Children’s books are powerful tools that help instill a sense of empathy in young readers. They are testing grounds for new ideas and exercises in ethics. Reading, at any age, teaches us that the experiences of other people are not only valid, but influential to our own lives. It’s for this reason that representation in children’s books matters.
According to reporting from Cooperative Children’s Book Center of Education, in a study of 2,500 titles, less than 1 percent of books for children and teens had Black authors or illustrators in 1985. Although that number has improved more than 30 years later, only 10 percent of children’s books featured black characters in 2018, while 27 percent of them featured animals or other characters who aren’t human.
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America’s school’s are heavily segregated, and to under-represent a specific group of people is to feed into an already divided educational system. Black children need to see themselves expressed in children’s lit, and white children need to see their peers in equal measures. As racial tensions increase in America, it will be imperative for young readers to empathize with people who have different backgrounds and skin color.
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Mary Taris, the CEO for Strive Publishing and an advocate for black YA, told the Atlanta Black Star: “All in all, I’d say it’s not enough for a book to just be aboutAfrican American characters. They also have to have an authentic portrayal of African American characters in order for them to truly be a mirror for Black children and teens.”
There is an increasing demand for black representation in children’s literature, and people like Mary Taris are leading the fight.
Equal parts romance and thriller, the novel, which is published by Penguin, tells the story of two teens who meet and fall in love whilst hiking along the Appalachian Trail. However, they soon discover that greater than the physical danger of the treacherous hike is the danger of their lives going in very different directions…
While Gessner’s first and currently only novel was met with both mixed and generally positive reviews on Goodreads from fans in response, most of the ones that reside in the negative revolve around the fans’ disconnect due to lack of interest in camping, hiking, and other activities of the like, so if you want to read the novel before seeing the upcoming film because of its outdoorsy elements, then this is the book for you!
Girl Meets World star Sabrina Carpenter will both produce the film and star in the lead female role of McKenna Berney. Since the Boy Meets World continuation ended in early 2017, Carpenter has starred in the adaptation of Angie Thomas’s hit novel The Hate U Give, and will be in the upcoming films Short History of the Long Road and Work It. She is currently voice-acting on the Disney XD cartoon Milo Murphy’s Law.
In fact, Danielle Fishel, who starred alongside Carpenter in Girl Meets World, as well as producing the Disney Channel hit sitcom, will also help out behind the scenes as the movie’s executive producer, bringing the two actresses together again.
Sabrina Carpenter fans: if you thought Maya Hart was a wild child, then you have yet to meet McKenna Berney…
Each week, Bookstr will be offering a look at some of the best novels in a particular genre for your continued reading list. Today, we’ll be recommending five recent young adult books for your reading pleasure. Young adult novels are generally written with a twelve to eighteen age bracket in mind but over half of the audience for YA novels are adults (as Bookstr readers can attest!) Young adult novels are often just as sophisticated as their adult contemporaries, often exploring themes self exploration, coming-of-age, relationships, trauma and love. Below, are some of our favorite recently published YA must-reads!
5. THe Haunted by Danielle Vega
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The Hauntedis a spooky new novel filled to the brim with ghosts. A teenage girl named Hendricks moves to the small town of Drearfield. Hendricks wants to a start a new life, trying to forget her dark and traumatic past, but things don’t work out as planned. She learns from her new friends about the notorious Steele House, a dark house, said to be haunted. And then, Hendricks ends up moving into Steele House with her parents. Here, she finds herself dealing with, whispers in the night, doors that lock on their own, and frightening apparitions that torment her with her own memories. Hendricks now has to grapple with the hauntings and take down the ghosts, if they don’t get her first!
4. Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera
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Dealing In Dreamsis a dystopian thriller following a young woman called Nalah, leader of a gang of girls who roam the fierce streets of Mega City. Nalah, however, wants more out life than violent showdowns with the other gangs that prowl the streets at night. She wants a life in the esteemed Mega Towers, where only the elite get to go. To prove herself, Nalah must journey beyond the bounds of the city in search of a mysterious gang. As she journeys, she encounters peril, both outward and within, and begins to lose sight of everything she cares about as she grows closer to her goal.
