Children’s literature increasingly presents worlds that expose students to how people outside thier experience live and struggle. Multicultural literature not only focuses on matters of race and ethnicity, but also addresses such topics as sexual orientation, ableism, religion and immigration and refugee experiences. In my book, Stop the Hate for Goodness Sake, written with Andrew Campbell, consideration is given to how well fiction and picture book titles address social justice goals, such as belonging, acceptance, and equity and how well they foster a sense of inclusion and confront intolerance and hate.
The titles outlined listed below are some recent books, (some with 2023 publication date) that I’ve encountered and would augment the recommended titles that appear in Stop the Hate.
BLACK BROTHER, BLACK BROTHER by Jewell Parker Rhodes (2020) (ANTI-BLACK RACISM)
Dante is the only visible Black student at his private school, also attended by his light-skinner brother. Early in the novel decides is accused of something he didn’t do and gets suspended and arrested. Dante is framed and bullied by the captain of the fencing team and decides that he is going to take action and fight the injustice and begins training as a competitive fencer in order to take down the team captain. By doing so, Dante is determined to speak against the discrimination he faced at Middlefield Prep. Jewell Parker Rhodes, author of Ghost Boys, not only presents detailed and exciting information about the sport of fencing, but preents a sympathetic story about students of colour who are often unfairly suspended, arested by police and frequently charged with crimes.
Excerpt: Sitting, I stare at the black specks on the white linoleum . A metaphor? That’s what they’re teaching me in Englsih. Metaphor. Except I won’t believe I’m just a black spek. I’m bigger, more than that. Though sometimes I fell like I’m swimming in whiteness” (pages 3-4)
BUT I LIVE (ed. Charlotte Schallie) (2022) (ANTISEMITISM/ THE HOLOCAUST)
This is a collection of three Stories of Child Survivors of the Holocaust. Through interviews the four child survivors share their memories and provide testimonies of their World War II experiences. Each piece elucidates the powerful stories and provides stark images in Holocaust recounting. The graphic novella format provides a vehicle that documents acts of resistance against forgetting, or denying, transforming memory into accessible, emotional narratives. This book invites readers to experience and understand personal accounts with deep empathy.
“A Kind of Resistance” by Miriam Liubiki and David Schaffer
“Thirteen Secrets” by Gilad Seliktar, Nico Kemp, and Rolf Kamp
“But I Live by Barabara Yelin and Emmie Arbel
DREAMERS byAkim Aliu with Greg Anderson Elysee; illus. Karen De la Vega: A Graphic Novel Memoir (2023) (ANTI-BLACK RACISM)
This is a powerful story of racism in the sports world. It is especially engrossing (and infuriating) since it recounts the true story of professional athlete Akim Aliu, a Ukranian Nigerian Canadian who experienced systemic racism at every turn. Presented in graphic format, this memoir tells Akim’s courageous story of being the only Black child in his Ukranian community and the determination of his struggling immigrant parents to build a better life for their two sons in Canada. Akim Aliu’s story is one of resilience, bravery and inspiration as the hockey player never stopped dreaming. A riveting read. Note: in 2020 Akim Aliu, along with six other former NHL players announce the formation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance whos mission strives to ‘create sustainable change on all levels of hockey.’
HOW TO BE A GOLDFISH by Jane Baird Warren (2022) (HOMOPHOBIA)
This book, told in chapters that alternate the voices of the two main characters, is set in both small town Ontario and Toronto. Lizzie is assigned a class family tree project and the only people in her life are her unmarried mother and her grandmother. David learns that his mother is about to re-marry. When his grandfather dies and leaves a will that involves a farm in Scotch Gully, David thinks there’s a chance he can escape city and the school bullies who torment him. Most of all he hopes that his mother leaves her horrible new fiancee. (He really is horrible, a liar, a schemer and a bully). This is a story about learning about the past, uncovering secrets and finding a way to move forward – especially wih the help of a good friend. Warren is a fine storyteller and this is a brisk read, where readers care about the characters. The topic of homosexuality and unfolds tenderly in the later half of the book.
Shout out! LINKED by Gordon Korman (2021) (ANTISEMITISM)
I think this title needs to be shared with any classroom, grades 6 to 8. I am repeating an earlier posting of this novel, but the book is now in paperback. Hooray!!!
