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  • Renee Anderson

READ THIS! - #WeNeedDiverseBooks Edition

This month, I’m changing it up a bit by recommending three books instead of one. Aren’t you lucky?! I’ve been following #WeNeedDiverseBooks since it began in 2014. The events of 2020 have me thinking even more about how important it is for kids to see themselves, and others, in their reading.

Maybe you’re thinking about that, too. Maybe you’re wondering what great books are out there.

So, for July’s recommendation, I’m sharing three books that I love: a novel, a nonfiction book, and a picture book. These books highlight the experiences of black people in America, each in a different way.

Nic Stone’s Dear Martin is a stunning novel for grades 7 and up. Dear Martin has similar themes to The Hate U Give, including racism and police violence against black youth. Justyce is a black high school student at a predominantly white private school. He struggles with being the “token black kid,” and tries his best to fit in. Until one day things go terribly wrong, and he has no choice but to face what it means to be black in America. It isn’t easy. And it isn’t pretty. Have the tissues handy, this one made me sob ugly tears.

Heart and Soul is gorgeous and moving in every possible way. Written as narrative nonfiction, in the voice of an elderly black woman telling the sweeping history of black people from slavery to its publication in 2011. This entire history is condensed into under 100 pages of text alongside lush, glorious, beautiful paintings by Kadir Nelson. I don’t know that kids would love reading this book by themselves, but it makes a tremendous read-aloud. I have read it aloud to countless classes of mostly white 5th graders, sometimes taking a full day to read just 2 or 3 pages because the kids wanted to discuss and know more. They universally loved Heart and Soul and found it eye-opening. Oh! And if you have access to the audiobook, grab it. The narration is just perfect. You’ll want the book alongside you, though, because these illustrations are incredible.

The Undefeated is a recent collaboration between Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson. It’s a celebration. A tribute to the heroes, artists, and victims of African American history. In the Afterword, the author writes that he wrote this poem to remind his daughter of Maya Angleou’s words, “We may encounter defeats, but we must not be defeated.” The Undefeated is inspiring, beautiful, and honest.

Recommendation Written By - Amanda Northrup

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