Chapter Books with Diverse Characters for 7 year old - Mothering Forums
1 2 
Learning at Home and Beyond > Chapter Books with Diverse Characters for 7 year old
Emaye's Avatar Emaye 01:39 AM 05-06-2013

Could any of you wonderful Mamas recommend chapter books with ethinically diverse characters?  I prefer a serial but one off books are great too.  

 

We already have: Magic Tree House books and Nate the Great books.  We are looking for others.  

 

Thanks.  



Daffodil's Avatar Daffodil 07:04 AM 05-07-2013

It's disturbing to realize how few I can think of.  There's a beginning chapter book series by Alexander McCall Smith about an African boy named Akimbo.  (This is one of the books.)  Junie B. Jones has black and hispanic friends.  Where The Mountain Meets the Moon is about a girl in China.  There are American Girl books about black, native American, and hispanic girls.  That's all I can come up with.


Emaye's Avatar Emaye 12:59 AM 05-08-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daffodil View Post

It's disturbing to realize how few I can think of.  There's a beginning chapter book series by Alexander McCall Smith about an African boy named Akimbo.  (This is one of the books.)  Junie B. Jones has black and hispanic friends.  Where The Mountain Meets the Moon is about a girl in China.  There are American Girl books about black, native American, and hispanic girls.  That's all I can come up with.

 

I KNOW!!!! I am incredibly disappointed.  Thank you for the suggestions :) Here are books with black characters -- just in case if anyone else comes here looking:  

 

  1. Ruby and the Booker Boys series by Derrik Barnes.
  2. Willimena Rules series by Valerie Wilson Wesley.
  3. Amy Hodgepodge series by Kim Wayans.
  4. The Dyamonde Daniel series by Nikki Grimes
  5. The Keena Ford series by Mellissa Thompson
  6. The Andy Russell series (secondary black characters)
  7. Nikki and Deja series by Karen English

 

So far, this is what my search has netted.  I am still looking hard for books with black boy protagonists ....  


Daffodil's Avatar Daffodil 05:50 AM 05-08-2013

Oh, I just thought of one.  Bud, Not Buddy is about a 10 year old black boy.  And The True Meaning of Smekday has a black girl protagonist.  But those are both a big jump from the Magic Tree House level.


Cassidy68's Avatar Cassidy68 09:13 AM 05-08-2013

Here are some mostly Canadian suggestions (though not all boy protagonists):

 

After Peaches, by Michelle Mulder (main character is a Mexican girl- set in Canada, looks at issues for migrant workers, learning a second language,a young girl developing self-confidence and courage)

 

Yeni and the Children for Peace- Michelle Mulder (set in Columbia)

 

The Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird (set in Ethiopia)

 

Ingrid and the Wolf by Andre Alexis

 

Jakeman (and the Parvana books- which are set in Afghanistan-- and many other novels for different ages) by Deborah Ellis

 

Kathy Knowles has several books with black characters for younger kids

 

Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged- Jody Warner

 

This page of Black History Month recommendations has some good suggestions for different age groups: http://www.bookcentre.ca/news/celebrate_black_history_month_with_a_list_recommended_reads


Daffodil's Avatar Daffodil 10:02 AM 05-08-2013

I thought of another one: The Egypt Game.  A really good book, but with girl protagonists, one of whom is black.  (The fact that she's black is just barely mentioned; I don't think I even noticed it when I read the book as a kid, but I did when I read it to my own kids.)  Oh, and The Westing Game has black and Asian characters.


moominmamma's Avatar moominmamma 10:11 AM 05-08-2013

Also piping up with some mostly historical fiction suggestions:

 

The Watsons Go to ********** - Christopher Paul Curtis (US black civil rights)

Naomi's Road - Joy Kogawa (Japanese WWII internment)

A Child in Prison Camp - Takashima (Japanese WWII internment)

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy - Schmidt (black protaganist, racism)