Chapter one of this book opens with the startling news that a swastika has been painted on the walls of a small town middle school. Who would do such a hateful thing? How will the tolerance programs help students understand that “THERE IS NO PLACE FOR HATE.” The chapters in Linked tell the story through the different viewpoints of a number of grade 7 students who are trying to figure out what is happening in their community when more and more swastikas appear. One character, Lincoln Rowley (Link) is determined to help his classmates get to the truth of what is happening and to past crimes of white supremacy . Learning about his Jewish past and planning to have his bar mitzvah makes Link a sympathetic character. The title of the book not only refers to Link but to a dedicated project to create a paper chain of 6 million links to represent the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Korman writes that the book was inspired by the famous 1998 Paper Clips Project from Whitewell Middle School in Whitwell Tennessee. Will the culprit(s) get caught? What will their punishment? Will the community work together to complete what seems a mammoth task? Where will the school get supplies and find space to display the chain? Will Link learn enough to have a proper Bar Mitzvah? How will news spread beyond the community? How will the appearance of a popular vlogger help to solve the problem? How do we conquer hate? Will a mission to find dinosaur bones be successful? Mr. Korman tells an important story about heritage, defamation, and respect. Mr. Korman you write great books!.
OBIE IS MAN ENOUGH by Schuyler Bailar (2021) (TRANSPHOBIA)
Obadiah / Obie, a Korean American middle school teenager has come to positively accept his transition (as does his family members). It is at school and in his swimming competitions that he us up against bullies who torment him for being transgender. He is passionate about doing his very best in a sport that that he is dedicated to even though he encounters a coach and former friends who taunt him for being true to himself. Although there are many people in Obie’s life (his first crush, his brother, his grandparents, a supportive teacher, ), he is up against some unsympathetic, transphobic people who make Obie’s life hell. Throughout the novel, Obie remains true to himself and knows that it is important live by his teacher’s advice to ‘stand tall and confident’ at all times.
Champion swimmer, Schuyler Bailar was the first transgender athlete to compet in any sport on an NCAA Division 1 Men’s Team. This novel, was written for “all kids who don’t know where or how to find themselves, either trans or not. It is scary to learn that books about LGBTQ2 identity are being removed from bookshelves in some states. Obie is Man Enough is a story of support, loving, and affirmation and is essential reading for transgender and cisgender (non transgender) readers offering understanding and acceptance that how we look upon people ‘should never depend on how we look or what pronouns we use”. (p. 328). Schuyler Bailar you are hero! (and so is Obadiah!)
ONE MORE MOUNTAIN by Deborah Ellis (2022) (AFGHANISTAN, 2021)
This is the fifth book in The Breadwinner Series (The Breadwinner, Parvana’s Journehy, Mud City, My Name is Parvana). We first met Parvana at eleven years of age in Kabul Afghanistan when we learn she is forbidden to earn money as a girl and disguies her self as a boy to become the breadwinner when her father is arrested This new title takes place in Afghanistan, and the year is 2021, and Parvana is now in her 30’s, a wife, and mother. Her sister, Maryam, a celebrated singer, and Rafi, her son, a talented dance are about to set off to the United States but the Taliban have taken over the airport and when a devastating explosion hits, their plans go awry. Parvana’s hard-fought battles for family, school, and country are challenged and put to the test (“I’ve spent my whole life dancing on the edge of a knife, trying to keep people safe.” (page 96). This is a powerful story of survival and resilience , reintroducing characters we have med in the book series who are part of an Afghan civilian community under Taliban threat. Deborah Ellis gets inside the world of violence and bombs, of justice and women’s equity. Parvana is a brave, strong, children’s literature heroine extraordinaire fighting for justice at all costs. Deborah Ellis is a giant Canadian author and activist and is deserved of any awards and accolades that come her way. All royalties from One More Mountain will be donatd to Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan.
Author’s note (page 189)
“We have seen Parvana grown from a child trying to feed her family, into a woman made of iron, like so many Afghan women, firece in their determination to protect, to build and to create.”
