2010. 32p. 5-8 yrs.
Gia is less than pleased with the impending arrival of her mom’s “ding-dang baby,” but everyone keeps asking her about it. Although she is mourning the loss of the alone time she had with her mother, she and her mother sit down and talk about Gia’s new place in their newly expanded family.
Yang, Dori Jones. Daughter of Xanadu. Delacorte, 2011. 336p. Gr. 7-10.
Princess Emmajin wants to be a warrior in the army of her grandfather, Khubilai Khan, but he instead puts her to work finding out about the homeland of the new foreign man in their midst—Marco Polo. As she learns crucial information to assist in the expansion of the Mongol empire, she also explores new ways of thinking about the world.
Yang, Gene Luen. Boxers; written and illus. by Gene Luen Yang, color by Lark Pien. First Second/Roaring Brook, 2013. 328p. Gr. 8-12.
Romance is not in Little Bao’s future after seeing the scowling face of a girl that reminded him of his favorite mask of a god from the opera. Instead, the first emperor god sends him to fight the English in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.