Kite Rider - Geraldine McCaughrean (Mongolian/historical)

The Master Puppeteer - Katherine Paterson (Japanese/historical)

The Birchbark House - Louise Erdrich (Native American/historical)

Kira Kira - Cynthia Kadohata (Japanese in the Deep South)

The Breadwinner - Deborah Ellis (Afghanistan)

Junebug (series) - Alice Mead (contemporary, black protaganist)

 

Miranda


Emaye's Avatar Emaye 05:34 PM 05-08-2013

Thank you guys!  I am checking out all your suggestions and compiling a list.  Also, thank you for keeping me company on this :)  It sometimes feels like a lonely pursuit.  

 

It was an interesting journey to go looking for early chapter books with diverse characters especially with black protagonists.  I was reading A-Z mysteries to my son and I just couldn't go on any more... with all the blond hair and blue eyed people and no (so far) other kinds of people.  It was just too much.  

 

Wouldn't be great if there are books like A-Z Mysteries or Magic Tree House but the characters JUST happen to be black?  I am talking about books that don't set out to frame/tackle "black issues" or such UNLESS it is part and parcel of that particular story.  I want books where people are just people but just happened to be, in this case, blacks.  Books in which black kids are just being American/Canadian/British kids -- just living and starring in their (interesting fictional) lives?  There is such little choice out there it is stunning.  It is pretty heart-breaking actually.  

 

I am disappointed in myself too -- for being surprised.  I should have known better.  

 

As one reviewer on amazon put it:

 

"Here is the sad but true fact about the state of children's publishing today. You would think that for all our talk about diversity and equal opportunity that the number of books for children with African-American characters would make up a significant part of the marketplace. Not as such. Oh, you can certainly find picture books with African Americans, if you squint really hard and look in the right places. But here's a fun game to play: Walk into your local bookstore and library and try to find as many early chapter books about black characters as you can find. Go on, try it."

-----------

 

I tried it.  I don't like it. at. all!  


Wild Lupine's Avatar Wild Lupine 06:06 PM 05-08-2013

I don't usually post in this forum, but I saw this thread on the homepage.

 

I highly recommend the Sugar Plum Ballerina series. It is about a group of girls who are take dance classes together at the dance school in Harlem. The characters are very well developed and the stories are well-written. The reading level might be high for a seven year old, but they are interesting and appropriate for a fairly wide range of ages.


Cassidy68's Avatar Cassidy68 07:21 PM 05-08-2013

Emaye, I certainly empathize. My son is 8 and I don't think I have read him a book yet about a kid who, like him, has two moms.

 

However.... He is currently devouring the Animorphs series (there are tons-- maybe 50?) and I just asked him about the characters. Apparently there are five kids in the group and the stories are all told from one or another of their perspectives-- some boys, some girls-- and one kid (Marco) is black. As in, just happens to be black. The books are about fighting aliens and stuff ;) 


Fillyjonk's Avatar Fillyjonk 04:32 AM 05-09-2013

"Wouldn't be great if there are books like A-Z Mysteries or Magic Tree House but the characters JUST happen to be black?  I am talking about books that don't set out to frame/tackle "black issues" or such UNLESS it is part and parcel of that particular story.  I want books where people are just people but just happened to be, in this case, blacks.  Books in which black kids are just being American/Canadian/British kids -- just living and starring in their (interesting fictional) lives?  There is such little choice out there it is stunning.  It is pretty heart-breaking actually.  "

 

yeahthat.gif

 

I think stories about the issues that people of colour have faced are incredibly important but I struggle a lot with the way it often feels that if black/ethnically diverse characaters are included it tends to be a plot point of some kind, which for me reinforces the idea that white characters and heteronormative narrative are the norm and anything else is unusual and worthy of flagging up. Ditto characters with disabilities-its always an issue. The issue for me is not that we should not have stories about struggle, slavery and different experiences but that, generally, there is a complete lack of casual BME characters in books. We need more normal characters of colour as well as these stories,