TOP STORY by Kelly Yang (2023) (ANTI-ASIAN RACISM)
This is the fifth title in the Front Desk series (Front Desk, Three Keys, Room to Dream, Key Player). With a strong female Chinese protagonist, author Kelly Yang has written top-notch stories about the Asian Experience. Top Story is another top-notch novel. In this story, Mia, her mother and her best friend Lupe travel to San Francisco and learn about life in that city’s Chinatown. Mia is attending a journalism camp and hopes to have one of her stories published in the newspaper. Lupe, under the leadership of Mia’s mom, has entered the math championships. The two friends embark on many adventures that include taking tours of the important San Francisco sites, visiting a fortune cookie factory, acquiring a new pet dog, named Comma, presenting an unforgetable Christmas banquetbut most important learning about the people of Chinatown, their history and Anti-Asian racist events, past and presentt. And oh yes, Mia’s the big question of whether Mia will express her romantic interest with her best friend Jason. These novels can be stand-alone reads, but readers who have come to know and understand Mia Tang’s experiences as an immigrant will likely consider her to be a good friend. Kelly Yang’s books need to be read.
TWO TRIBES by Emily Bowen Cohen (2023) (ANTI-INDIGENOUS RACISM)
Emily Bowen Cohen is Muscogee (Creek) and Jewish. In this graphic novel, Cohen invents the fictitious character of Mia who, though living a Jewish life, is anxious to find more about her father and secretly sets off to Oklahoma to find out more about her her Muscogee side and to discover what she feels is a missing part of herself. In her short visit with her father and her family, Mia does learn about some Indigenous life including life, food, dancing, crafts as well as the history of American “Indians” (a term used within the community. Mia’s primary and secondary research provide insights into Anti-Indigenous racism (Her rabbi says “Without the Torah and Talmud we would just be running around like a bunch of wild Indians. Mia and Emily Bowen Cohen both come to terms with the love that can come from being part of two tribes. The graphic format offers readers an engaging, informative story about culture and identity.
WEIRD RULES TO FOLLOW by Kim Spencer (2022) (ANTI-INDIGENOUS RACISM)
in this debut novel, Kim Spencer tells the story of an important friendship set in the 1990’s in Prince Rupert BC. Mia lives in a run-down house full of relatives including her binge-drinking mother, her churchgoing grandmother, and a number of aunts uncles and cousins who come and go. Her best friend, Lara, who is Mexican Hungarian, lives in a big house and enjoying many comforts. The book is presented in short chapters as a series of anecdotal events. The book is based on the author’s personal experiences of growing up in a coastal fishing town (note: the terms Native, Native Indian and Indian are used since it was the language used at the time.) It is one of the best recent fictional publications that explores the identity and culture, family and friends, of an Indigenous middle age girl. Highly recommended.
SHOUT OUT: THREE PICTURE BOOKS
AN AMERICAN STORY by Kwame Alexander; art by Dare Coulter (ANTI+BLACK RACISM)
This is a picture book about slavery unlike any other written before. In 32 pages Kwame Alexander, a Newbery Medal-winning author, presents a narrative of the history of slavery in America told in staggering verse. Most pages have text that is less than 20 words. It is. a sory of struggle, strength, horror, hope and survival. Added to the brilliance of this book, are pages (yellow background) where a teacher questions her ability to tell the story to her students (“I don’t think I can continue./ It’s just too painful. I shouldn’t have read this to you/ I’m sorry children.”). The children’s voices spur the teacher on to speak the truth, even when it’s hard. Yes, this is an American story of slavery. It is a story of the past and of now that gives honour to Black Lives Matter. Astonishing!
The powerful illustrations by artist Dare Coulter that appear throughout the book are mixed media created with a combination of spray paint, acrylic paint, charcoal, graphite, ink and digital painting on wood panels, watercolour and Adobe Photoshop. The sculptures are both ceramic and polymer. I doubt there will be a picture book this year with dynamic and dramatic images that appear in this book. Hello Caldecott committee 2024!
How do you tell a story that starts in Africa and ends in horror?
… a story of struggle about bold men and women jumping into the sea?
.How do you tell a story about strenght and pride and refusing to be broken?
IMAGINE A GARDEN by Rina Singh; illus. Hoda Hadadi
A tribute to everyday heroes who calm fears and foster hopes
This book is a collection of 7 stories (vignettes) of courage and changing the world. Each concise story is presented over two pages in free-verse style. Each story is based on a real life stories from across the globe (e.g., Rio di Janero, India, South Africa, Greece and Northern Ontario). The narratives of ordinary people doing extraordinary things (e.g., a mother plants gardens in the canistars of spent grenades; the children of migrant workers gather under a bridge to get an education; an artist dismantles illegal weapons to transform them into musical instruments; a ballet teacher encourages her students to dance in spite of the sounds of shooting guns). show a troubled world through the lens of love, courage, and compassion . The cut-paper art work is spectacular. I would love to have any one of these images hanging on my walls. Background information about each of the stories is provided as notes at the end of the book. This book was given as a gift from a friend. Imagine a Garden is a gift for any readers who encounter the poignant stories and exquisite art work I’ll cherish this book and hope it gets awards it deserves.
