Daniel

  • Diversity

    What is your favorite book?

    As a librarian, I get asked this all the time. It’s a tough question, I know. And it’s okay to have more than one answer! But indulge me for a moment, and think of a favorite book or two.

    Why are these books our favorites? What is it about them that makes us like them?

    Often, I enjoy books I can relate to. It doesn’t have to be an exact replica of my life -- in fact, that might be pretty boring. But there’s a special something when I can relate to the characters, locations, and events in a book. The similarities I have with Harry Potter, for example, help me enjoy his adventures in magic.

    But some groups of people are not represented proportionately in literature. For example, the multicultural publisher Lee and Low Books released an infographic in May of 2018 based on statistics provided by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center. Despite the fact that 37% of the United States’ population are people of color (other races besides white), only 10% of children’s books published since 1994 have authors, characters, or content who are Native or people of color.

    Diversity Gap in Childrens Books

    Why are so many voices silenced or ignored in literature? There may not be clear answers, but everyone deserves to have their voice heard and to see themselves in the pages of a book. Reluctant readers are more likely to become enthusiastic about reading when they can relate to the books they read.

    In her 1980 article titled “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors,” Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop focuses on children of color who see the world through the “windows” of books they read; however, the world they see in literature is very different from the one they live in. Bishop said, “When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part.”1

    On the flip side of the coin, white children also suffer when they are kept from the nature of the world they live in by the underrepresentation of other races in literature. All can benefit from the richness of human diversity; after all, variety is the spice of life. Below is a list of books I personally have read that were written by or about people of color or people from multicultural backgrounds.

    This post is the first installment of Diverse Reads, a series that gathers books with diverse characters or authors: people who are LGBTQIA+, Native, people of color, gender diverse, people with disabilities, or ethnic, cultural, or religious minorities. I hope that these books help open a window for you into other worldviews.

    6.11 HoodooHOODOO 
    By Ronald L. Smith
    (2015)

    In 1930s Alabama, twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher is the only member of his family who seems unable to practice folk magic, but when a mysterious man called the Stranger puts the entire town at risk from his black magic, Hoodoo must learn to conjure to defeat him. This book shows various elements of African-American culture that is often skimmed over or ignored, most notably folk magic.

     

    6.11 The ProposalTHE PROPOSAL 
    By Jasmine Guillory
    (2018)

    When freelance writer Nikole Paterson is unexpectedly proposed to at a Dodgers game, stranger Carlos Ibarra and his sister rescue her from the awkward situation and the prying camera crews. Nikole hooks up with Carlos for a casual relationship, but finds herself falling harder for him than she ever imagined. A superb example of representation (with a black main character, a Latino love interest, a black lesbian side character, and a Korean side character), this book showcases the racial melting pot of modern-day Los Angeles.

     

    6.11 Handas SurpriseHANDA’S SURPRISE 
    By Eileen Browne
    (1994)

    Handa carries seven delicious fruits to her friend Akeyo as a surprise. But thanks to some hungry animals she meets along the way, it's Handa who's in for a surprise! Giving an insight into Luo people of sub-Saharan Africa, this older work depicts the flora and fauna of an environment that may be foreign to many Western readers.

     

    6.11 Mango Abuela and MeMANGO, ABUELA, AND ME 
    By Meg Medina
    (2015)

    When Mia's abuela moves in with Mia and her parents in the city, Abuela can't read the English words in Mia's bedtime stories. While they cook, Mia helps her grandmother learn English. However, it is still hard for Abuela to learn the words she needs to tell Mia all her stories. But a colorful parrot named Mango might bring an unexpected solution to their communication problem. This book accurately portrays the cross-generational language barrier that often arises in Latinx immigrant families, like my own.

     

    6.11 The Rent CollectorTHE RENT COLLECTOR 
    By Camron Wright
    (2012)

    Sang Ly struggles to survive by picking through garbage in Cambodia's largest municipal dump. Under threat of eviction by an embittered old drunk who is charged with collecting rents from the poor of Stung Meanchey, Sang Ly embarks on a desperate journey to save her ailing son from a life of ignorance and poverty. This book shows a rare view of the extreme poverty rampant in contemporary Southeast Asia.

     

    6.11 Hair LoveHAIR LOVE 
    By Matthew A. Cherry
    (2019)

    A little girl's daddy steps in to help her arrange her curly, coiling, wild hair into styles that allow her to be her natural, beautiful self. This book highlights and extolls elements of Black culture that are often ignored or even treated derisively in mainstream media.

     

    1 Bishop, R. (1990). “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.” Ohio State University. Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom, 6(3).