 

There is one series of books that I actually think are very good for including characters who are not white and telling the reader a lot about their lives in a matter of fact way-the Joe and Timothy books by Dorothy Edwards, which would be very suitable for a 7 year old I think- but they have one issue which is that they continually refer to the character, entirely non-perjoratively, as "brown". I think this is entirely because of when they are written (70s) and I've read them to my kids, simply editing out the word (I actually went through and blanked out the word, tbh-we did later discuss why but it was partly for us that other, older people also read the stories to the kids). The character in question is a feisty, well drawn, little girl and my best guess is that at the time mentioning her skin colour would actually have been progressive as it meant that there was unambiguously a family of colour in these books. If you take the skin tone reference out you have a pretty good, positive, character whose family is an integral part of a working class British community.

 

The other author that I don't think anyone has mentioned here is Rosa Guy.

 

Oh and there's Harry Potter. Actually I'm in two minds about Harry Potter. I'd say it fairly accurately represents the British ethnic mix. I have to say though, I have an issue with the fact that not one of these characters is a main character and do feel that they often act in stereotypical ways (Angelina-sporty girl; Lee-cheeky boy, the Patel twins-clever, Cho-not quite the love interest, etc). I dunno, I'm in two minds with JK Rowling, I think she tends to give minority characters visabilty and then pander to stereotypes, and I'm not sure what I think about this really, I suspect its worse in some ways. Don't get me started on Dumbledore. The one arguable good thing is a positive depiction of a character with a disability (Lupin), I think.


Emaye's Avatar Emaye 06:49 AM 05-09-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fillyjonk View Post

I think stories about the issues that people of colour have faced are incredibly important but I struggle a lot with the way it often feels that if black/ethnically diverse characaters are included it tends to be a plot point of some kind, which for me reinforces the idea that white characters and heteronormative narrative are the norm and anything else is unusual and worthy of flagging up. Ditto characters with disabilities-its always an issue. The issue for me is not that we should not have stories about struggle, slavery and different experiences but that, generally, there is a complete lack of casual BME characters in books. We need more normal characters of colour as well as these stories,

 

 

Exactly! Very well put.  

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cassidy68 View Post

Emaye, I certainly empathize. My son is 8 and I don't think I have read him a book yet about a kid who, like him, has two moms.

 

 

Your family does not exist.  Your lives are invisible.  You do not belong.  wink1.gif

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Fillyjonk View Post

 

 

Oh and there's Harry Potter. Actually I'm in two minds about Harry Potter. I'd say it fairly accurately represents the British ethnic mix. I have to say though, I have an issue with the fact that not one of these characters is a main character and do feel that they often act in stereotypical ways (Angelina-sporty girl; Lee-cheeky boy, the Patel twins-clever, Cho-not quite the love interest, etc). I dunno, I'm in two minds with JK Rowling, I think she tends to give minority characters visabilty and then pander to stereotypes, and I'm not sure what I think about this really, I suspect its worse in some ways. Don't get me started on Dumbledore. The one arguable good thing is a positive depiction of a character with a disability (Lupin), I think.

 

I don't know much about Harry Potter.  I read the first book and decided to save the rest for when my children are old enough to read it with them.  I also never watched the movies!  In fact, I was wondering earlier today if it is time to check them out but then I decided my kiddos are still too young.  

 

Thank you again -- Cassidy, Miranda, Wild Lupin and Daffodil -- for adding your recommendations.  


ilovemygirl's Avatar ilovemygirl 07:52 AM 05-09-2013

We really liked the Anna Hibiscus series. It is sad that it's the only one I can think of right now. 

 

 

http://www.amazon.com/Anna-Hibiscus-Atinuke/dp/1935279734/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1368107274&sr=1-1&keywords=anna+hibiscus


Emaye's Avatar Emaye 01:28 AM 05-10-2013

Anna Hibiscus looks great.  Filly, I also checked out Rosa Guy and Joe and Timothy books.  Thanks!  So many new books to research.