3. Let me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson
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On the streets of Brooklyn in 1998, hot on the heels of the murder of Biggie Smalls, another musically talented kid, Steph is murdered. But his friends, Quadir and Jarrell plan to make sure his music lives on. Promoting his music under the name the Architect, Steph becomes huge. As everyone listens to the Architect, a hot new music exec wants the Architect’s mixtape for himself. And as they become more famous, they must confront Steph’s past and figure out what happened to him, revealing secrets they kept from each other along the way as well.
2. King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
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The dashing young king, Nikolai Lantsov, head of the once great Grisha Army, is leader of a country threatened by a bloody civil war. Nikolai must forge new alliances and stop an army gathering at his country’s borders. But inwardly, Nikolai is facing his own struggle. Dark magic rots him from within and slowly but surely, he’s struggling to beat the darkness that threatens to overtake him. Nikolai must journey across his country to conquer the darkness, even as the rising tide of the country’s war threatens to engulf all.
1. The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan
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The Love & Lies Of Rukhsana Aliby Sabina Khan tells the story of seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali who is secretly a lesbian. Unable to come out to her conversative Muslim parents, she can’t wait to go to college and escape her family. But her parents catch her kissing another girl and drag her off to Bangladesh for an extended vacation. In isolation, Rukhsana is met with her worst nightmare as she faces religious intolerance, bigotry, and homophobia. But she finds allies in this world and may even find strength within to forge her own future. This heartfelt novel showcases an aching portrait of isolation in your own culture and shows that love is love, no matter where it comes from.
Each week, Bookstr will be offering a look at some of the best novels in a particular genre for your continued reading list. Today, we’ll be recommending five recent young adult books for your reading pleasure. Young adult novels are generally written with a twelve-eighteen age bracket in mind but over half of the audience for YA novels is adults (as our audience can attest!) Young adult novels are often just as sophisticated as their adult contemporaries, with a lot of themes about growing up into adulthood and dealing with the perils of being a teenager mixed in. Below, are some of our favorite recently published YA must-reads!
5. The Cold in her bones by Peternelle van Arsdale
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The Cold in Her Bonesis a richly atmospheric, scary piece of work that functions as both a horror story and a mystery. The story follows a young girl called Milla who lives on the outskirts of a village she’s never allowed to visit. This is because a demon prowls the village, stalking and possessing young girls. However, another girl from the village comes to Milla, staying with her and giving Milla a glimpse of the outside world. When the demon takes Iris, Milla must leave her sheltered life and track down the demon to save her new friend at great personal risk to herself.
4. Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
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In this gothic tale, a kingdom besieged by war centers around three misfits who must band together to assassinate the city’s dark king. Wicked Saints is full of action, twists, and a backdrop of gothic romance. With shadowy characters around every corner, this is a thrilling debut novel sure to please any fantasy fan.
3. Descendent of the Crane by Joan He
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In this Chinese inspired debut novel, Descendent of the Cranecenters on Princess Hesina, whose father has been murdered, forcing her to inherit the throne under stressful circumstances. A murder mystery begins to unfold, as Hesina is forced to turn to illegal means to find her father’s killer. She first consults a soothsayer, despite magic being outlawed, then to an investigator with a criminal past. A compelling read for sure and a nice break from European inspired fantasy.
2. Sherwood by Megan Spooner
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A feminist reimagining of Robin Hood, Sherwoodtells of a world where Robin Hood himself is dead. Maid Marian is left to go on without him, unsure how she will even begin to function without her true love. But the people of Sherwood Forest need a champion and Maid Marian is forced to step into the famous shoes of Robin Hood. Taking up a bow, she becomes a new legend to the people and fights against the Sheriff of Nottingham to free her people from tyranny.