     
  •  Diverse Reads Deaf Culture

    The value of written language is immense in any culture. But what if your culture doesn’t have a written system? In fact, about half of the world’s languages have no written form today. Deaf culture uses sign languages as their primary means of communication, but many members of Deaf culture don’t know sign language.

    No culture deserves to be neglected or underrepresented because of its written form (or lack thereof). It is especially important for children to learn about cultures different from their own, and to see their own minority cultures reflected back at them in literature. Below is a list of books that feature individuals from Deaf culture, with a focus on literature for children.

    This post is the fourth installment of Diverse Reads, a series that gathers books with diverse characters or authors: people who are LGBTQIA+, Native, people of color, gender diverse, people with disabilities, or ethnic, cultural, or religious minorities. I hope that these books help open a window for you into other worldviews. 

    11.20 Hello UniverseHELLO, UNIVERSE
    By Erin Entrada Kelly
    (2017)

    Valencia finds herself thrown together with her classmates on a summer day in this Newbery Medal-winning novel. Like many deaf and Hard of Hearing kids, Valencia doesn’t know any sign language, and she wears hearing aids that don’t work well with loud background noise. Her self-confidence and perseverance give readers someone to root for. 

     

    11.20 She Touched the WorldSHE TOUCHED THE WORLD 
    By Sally Hobart Alexander and Robert Alexander
    (2008)

    At age two, Laura Bridgman lost her sight, hearing, smell, and taste. At the country’s first school for the blind, Bridgman paved the way for future generations of children with disabilities, making possible important advances in the way they would be educated long before the likes of Louis Braille and Helen Keller. 

     

    11.20 Song for a WhaleSONG FOR A WHALE 
    By Lynne Kelly
    (2019)

    An amazing Deaf character named Iris lives in a world where her intelligence isn’t recognized in her home nor at her school. Her loneliness is reflected in her attempts to reach Blue 55, a whale who cannot communicate with its own kind. Iris and her Deaf grandmother communicate via sign language, which is especially rare in children’s literature. 

     

    11.20 WonderstruckWONDERSTRUCK 
    By Brian Selznick
    (2011)

    The stories of two deaf children who were born 50 years apart: Ben’s story is told in words, while Rose’s in pictures. This work is a unique attempt to track the changes to Deaf culture in America through stunning illustrations. 

     

    11.20 You Dont Know Everything Jilly PYOU DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING, JILLY P!
    By Alex Gino
    (2018)

    When her new baby sister is born deaf, Jilly makes an online connection with a fellow fantasy fan, who happens to be black and Deaf, and begins to learn about the many obstacles that exist in the world for people who are different from her.

     
  • LGBTQIA

    Have you ever felt different? Like you didn’t fit in? I have! I think most people have felt different at some point. Different isn’t a bad thing. But sometimes being different is hard.

    Sometimes people are mean to you if you’re different. Sometimes they say being different is bad. They might say things to make you wish you were like everyone else. You might feel ashamed or afraid of being different.

    You should never feel ashamed of being different. Pride is the opposite of shame: you feel good about who you are and what makes you different -- and special. I hope that one day, everyone can feel pride about who they are, and no one has to live in fear.

    Here are some books for children about people who might be different from you. You should talk about your thoughts and feelings with a parent or trusted adult.

    This post is a special children’s installment of Diverse Reads, a series that gathers books with diverse characters or authors: people who are LGBTQIA+, Native, people of color, gender diverse, people with disabilities, or ethnic, cultural, or religious minorities. I hope that these books help open a window for you into other worldviews.

    9.2 Rainbow a First Book of PrideRAINBOW: A FIRST BOOK OF PRIDE 
    By Michael Genhart
    (2019)

    Children from different kinds of families show the original meanings of the colors in the rainbow flag. Then they come together at a parade to share in a day when we are all united.

     

    9.2 Prince KnightPRINCE & KNIGHT 
    By Daniel Haack
    (2018)

    Once upon a time, there was a prince in line to take the throne. His parents set out to find him a kind and worthy bride. While they were away, a terrible dragon threatened their land! The prince hurried to save his kingdom and was met by a brave knight in a suit of brightly shining armor. Together they fought the dragon and discovered that special something the prince was looking for all along.

     

    9.2 Julian is a MermaidJULIÁN IS A MERMAID 
    By Jessica Love
    (2018)

    While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. When he gets home, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume. But what will Abuela think?

     

    9.2 Im Not a GirlI’M NOT A GIRL 
    By Maddox Lyons
    (2020)

    Nobody seems to understand that Hannah is not a girl. His parents ask why he won't wear the cute outfits they pick out, his friend thinks he must be a tomboy, and his teacher insists he should be proud to be a girl. But a birthday wish, a new word, and a stroke of courage might be just what Hannah needs to finally show the world who he really is.

