Celebrating Children’s Books #WeALLNeedDiverseBooks

This week’s post is written by guest blogger, Regina Carter, Phillips Exeter Dissertation Fellow.

It’s that time of year again!  Do you have any idea what I am talking about….?  No, it is not time for spring cleaning.  You should have already done that.  Nope.  It’s not time for the Easter Bunny.  That furry fellow has already hopped away…so shame on you if you missed him!  In case you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s Children’s Book Week (CBW)!  Yes, good old CBW, which runs from May 2-8, 2016.

I am über excited because I now have an excuse for going wild over wonderful, wonderful children’s books!  On that note, I must share an abbreviated story about how CBW came to be.

Once upon a time, there lived a librarian by the name of Franklin K. Matthiews who worked for the Boy Scouts of America.  In 1913, Mr. Matthiews traveled throughout the country with the aims of strengthening standards for children’s literature.  One of the ways he proposed to do so was by celebrating children’s books for an entire week.  In order to make his dream of establishing CBW a reality, Mr. Matthiews sought help from two prominent persons in the publishing and library realms—Frederic G. Melcher and Anne Carroll Moore, respectively.

At that time, Mr. Melcher was a highly regarded editor for Publishers Weekly and Ms. Moore served as the Superintendent of Children’s Works at the renowned New York Public Library.  In 1916, with Mr. Melcher’s and Ms. Moore’s help, the American Booksellers Association (in cooperation with the American Library Association) sponsored a Good Book Week with the Boy Scouts of America.  In 1919, CBW was officially established.  Since then, CBW has been celebrated annually nationwide at “schools, libraries, bookstores, [and] homes– wherever young readers and books connect!”[1]

Now that you know a little more about CBW, it’s time to celebrate!  Below is a list of children’s books by and/or about People of Color that you can find in our very own beloved Class of 1945 Library.  This is just a partial list to whet your appetite.  You must come to the library to see the full spread of children’s literary cuisine that awaits you.  Bon appétit!

marisolMarisol McDonald Doesn’t Match, Marisol McDonald no combina
Written by Monica Brown and illustrated by Sara Palacios

Monica Brown speaks to her own experiences of “being mismatched” in this fantastically tasteful text told in Spanish and English.  Marisol McDonald, the main character, is a “bilingual, Peruvian-Scottish-American, soccer-playing” girl who speaks Spanish, English, and Spanglish.  She is happy doing and being herself—even if it seems somewhat odd to others.  Marisol loves wearing green polka dots and purple strips.  Did I forget to mention that Marisol’s favorite snack is a peanut butter and jelly burrito?!  All is well with Marisol until one of her friends, Ollie, dares her to match.  Marisol accepts the challenge.  Will Marisol be able to match for one whole day?  Check out Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match, Marisol McDonald no combina to find out!

sittiSitti’s Secrets
Written by Naomi Shibab Nye and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

In this stirring story, Mona, a young American girl visits her grandmother who lives in a small village in Palestine.  Mona speaks English.  Her grandmother speaks Arabic.  The only words the grandmother-granddaughter exchange throughout the entire text are Sitti and habibiSitti means “grandmother” in Arabic and habibi is the Arabic word for “darling.”  During Mona’s visit, she and her grandmother bake bread, go on walks, and take down the laundry together.  When the time arrives for her to go home, Mona bids an emotional farewell to her grandmother.  What Mona does when she returns to America is truly heartwarming.  Read Sitti’s Secret to discover how Mona memorializes her visit to Palestine to see her beloved grandmother.

emmaEmma’s Rug
Written and illustrated by Allen Say

When Emma is only a baby, someone gives her an ordinary, plain, white rug.  However, to Emma, this rug is extraordinary.  Emma and her rug are inseparable.  Emma loves to stare at the rug and carries it everywhere—even into the kitchen where her father sets up a small drawing table.  It is during this time that Emma’s parents learn that their daughter is gifted at art. Emma wins award after award, including the citywide art competition.  Although Emma loves drawing, at the end of the day, she simply wants to be near her trusty rug, which she keeps hidden in the bottom of her drawer.  The rug is her source of artistic inspiration.  One day, Emma forgets to put away her rug.  Her mother grabs it and washes it.  When Emma returns home, she finds that her beloved rug’s fluffiness is gone.  So is Emma’s desire to draw.  From that day forward, Emma stops drawing.  Will she ever do so again?  Read Emma’s Rug to discover how (or if) her desire to draw returns.

oftheeof Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters
Written by Barack Obama and illustrated by Loren Long

In this moving tribute to his daughters (Malia and Sasha), our nation’s forty-fourth president, Barack Obama, recognizes thirteen Americans whose talents have transformed the nation.  President Obama’s letter opens with a series of questions about the insurmountable joy his daughters bring to his life.  Each page opens with a question designed to communicate to all children that they are beautiful, brilliant beings with bright futures.  President Obama also honors both men and women from various racial and ethnic backgrounds who have helped make America memorable such as designer-artist Maya Lin, athlete Jackie Robinson, educator Helen Keller, activist Cesar Chavez, and leader Sitting Bull.  To learn more about the eight other Americans President Obama honors in this loving letter to his daughters, borrow of Thee I Sing from The Class of 1945 Library’s children’s book collection.

~ Happy reading! ~

[1].  “About Children’s Book Week,” accessed on April 30, 2016, http://www.bookweekonline.com/about.