 

Here is another resource:  www.thebrownbookshelf.com 


Cassidy68's Avatar Cassidy68 09:28 AM 05-10-2013

Emaye, here are a few new titles (maybe too old for your son, not sure of his age) and a bit of a rant from a librarian about the under-representation of black boys in middle-grade fiction: 

http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2013/05/10/2013-middle-grade-black-boys-seriously-people/


Fillyjonk's Avatar Fillyjonk 08:39 AM 05-11-2013

Cassidy, also, wanted to ask-are there any chapter books for kids about being raised by two mothers, do you know? Honestly, I can think of a bunch of picture books, some better than others, but I can't think of any for kids into the chapter book years. And for older kids/teenagers, ditto, as I remember-loads of books about realising you are not straight in various ways but can't think of anything where kids just happen to have two mothers or fathers. 


Cassidy68's Avatar Cassidy68 02:10 PM 05-11-2013

Hey Fillyjonk. There are a few YA novels (Between Mom and Jo; From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun and others) and a number of pictures books but not much for the age in between. Lauren Myracle has a couple which I haven't read-- Luv Ya Bunches and Violet in Bloom-- aimed at tween girls. If other people know of more, I'd love to hear about them. 


treegardner's Avatar treegardner 02:56 PM 05-11-2013

Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred D. Taylor is part of a series. It's called Logans, I believe. Roll of Thunder is actually the 4th book in the series.


LanaMama's Avatar LanaMama 04:26 PM 05-11-2013
Not sure what of these might be appropriate for age:
Island of the Blue Dolphins
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Esperanza Rising
Holes
The Color Purple
Jewel

Some of these have some more adult content, not sure what age you said you needed for. I believe Oprah's Book Club has a younger reading list, and most of her picks are great books.
Oh, oops, age 7. I was reading books like this at 7, but I was unusually mature and a good reader. I know my mom read Island of the Blue Dolphins to me ata young age.
Eunoia's Avatar Eunoia 02:02 PM 05-13-2013

Alexander McCall Smith's Akimbo series is great, although African, not African-American, just like Anna Hibiscus and No. 1 Car Spotter (already mentioned up-thread, I think.)

 

From the '80s, there are the Julian books: Julian Secret Agent, Stories Julian Tells and More Stories Julian Tells, and several more, which are wonderful.

 

 Zapato Power's main character is Latino.

 

I hear you that there's not as much diversity in early chapter books as there should be.


ccsaidhi's Avatar ccsaidhi 07:05 AM 05-14-2013
Spending time with people who have similar goals.

I shared this on Facebook
Daffodil's Avatar Daffodil 10:12 PM 05-23-2013

I noticed the other day that one of the main characters in the Captain Underpants books is black, and I thought of this thread.


AAK's Avatar AAK 09:53 PM 05-24-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by treegardner View Post

Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred D. Taylor is part of a series. It's called Logans, I believe. Roll of Thunder is actually the 4th book in the series.

I don't get this.  (I love the book/series though!)

Here's what I don't get.  It used to be a trilogy.  Book 1 was "Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry"  Book 2 was "Let the Circle Be Unbroken" and book 3 was "The Road to Memphis".  

 

I believe "The Land" was written later, as a prequel.  Also, the other books (if am thinking of the right ones -- "Song of the Trees" etc are more like novelettes)

 

 

Not mentioned yet:  "Maniac Magee" -- technically though, the main protaganist is a white boy who just doesn't realize that the town is racist.  I always liked it though.  There are lots of positive black characters (the girl with the suitcase of books comes immediately to mind), and many less than perfect people of both races.  