     

    9.2 Plenty of HugsPLENTY OF HUGS 
    By Fran Manushkin
    (2020)

    Two mommies spend a sunny day with their toddler: on a bike ride, at the zoo, and finally back home. All along the way, there are “plenty of hugs for you and me.”

     
  • LGBTQIA 

    Have you ever felt different?

    I certainly have. I’m going out a limb here to say that I think most of us, if not all of us, have felt different at some point in our lives. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They say that variety is the spice of life, and I firmly believe that can be true.

    But sometimes being different is hard.

    Imagine your difference from the norm resulted in insults and mean, unkind language. The society you live in teaches that your differences from everyone else are bad: shameful, unnatural, even disgusting. People will ask you to hide who you are so they don’t feel uncomfortable. Even if your family accepts you with your differences, there will almost certainly be relatives who don’t. You hear horrifying stories of people like you who have been physically attacked or even killed because of who they are.

    How would you react? You might try to hide your differences, or wish them away. Your life could quite easily be filled with shame and fear.

    There are countless LGBTQIA+ people who could tell their life story. While they are certainly not all the same, they do share a legacy of shame because of who we are. But many of us have learned pride and hope in the face of strife, and we have found a community that loves and accepts us.

    Hearing those stories enriches all of us -- whether we are LGBTQIA+ or not -- on our journey to finding who we are and embracing the rich diversity of our world.

    I long for the day where no one has to live in shame and fear and embarrassment like so many of us have. There is hope up ahead for all of us.

    Below is a list of books were written by or about LGBTQIA+ individuals. Also check out our adult and teen LGBTQ+ booklists.

    This post is the second installment of Diverse Reads, a series that gathers books with diverse characters or authors: people who are LGBTQIA+, Native, people of color, gender diverse, people with disabilities, or ethnic, cultural, or religious minorities. I hope that these books help open a window for you into other worldviews.  

    8.28 Bingo LoveBINGO LOVE 
    By Tee Franklin
    (2018)

    When Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray met at church bingo in 1963, it was love at first sight. Forced apart by their families and society, Hazel and Mari both married young men and had families. Decades later, now in their mid-'60s, Hazel and Mari reunite again at a church bingo hall. Realizing their love for each other is still alive, what these grandmothers do next takes absolute strength and courage

     

    8.28 We Are Totally NormalWE ARE TOTALLY NORMAL 
    By Rahul Kanakia
    (2020)

    Nandan's got a plan to make his junior year perfect, but hooking up with his friend Dave isn't part of it: especially because Nandan has never been into guys. Still, Nandan's willing to give a relationship with him a shot. But the more his anxiety grows about what his sexuality means for himself, his friends, and his social life, the more he wonders whether he can just take it all back. Is breaking up with Dave -- the only person who's ever really gotten him -- worth feeling 'normal' again?

     

    8.28 Lets Talk About LoveLET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE 
    By Claire Kann
    (2018)

    Alice has given up on finding love until love finds her. Her last girlfriend, Margo, ended things when Alice confessed she's asexual. Now Alice is sure she's done with dating… until she meets Takumi. She can't stop thinking about him or the romantic feelings she did not ask for. When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, Alice has to decide if she's willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated -- or even understood.

     

    8.28 AutoboyographyAUTOBOYOGRAPHY 
    By Christina Lauren
    (2017)

    High school senior Tanner Scott has hidden his bisexuality since his family moved to Utah, but he falls hard for Sebastian, a Mormon mentoring students in a writing seminar Tanner's best friend convinced him to take.

     

    8.28 Something Like GravitySOMETHING LIKE GRAVITY 
    By Amber Smith
    (2019)

    After coming out as transgender, Chris is still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia, grieving the loss of her older sister, is trying to find her place in the world. Falling in love the furthest thing on their minds. But what if it happened anyway?

     
  •  Diverse Reads Native Peoples

    The native peoples of North America have made significant contributions to the history, culture, and growth of the United States, and they continue to do so today. Yet they continue to face threats to their sovereignty, economic well-being, and languages. Some of the works below shed light on activism, culture, and history. Others expose the challenges of life on reservations or of establishing of an identity in the modern world. Broaden your perspective and learn more about the rich heritage of our continent’s indigenous peoples with these recent releases.

    This post is the fifth installment of Diverse Reads, a series that gathers books with diverse characters or authors: people who are LGBTQIA+, Native, people of color, gender diverse, people with disabilities, or ethnic, cultural, or religious minorities. I hope that these books help open a window for you into other worldviews. 

    12.11 There ThereTHERE THERE 
    By Tommy Orange
    (2018)

    This novel follows twelve characters from Native communities: all travelling to the Big Oakland Powwow, and all of them connected in ways they may not yet realize. Their voices combine to tell the plight of the urban Native American, showing that indigenous peoples are not a monolith, not a stereotype, and not neatly gathered together under a single identity, showing an America that many have never seen before. 

     

    12.11 Trail of LightningTRAIL OF LIGHTNING 
    By Rebecca Roanhorse
    (2018)

    With most of the world drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, the Navajo Nation is reborn as Dinétah. When a small-town girl goes missing, a supernaturally gifted monster hunter joins forces with an unconventional medicine man to find her. The pair unravels clues from ancient legends, trades favors with tricksters, and battles against dark witchcraft in a world of deteriorating technology. 

     

    12.11 Where the Dead Sit TalkingWHERE THE DEAD SIT TALKING 
    By Brandon Hobson
    (2018)

    Set in rural Oklahoma in the late 1980s, this coming-of-age story features a fifteen-year-old Cherokee boy names Sequoyah. With his single mother in jail, Sequoyah enters foster care, scarred by his unstable upbringing and keeping his emotions deep below the surface. He connects with another Native foster child, and they bond over their common pasts. But the precariousness of their lives and the pain of the past threatens to tear them both apart. 

     

    12.11 WherasWHEREAS 
    By Layli Long Soldier
    (2017)

    This strident, brilliant collection of poetry boldly confronts the almost threatening language that the United States government has used in its responses, treaties, and apologies to Native American peoples and tribes. As a citizen of both the United States and the Oglala Sioux Tribe of Oglala Lakota Nation, Long Soldier discusses the predicament of dual citizenship within her national affiliations and the immense strain this places on everyday life. 

     

    12.11 Winter CountsWINTER COUNTS 
    By David Heska Wanbli Weiden
    (2020)

    On a South Dakota reservation, Virgil Wounded Horse delivers punishment when justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council. When heroin makes its way to the reservation and Virgil’s own family, his determination to put an end to it uncovers uncomfortable truths about money and power within the tribal council. Virgil must face his own demons and reclaim his Native identity, realizing the cost of being a Native American in the 21st century.

     
  • Neurodiversity

    Not all apples are the same.

    Some are red, some are green, some are yellow, and some have multiple colors. Some are sweet, some are tart, some are juicy, some are snappy. Some are best for baking, others for juicing, and still others for salads or snacking. Different varieties bloom at different points in the year, and apples come in all sizes. It would be ridiculous to say that an apple is defective or abnormal just because it isn’t a Granny Smith; not all apples are the same.

    And not all brains are the same.

    We view the world from different points of view, influenced by our genetics and our environment. Some of the differences in human brains have special names like autism and dyslexia. But these differences aren’t abnormalities or defects. They’re simply variations of the human brain; not all brains are the same.

    Representation in literature helps readers feel valued and appreciated in their community. It’s especially critical that we help our children learn this concept and embrace everyone. Below is a list of books that were written recently by or about neurodiverse individuals, with a special emphasis given to children’s literature.

    This post is the third installment of Diverse Reads, a series that gathers books with diverse characters or authors: people who are LGBTQIA+, Native, people of color, gender diverse, people with disabilities, or ethnic, cultural, or religious minorities. I hope that these books help open a window for you into other worldviews.

    11.13 A Friend for HenryA FRIEND FOR HENRY 
    By Jenn Bailey
    (2019)

    Henry appreciates people who are quiet, share his sense of orderliness, and won’t invade his personal space. He would like to find a friend at school, but making friends can be difficult. Despite his efforts that are sometimes misinterpreted, Henry keeps trying and finds a friend he can play with.

     

    11.13 Not If I Can Help ItNOT IF I CAN HELP IT 
    By Carolyn Mackler
    (2019)

    Eleven-year-old Willa tries to keep her sensory processing disorder hidden from her friends at school. With her large network of adult support, she gradually gains the confidences to be unapologetically herself.

     

    11.13 The Truth as Told to Mason ButtleTHE TRUTH AS TOLD BY MASON BUTTLE 
    By Leslie Connor
    (2018)

    Mason, a seventh-grade boy with severe dyslexia, survives bullying and finds a way to finally reveal the truth about what happened the day his best friend died.

     

    11.13 State of GraceTHE STATE OF GRACE 
    By Rachael Lucas
    (2018)

    Grace, a 15-year-old with Asperger’s, does her best to avoid attention of any kind. But when Gabe kisses her at a party, nothing is quite the same. Grace honestly articulates her meltdowns and gaffes in this first-person narrative.