Author’s note: “Our world is not always an easy place to live in. There is war, poverty, and violence in many parts of our planet. The news mostly puts a spotlight on what is wrong with our world. But there is a lot that is right too. There are people who get out of bed every morning and spend their days thinking of others and making things better for their communities
EVERYONE IS WELCOME by Phuong Truong; illus. Christine Wein (2023) (ANTI-ASIAN RACISM)
I strongly believe that children’s literature can offer students significant insights into hate and discrimination. Everyone is Welcome is a story of an 8 year old girl (almost 9) who learns stories about her mother who was taunted with anti-asian racial slurs (“Ching chong”) when she was younger and a friend of her grandmother’s, Mrs. Lee, who was under attack and pushed onto the road. The girl’s brother has joined the Asian Student Association designed to bring Asians together but also have a goal to help accompany other who feel cared to walk to school. Finally, one of the girl’s friends tells her that he is forbidden to play with her any more since everything that’s happened in the world is the fault of Asians. This is an honest and brave story of Anti-Asian racism. Kudos to author Phuong Truong for a rich story that is centred on community, compassion and caring. This is a absolutely a worthy contribution to titles that invite readers to think about inclusion, where everyone is welcome. Note: Christine Wei’s colourful illustrations not only compliment the verbal text but present a window and mirror into Asian culture.
NOTEWORTHY: GRAPHIC MEMOIRS
FLAMER by Mike Curato (Homophobia)
NEW KID by Jerry Craft (sequles, Class Act; School Kid) (Anti-Black Racism)
PARACHUTE KIDS by Betty C. Tang (Anti-Asian Racism)
TWO TRIBES byEmily Bowen Cohen (Anti-Indigenous Racism)
WELCOME TO ST. HELL: My Trans Teen Adventure by Lewis Hancox (Transphobia)
The following is one of the lists of recommended titles appears in the book Stop The Hate for Goodness Sake by Andrew Campbell and Larry Swartz
Clean Getaway by Nic Stone
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (prequel: Concrete Rose YA)
Look Both Ways: a tale told in 10 blocks by Jason Reynolds
New Kid by Jerry Kraft (graphic text) (sequels: Class Act; School Trip) Troublemaker by John Cho
Finally Seen by Kelly Yang (also. New From Here)
The Front Desk (series) by Kelly Yang
Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee
The Many Meanings of Meilan by Andrea Wang New From Here by Kelly Yang
A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata
Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller
The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson (The Misewa Saga) (also The Great Bear; The Stone Ground)
The Case of the Missing Auntie by Michael Hutchinson
Borders by Thomas King; illus. Natasha Donovan (graphic text)
Fatty Legs: A True Story by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak Fenton; illus. Liz Ami i-Holmes (biography) (sequel: A Stranger at Home)
Red Wolf by Jennifer Dance
The Secret Path by Gord Downie; illus. Jeff Lemire (graphic novel)
The Good Fight by Ted Staunton; illus. Josh Rosen (graphic novel)
The Good War by Todd Strasser (YA)
How To Find What You’re Not Not Looking For by Veera Gurababdabu
Linked by Gordon Korman
Under the Iron Bridge by Kathy Kacer (also Broken Strings with Eric Walters)
What We’re Scared Of by Keren David
Answers in the Pages by David Levithan
A High Five for Glenn Bure by Phil Bildner
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (also King of the Dragonflies)
On the Line by Paul Coccia and Eric Walters
The Pants Project by Cat Clarke
Rick by Alex Gino (also Melissa: Alice Austen Lived Here)
Count Me In by Varsha Bajaj
Everything Sad is Untrue (a true story) by Daniel Nayer (YA)
Flying Over Water by Shannon Hitchcock and N.H. Senzai Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
Yusuf Azeem is Not a Hero by Saadua Faruqi
STOP THE HATE FOR GOODNESS SAKE by Andrew B. Campbell and Larry Swartz (professinal resource)