 

Last year "Summer on the Moon" was published.  I really liked it, but it is for middle readers (grades 4-7) in my opinion.  I hoped it would get more recognition because I think it will get lost over time.  It is of modern day (not historical) and the characters live in a "REALLY" bad area of the city.  The mother gets a chance to move to a better place and we see the protagonist struggle with all sorts of things.  It is written for children though, so I am sure it doesn't but touch the surface of the reality of the gangs, etc.  However, I thought it was good.  There are black, hispanic, and white people in the book.  Many with single parents, etc. 

 

"The Mighty Miss Malone", "Crow", and "Lions of Little Rock" were also published last year.  They are historical.  The first, I haven't read yet, but it is set during the Great Depression.  "Crow" is about a black boy, and "Lions of Little Rock" tackle the idea of "passing" as white.  The two protagonists are girls (one white, and her best friend who is black (passing as white)).  

 

Also, look at what else the authors have written.  They might have some lesser known books that feature black characters.  

 

Now, here is a dumb question for all of you. . . are there any books that just don't tell us what race a character is?  Could the reader possibly just envision the character being "like them?"  If so, the illustrator for the cover art probably kills it, but I was wondering.  Quite often, I don't know if I could answer the race question, but that might be because I care more about other things in the story vs the physical description of the character. 

 

As far as having two moms, everything I can think of is YA or picture book.  I really think I read one recently thought that wasn't.  The character with the two moms wasn't the main character, but. . . gosh if I could just remember!

 

Amy


phathui5's Avatar phathui5 10:05 PM 05-24-2013

The American Girl books are the first thing that come to mind:

 

Addy is an African-American girl in the 1860s: http://store.americangirl.com/agshop/html/thumbnail/id/236/uid/130

 

Josefina is Mexican: http://store.americangirl.com/agshop/html/thumbnail/id/238/uid/129

 

Kaya is Native American: http://store.americangirl.com/agshop/html/thumbnail/id/239/uid/126


AAK's Avatar AAK 11:16 PM 05-24-2013

"The Skirt" by Gary Soto-- Mexican American female protagonist.  Suitable for early elementary and onward.  I think it would appeal primarily to girls.  Many of Gary Soto's books reflect his Mexican American heritage and most are not historical (I don't know if any are).  They aren't all for young children though, so I only listed "The Skirt" which I thought was very good.  

 

I forgot to mention him earlier.  

 

Amy


Cyllya's Avatar Cyllya 06:58 AM 05-25-2013

I wonder if authors feel reluctant to put characters of different races in chapter books because they'd need to describe the characters' appearance in words, and they're worried about someone somewhere being offended by pretty much any choice of words they could come up with.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cassidy68 View Post

Emaye, I certainly empathize. My son is 8 and I don't think I have read him a book yet about a kid who, like him, has two moms.

 

However.... He is currently devouring the Animorphs series (there are tons-- maybe 50?) and I just asked him about the characters. Apparently there are five kids in the group and the stories are all told from one or another of their perspectives-- some boys, some girls-- and one kid (Marco) is black. As in, just happens to be black. The books are about fighting aliens and stuff ;) 

 

Good ol' Animorphs. I almost recommended it, before I remembered the OP's kid is seven.

 

Marco is Hispanic, but Cassie is black. I seem to recall they don't even mention this detail in most books, even though they do give a recap of the general plot concept almost every single time. The narrating character is always pictured on the front of the book (in the original US releases, at least... They changed the covers in the newfangled "updated pop-culture references" releases), so that's the only way I ended up picturing them correctly.

 

A few dozen dozen books in (Megamorphs 3: Elfangor's Secret), there is a brief segment where Cassie's race comes up. It wasn't incredibly relevant to the plot, but a running theme in this series is how people are effected by the horrific realities of being a teenage superhero, and this was a chance for the book to show Cassie losing her temper. She runs into a jerk who thinks she's an escaped slave or something, calls her the n-word, and physically assaults her (and her white friend who tried to step in). So she makes a sarcastic comment about how he'd like it better if she were "white," turns into a polar bear, and acts like she intends to eat him. She's the responsible and pacifistic character, so this isn't isn't the sort of thing she normally does.