     

    11.13 The Bride TestTHE BRIDE TEST 
    By Helen Hoang
    (2019)

    Khai Diep processes emotions differently because of his autism. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

     
  • Harry Potter

    Book-lovers everywhere know the satisfaction of finishing a great read, and there’s an extra-special feeling that comes from completing a favorite story for the umpteenth time. In our house, the plot and characters of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series are well-known and cherished, and our copies are dog-eared and well-loved. I hope we never get too old for the magic of Hogwarts.

    In my fledgling career as a librarian, several people have asked me to recommend “something like Harry Potter” for them to read after finishing the series. With all the books in our beautiful library, it should be easy to find something that fits the bill, right?

    Well, that’s trickier than it seems.

    For starters, there’s no doubt that Harry Potter has deeply influenced our culture. Consider the following questions:

    • What house are you in?

    • What’s your Patronus?

    • Would you ever use Imperio or Crucio or Avada Kedavra?

    The fact that these questions even make sense is a testament to the impact of Harry Potter has had.But what makes Harry Potter so great? It stands out among fantasy for a number of reasons. The magic of Harry Potter extends beyond the pages into a vast and vibrant community which continues to flourish: think of the theme parks, merchandise, fan-fiction sites, screenplay sequel, and soon-to-be dozen feature films – and this is more than a decade and a half after the publication of the last book in 2007.

    Harry Potter is very relatable and accessible to readers of virtually all ages, from grade school to adult. Everyone who has read the series was convinced that they could be a witch or wizard themselves, with magic lying dormant in their veins: I know I was. And we’ve all met real-life versions of: Draco, the arrogant bully Hermione, the book-smart know-it-all Luna, the eccentric weirdo Lupin, the cool teacher and valuable mentor Fred and George, the set of joking pranksters Moaning Myrtle, the specter that haunts the local bathroom (…okay, maybe not that last one.)It's a tall order for any series to reach the same caliber as Harry Potter. But I think it’s healthy to branch out a little bit and take a chance on some rising stars that haven’t hit the same heights as Harry Potter – at least not yet.Below are some suggestions for Harry Potter read-alikes (librarian slang for books with similar elements). I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. 

    7.15 The Iron TrialTHE IRON TRIAL 
    By Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
    1st book of 5 in the Magisterium series
    (2014-2018)

    12-year-old Callum Hunt's father attempts to keep him from the Magisterium, a school where young mages are trained. Despite his best attempts to fail the entrance exam, Cal's inherent magical ability gets him accepted, and he begins the first of five years of his training.Whereas Harry Potter goes to school in the UK, Cal lives and studies in the US. But both series include a trio of students who learn to develop their magical talents and face dangers from all sides. I found Magisterium to be faster paced and more modern than Harry Potter. It hits the spot for a coming-of-age story with fantasy elements and unexpected twists. 

     

    7.15 Sandrys BookSANDRY’S BOOK 
    By Tamora Pierce
    1st book of 4 in the Circle of Magic series
    (1997-1999)

    During a medieval and Renaissance era in a fictional land, four young misfits enter a strict temple community and become magicians-in-training, each in a different form of magic. Together, the newfound friends learn to harness their hitherto unexplored inherent magical abilities.Circle of Magic delves deeper into interactions and combinations of different forms of magic than we ever saw in Harry Potter. The books are also considerably shorter than Harry Potter, which makes for easier reading. But if the story ends too quickly for your liking, fret not; Circle of Magic is followed by a sequel quartet, The Circle Opens (with the original cast as fully qualified teen mages) as well as a stand-alone novel The Will of the Empress (which takes place several years after that). 

     

    7.15 Midnight for Charlie BoneMIDNIGHT FOR CHARLIE BONE
    By Jenny Nimmo
    1st book of 8 in the Children of the Red King series
    (2003-2010)

    Charlie Bone is an ordinary boy who lives with his widowed mother and two grandmothers. But when Charlie realizes he can hear people in photographs talking, he is swept into an ages-old magical battle against the descendants of the ancient and powerful Red King.It’s easy to see why Children of the Red King made it onto this list. It features a school for young magicians in the UK (Bloor’s Academy for Gifted Children), which reminds us a great deal of Hogwarts. And despite significant plot differences, these two fast-paced stories both center on a magical war between good and evil. Especially recommended for younger Potterheads. 

     

    7.15 Harry PotterHARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE 
    1st book of 7 by J.K. Rowling
    (1997-2007)

    Oscar Wilde said it best: “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.”