I am working on a new book entitled : How children’s literature can help deepen understanding of social justice, diversity and equity, and so manyof recent book purchases have been centred on a range of topics of diversity. The list below outlines some FICTION and NONFICTION choices, designated by the topics in the ten chapters of my book: RACE AND DIVERSITY, POVERTY, GENDER IDENTITY AND HOMOPHOBIA, DEATH, BULLYING, INDIGENOUS IDENTITIES, THE iMMIGRANT AND REFUGEE EXPERIENCE, THE HOLOCAUST, and RIPPLES OF KINDNESS.
WHERE OLIVER FITS by Cale Atkinson (Race and Diverse Cultures/ Kindness)
Oliver, a little puzzle piece, is determined to find out what part of the puzzle he fits into. Even though he tries to ‘fit in’ with others who are different than him, he discovers that it is best to just ‘be yourself!’
THE PENCIL by Susan Avingak and Maren Vsetula; illus. Charlene Chua (Indigenous identities/ Poverty)
Susan and her Inuit family live in an iglu. The most precious Anaana owns is a pencil which she uses to write letters to people in other camps. The children come to discover her pencil, each using it to draw and draw as the pencil gets shorter and shorter. A story about life a family living in an iglu who learn to use things very wisely.
A DAY WITH YAYAH by Nicola I Campbell; illus. Julie Flett (Indigenous identities)
A First Nations family set out to gather edible plants and mushrooms and during their adventure the children learn about their grandmother Yayah’s wisdom and knowledge of the natural world.
AFRICVILLE by Shauntay Grant; illus. Eva Campbell (Race and Diverse Cultures)
When a young black gilr visits Africville in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she learn stories about the community that thrived for more than 150 years living without essential services. Winner of the Marilyn Baillie Best Picture book prize, 2019.
BE KIND by Pat Zietlow Miller; illus. Jen Hill (Kindness)
A story about being thoughtful, kind and discovering that any act big or small can help to make a difference in someone’s life.
THE PROUDEST BLUE: A story of Hijab and family by Ibtijah Muhammad, with S.K. Ali; illus. Hatem Aly (Race and Diverse Cultures)
It is the first day of school and Fazia is excited. For her older sister Asyia it is the first day of hijab which Fazia sees as ‘the ocean waving in the sky’ The young girl learns that not everyone sees the hijab as beautiful and that she must learn to overcome hurtful words.
AT THE MOUNTAIN’S BASE by Traci Sorell; illus Weshoyot Alvitre (Indigenous identities)
A poetic sparse narrative of a Cherokee family, living in a cabin under an old hicklory tree. More than a story about holding on to traditions this is an important recognition of American Indian and Alaska Native nations who served in wars started by European colonizers.
WE ARE GRATEFUL: OTSALIHELIGA by Traci Sorell; Illus Frane Lessac (Indigenous identities)
Otsaliheliga is a Cherokee word used to express gratitude. The story, and lively illustrations, help readers not only to better understand the traditions of tribal nations but to be thankful for life’es blessings and giving for celebrations large and small.
GHOST’S JOURNEY: A Refugee story by Robin Stevenson (The Immigrant and Refugee Experience)
Inspired by the true story of two gay refugees, the author tells the story of arriving in Canada, through the eyes of Ghost, the family cat.
DEAR MR. PRESIDENT by Sophie Siers; illus. Anne Villeneuve (Bullying/Kindness)
A series of letters addressed to the president where a young boy complains about the bedroom room he has to share with his brother. In the letter the young boy debates the pros and cons of building wall – yes a wall! This book can be used as a source for persuasive letter writing but more important helps readers to contemplate sibling rivalry, compromise and tolerance.
THE TREASURE BOX by Margaret Wild; illus. Freya Blackwood (The Immigrant and Refugee Experience)
What would be the most important possession to take with you if you were forced to flee your country. Peter and his father carry a treasure box that holds something more precious than jewels… a book!
SHOUT OUT (Kindness)
THE BOY, THE MOLE, THE FOX AND THE HORSE by Charles Mackesy
I’m going to claim this as my favourite picture book of the year.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
“Kind” said the boy.
“What do you think success is?: asked the boy
“To love, ” said the Mole.
REFUGEES by Brian Bilson; illus. Jose Sanabria (poem) (Immigrant and Refugee Experience)
The powerful poem, read top to bottom, then bottom to top ignites contrasting motions about rrefugees – fear and hate/ compassion and empathy.The illustrations often illuminate the verbal text, though sometimes the scenes are too busy, distracting from the message.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD? by Eric Carle et al (Race and Diverse Cultures)
Fourteen children’s book artists draw pictures of their favourite foods and provide reasons for their choices. A book to inspire readers to create their own food drawings and stories which can help celebrate diversity in tastes and culutures.
HO’ONANI: Hula Warrior by Heather Gale (illus Mika Song) (Gender identity; Indigenous Identities)
Ho’onani doesn’t see herself as a wahine (girl) or kane (boy) but is happy to be in-between. Based on a true story, this book is a celebration of Hawaiian culture and a girl who is empowered to accept who she is and rule wisely as a warrior.
WHAT IS A REFUGEE? by Elise Gravel (Immigrant and Refugee Experience)
Gravel helps to explain the refugee experience for young readers by offering simple sentences that answer the title’s question.
THE INCLUSION ALPHABET by Kathryn Jenkins (Kindness)
A is for acceptance; B is for bravery; C is for capable; D is for different. Twenty-six words, used in sentences to help explain the meaning of the words, help readers to consider what it means to be INCLUSIVE.
FRY BREAD: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard; illus. Juana Martinez-Neal (Indigenous Identities)
A beautiful, beautiful example of nonfiction picture book using verse to explain what Fry Bread means to a modern Native American family. The title of each spread, helps to highlight the appeal of this dish, embracing community and culture in face of opposition. The Author’s notes that appear at the end of the book, extend facts that were presented throughout the pages: Fry Bread is Shape…; Fry Bread is Sound…Fry Bread is Flavor…Fry Bread is Time.I’d give this perfect book an award.
MALALA: A brave girl from Pakistan / IQBAL: A brave boy from Pakistan by Jeanette Winter (Race and DIverse Cultures)
Winter presents two biographies about a brave girl and a brave boy from Pakistan in one book. Read one way, we learn the story of Malala, flipped over and read the other way, we learn the story of Iqbal.
OUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter
When she learns about the effects of climate change, young Greta Thunberg, decides to go on strike from school. Word of the strike spread in her Stockholm community and around the world inspiring children to take action even though grown-ups hesitate to do so. A full page spread ends the book with the words WHAT WILL YOU DO? thus nudging young readers to consider taking action for a cause they believe in. A timely book. An important story.