1. The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees
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The Waking Forest tells the story of a young woman called Rhea whose dreams are haunted by someone or something waiting in the attic for her. One night, she decides to confront the thing but is drawn into a spiraling murder mystery, where she is drawn into a forest she thought was a hallucination. Full of witches, feral children, and dark monsters, this is a modern fairy tale where stories collide into a dark fantasy tale.
What a comforting reminder—the idea that we are who we are, irrespective of how many wrinkles or gray hairs we may obtain. Who doesn’t love a big kid? The type of person who clings to vitality and wonderment, even in the face of so-called adulthood. Some of the most quotable people are the ones who maintain the irreverence of a child, but none of those people can hold a torch to self-proclaimed child whisper Beverly Cleary.
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Beverly Atlee Bunn was born on April 12th, 1916 in McMinnville, Oregon. In the memoir, A Girl from Yamhill, she explains one of her earliest memories as being the day World War One ended… Today, she turns 103 years old. She is one of America’s pioneer children’s authors (without question); Cleary’s first book (Henry Huggins) was published in 1950 and her last book (Ramona’s World) in 1999—in all those years, she has gone on to sell over 90 million copies of her books. The stories of Beezus and Ramona, The Mouse and the Motorcycle (which she wrote because her son wanted to read about motorcycles), and Henry Huggins have become beloved and timeless classics.
She has not only influenced the development of children’s literature but has also changed the lives of the children, adults and other authors (like Jeff Kinney) who grew up reading her stories—her didactic stories. Cleary writes with the intention of teaching, preparing children for the world. Her books are aimed towards an audience of the most impressionable of youths as she gives them all one big fat hug.
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The world has changed since Cleary began writing; however, her stories continue to resonate with audiences for one reason: children have more or less stayed the same. Before becoming an author, Cleary was a children’s librarian… and before that she was a child who didn’t learn how to read until the second grade.
She has described the first time she ever really enjoyed reading as an accident. She had been flipping through a picture book and found herself, unintentionally, reading. Books changed her as she began to understand their power although she always felt deprived of a certain aspect of relatability in children’s books. One day, when she did eventually occupy the aforementioned position of children’s librarian, a frustrated student asked her, “where are the books about kids like us?” This moment created award-winning children’s author Beverly Cleary and in turn characters like Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby.
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Of her forty-one published books, fourteen are devoted to the characters of Henry Huggins, his friend Beezus, and her mischievous little sister Ramona. Initially, Ramona was in nursing school—Cleary wrote her until eventually, she was in the fourth grade. Over the course of those novels, Ramona encounters hilarious, relatable and often enlightening situations. Ramona questions the world and gets endearing answers, answers that are undeniably helpful. In Ramona’s World, the protagonist learns to see from her nemesis Susan’s point of view—a cornerstone of maturity.
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Beverly Cleary is undeniably wise. Wisdom is a result of pain—we teach others not to make our mistakes and then they make their own, which they inevitably advise others not to make. If you read Cleary’s memoir, you may find yourself drawing parallels between her upbringing and the characters in her books. The thing is, her upbringing won’t read as cheery or as endearing as her fiction. That’s the point. I believe Cleary, with all her talent, chose to focus on a younger demographic because she felt it was one that needed the most help. She showed them there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Cleary’s mother once told her that, regardless of what you are writing about, “keep it funny. People always like to read something funny.” It is with this approach that Cleary has made the world a better place.
What does one’s legacy consist of? Is it built by the things we leave behind—the people we affect? Is that effect influenced by our bodies of work? The relationships we form? Or perhaps our legacies are all lined up into a sea of dominoes, converging into fateful fallout. The most important domino is the initial one—the ones that follow and fall are influenced by the pioneer. Even when they cause others to fall, it’s still because of that initial domino. Not only can Beverly Cleary be considered an initial domino, but also most certainly a pioneer.
Happy Birthday, legend.
In an interview with Today, when Cleary turned one hundred years old, she had this to say of the milestone: