Monday, February 1, 2016

3 Wonderful Diverse Books Published in 2015

by Susan J Berger

I took an hour and went to the Hollywood Branch library. I wanted to find a first line post.
It's Black History Month and there are lots of diverse books displayed on the top shelves.
Langston Hughes, Walter Dean Myers, Brian Pinkney, Kevin Henkes, Faith Ringold, and Maya Angelou are well represented with two or more books each. But where were the new ones? There were none from this year's ALSC Awards.
I wanted an author I hadn't hear of. Preferably one published in 2015. I asked the librarian for help. I found three. Just three.

First find. Another wordless picture book.
The Only Child by guojing. A remarkable series of pictures telling the story a a child brought up at the time of the One Child Rule In China. This is a very long picture book. There were no page numbers, but I would estimate fifty pages.
Published in 2015, it's a New York Times Best Illustrated Book.

Next find:

Mama's Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Leslie Staub
When Mama first goes away, what I miss most is the sound of her voice. At night, while Papa's asleep, I sneak out of bed to listen to Mama's greeting on our answering machine.
"Taipei kite bon ti nouvel pou nou!" Please leave us good news!

Saya's mother is in jail because she doesn't have the right immigration papers. Beautifully written. I loved the flow of words and ideas. I would buy this I a heartbeat if I had the money. Mama's Nightingale is a  Kirkus best book of 2015

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton. Written in verse the book tells the story of a half black, half Japanese girl who moved with her family to Vermont to be the new girl halfway through seventh grade. It's 1969 and she dreams of being an astronaut.
I read the first two pages:

I wish we had flown to Vermont
instead of riding
on a bus, train, train, bus
all the way from Berkley.
Ten hours would have soared, compared to six days.
But two plane tickets--
one for me and one for Mama--
would have cost a lot of money,
and Papa already spent so much
when he flew home at Thanksgiving.

Mama is sewing buttons on my new slacks
and helping me fill out the forms
for my new school in Hillsborough, our new town.
This might be a new year
but seventh grade is halfway done,
and I'll be the new girl.

I'm stuck at the ethnicity part.
Check only one, it says.
The choices are:
Puerto Rican

I am
half Mama,
half Papa,
and all me.
Isn't that all anyone needs to know?
But the form says All items must be completed,
so I ask,  "Other?"
Mama pushes her brows together,
making what papa calls her Toshirô-Mifune face.
"Check all that apply," she says.
"But it says just one."
"Do you listen to your mother or a piece of paper?"

I borrowed it.
I do not usually read verse novels. This one captivated me. I raced through it, loving every sentence.
The what was not said was as important as what was said. Highly recommend.
What is your favorite book from last year? If you have a diversity one, all the better.


  1. One of my favorites from last year--on my top ten list:
    POOL, by JiHyeon Lee

  2. I like Full Cicada Moon. I'll put it on my to read someday list.
    Half Writer, Half Primate


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