Fillyjonk's Avatar Fillyjonk 08:11 AM 05-25-2013

Re the whole needing to describe the characters race in words. I think this is a hard one and I don't think that there are easy answers. 

 

First off, I think there are three ways a non-white character can be included in a book: 1) as someone experiencing something specific to their race/culture, eg racism, 2) as someone with a slightly different set of experiences which go toward building their character-say, celebrating different festivals or having a name that could indicate their ethnic origins as not being white but where the character's importance in terms of the plot is not in race-specific experience and 3) where you literally do not know a character's ethnic origins.

 

I think there's an argument for more of all this kind of book. However my feeling is that we especially need more of the second type, where difference is acknowleged in a very straightforward, matter of fact way anywhere it might arise. The reason I feel this is important is that I also think its important to acknowledge that non-white children do not always have the same experience as white children, and that the assumption, reading these books, is often going to be that the protagonist is white.  I think kids who are looking to find a reflection of themselves will sometimes read these books very closely for clues that they are being reflected, because they are so used to not being reflected. That's a really powerful thing, by the way, to never see yourself reflected in the cultural mainstream. It really sends a strong message that you are "other". I think it is a hard thing to handle, yes, absolutely, but institutional racism is a tricky issue for everyone, writers as much as anyone and I think its just part of having some level of social responsibility.

 

FWIW I think this was done brilliantly in Wonder, which is a middle school aimed book on the Carnegie list. It very deftly established that at least two of the main characters, including the protagonist, were from mixed-race families, without this in the slightest being an issue. Many of the supporting characters had names that certainly would be consistent with a not-white heritage. In this situation, where clearly the author was including not-white characters, not flagging up every single character as not-white felt ok. My guess, reading the book, would be that around half the supporting characters would be people of colour but I wouldn't necessarily know which.  My feeling is only where the author has very clearly flagged up that there are not-white characters is it really ok to assume that a child will read the book without assuming every character to be white. 


pek64's Avatar pek64 08:28 AM 05-25-2013
It's tricky for a writer to write characters outside of the personal ethnic background. If the author has close enough friends, it will work out alright, but otherwise there will be mistakes. For example, a poetry competition winner recited a poem about Cho Chang from Harry Potter and the errors made attempting to include someone of Asian background. Should authors try and misrepresent other ethnic groups? Or should they write what they know?

Sorry if this is too far off topic.
Fillyjonk's Avatar Fillyjonk 08:58 AM 05-25-2013

"It's tricky for a writer to write characters outside of the personal ethnic background."

 

TBH if an author can't write outside their own personal experience, I'd question whether they were much good as a writer. I think lack of imagination and inability to step outside their own experience is a really poor excuse in a writer for not including a range of characters. 

 

But the reality is that writers write outside their personal experience all the time. That's their job. And if they don't have the experience, they go get it. If they consider it important. 

 

The issue here is priorities. Is it important to include a diverse range of characters, or is it not? For the writer who thinks it is, if they have somehow lived in a monochromatic cave for their whole life they'll go off and get the experience needed to write authentically. For the writer for whom that isn't important-well that tells me a lot about what they think is important in life.


pek64's Avatar pek64 09:15 AM 05-25-2013
Authors don't have to live in a cave to be lacking the depth of understanding to write characters of other ethnic groups. And it takes more than imagination to get the nuances of a different ethnic background. Otherwise, a supposedly Chinese character ends up with a Korean name and a British, white, middle class personality, for example.

Keep in mind that authors are trying to support themselves financially, and when some people refuse to buy books at full price, it can be difficult to have time to collect experiences.

Editing to clarify : buying only used books means you are never paying the authors of those books; and are not supporting new authors (who don't have any books available used).
Tags: Homeschooling , Education , Learning Resources , Unschooling
1 2 

Up