Dive into Diversity: National Diabetes Awareness Month

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Diagnosed cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are surging among youth in the United States. From 2001 to 2017, the number of people under age 20 living with type 1 diabetes increased by 45%, and the number living with type 2 diabetes grew by 95%.” According to the article, “New Research Uncovers Concerning Increases in Youth Living with Diabetes in the U.S.,” “The greatest increases in type 2 diabetes prevalence were seen in youth who are Black or Hispanic, and the highest number of youth per 1,000 living with type 2 diabetes were seen in youth who are Black or American Indian.” Overall, In the United States, 34.2 million Americans — just over 1 in 10 — have diabetes. To raise awareness and increase recognition, I have put together a list of noteworthy titles for kids (from preschool to sixth grade) of fiction and nonfiction books about children resiliently living with diabetes and information about the illness itself.

Another D for DeeDee by Bibi Belford
(Grades 4-6)
OverDrive / hoopla / Library Catalog

“A chatty fourth-grader named DeeDee is eager to make friends at her new school, but first she must learn what loyalty means.Bombarded by problems at home, DeeDee encounters more stress in one year than many people confront in a lifetime. Her trailer burns down, which means her family must move again. Her father has left to visit a relative in Mexico and hasn't come back. She is behind in her school work and struggles to keep up with the help of a special teacher. Watched by older siblings while her mother struggles to earn a living, she eats too much junk food and develops diabetes. Readers will cheer for DeeDee even as she makes bad choices that reveal poor self-esteem: She denies being bilingual, acts embarrassed by a close friend with disabilities, and caves into bullies because she wants to be part of the popular crowd. DeeDee disappoints herself and must seek encouragement to do what she knows is right, modeling growth. The novel is filled with important issues involving immigration and acceptance of those who are different, though DeeDee's cheeky narrative voice (‘Holy jalapeño’) provides a great deal of levity. Commendably, Belford isn't afraid to show the cruelty and confusion children evince when their lives are not going as planned. A busy novel about the importance of compassion and learning to be true to one's heart, with an endearing protagonist at its core.” – Kirkus Reviews

Sugar Was My Best Food: Diabetes and Me by Adair Gregory
(Grades 3-5)
OverDrive

“Adair Gregory recounts how his world was turned upside down by diabetes. His initial reaction was typical–he felt scared, alone, weird. What he did next was anything but–he wrote this book for kids his age. He describes his ninth year-from symptoms and diagnosis to treatment, diabetes camp, and participation in a fund-raiser for diabetes. What is truly exceptional here is the boy's emotional candor: his surprise at the diagnosis, his squeamishness about daily injections, his frustration about taking inconvenient blood-sugar readings, his fear about his physical well-being, his disappointment at not being able to eat candy at Halloween, and, most of all, the loneliness of being different. He is also keenly perceptive about the wearying effects on his family, even the pets: ‘We were one big worry.’ His parents, however, worked with their son's doctors and school to move beyond the ‘it's awful’ stage and gradually drew out the boy's resiliency. This appealing book is packaged with a colorful cover and has charming black-and-white illustrations. The chapters have catchy titles and the text adeptly blends medical details into the story. Adair's snail and e-mail addresses and a promise to answer every letter appear at the end. A useful title for children with this disease and those who want to know more about it.” – School Library Journal

What You Need to Know about Diabetes by Amanda Kolpin
(Grades 3-5)
OverDrive / Library Catalog

“This series presents information on medical conditions in a concise yet enlightening way, educating children about specific conditions that they may or may not encounter at some point in their own lives. The history of each disease is covered, as well as symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and short- and long-term effects. The authors employ short sentences and clear language to discuss these complex topics, and features such as comparison charts, ‘Health Fact’ boxes, and captioned color photos (which often take up half the page) are used to supplement the text in an eye-catching way. The series strives to demystify these ailments and raise awareness of them, because, as the authors point out, ‘learning about [these diseases]-and knowing what to do about [them]-is the best defense.’ VERDICT Solidly informative.” – School Library Journal

Diabetes Doesn't Stop Maddie! by Sarah Glenn Marsh & Maria Luisa Di Gravio
(Grades K-3)
OverDrive / hoopla / Library Catalog

“Follow along on Maddie's first day back at school after a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. Maddie is understandably nervous; she's had a lot to learn and process. The very first page explains Type 1 diabetes: ‘Her body stopped making insulin, which turns sugar in food into energy.’ And on the next spread, readers see Maddie using her insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor and explaining them (in fairly adult language) to her younger brother. Packing for school is a bit complicated, what with the extra snacks and juice and backups for her monitor. Being prepared for her classmates' questions is another matter. Her friend Brianna's sister has diabetes, so she can answer many of the kids' questions, much to Maddie's relief. And Luis, whose grandfather has the disease, stands up for her when she needs a juice in art class and prompts her to cover up her CGM at a soccer game to avoid more questions. Di Gravio's illustrations capture emotions clearly, from Maddie's uncertainty and Brianna's matter-of-fact support to the curiosity, jealousy, and tendency to think the worst displayed by some of Maddie's diverse classmates. Maddie and her family are light skinned, Brianna has dark skin, and Luis is Latinx. Marsh's note describes her own connection to diabetes and her wish that no one should feel as though they are dealing with it alone. Both reassuring for those with diabetes and educational for those around them.” – Kirkus Reviews

Even Little Kids Get Diabetes by Connie Pirner & Nadine Bernard Westcott
(Preschool – 2nd Grade)
OverDrive / hoopla / Library Catalog

“A reassuring book for a potentially frightening discovery. Written for children who have recently learned that they have diabetes, it discusses symptoms, diagnostic procedures, and treatment. No punches are pulled: the young patient relates her hospital stay, explains how she must have injections everyday (and will eventually give them to herself), and states her frustration at never being able to eat sweets, even at a birthday party. Language is simple, age appropriate, and effectively gets the point across. The ink-and-watercolor drawings are lively and often upbeat, with small touches that reflect reality, such as a hospital scene in which the patient's teddy bear is outfitted with an I. V. board too. Perhaps the most valuable part of the book is the ‘note for parents,’ which relates Pirner's personal experience over the last three years in caring for a diabetic child. The book fills a definite void, as other titles on the subject are geared for much older readers.” – School Library Journal

Patina by Jason Reynolds
(Grades 4-6)
OverDrive / Library Catalog

“African-American track phenom Patina Jones takes the baton from Ghost (2016) in the second volume of Reynolds' Track series for middle graders. Reynolds tells readers almost all they need to know about Patty in two opening, contrasting scenes. In the first, Patty misjudges her competitors in an 800-meter race she's certain she should have won. Running well but second is not enough for the ferociously competitive Patty. In the other, she braids her little sister's hair before church, finishing off each of Maddy's 30 braids with three beads. She does this every Sunday because their white adoptive mother can't (‘there ain't no rule book for white people to know how to work with black hair’) and because their birth mother insists they look their best for church. Their father dead and their birth mother's legs lost to diabetes, the two girls live with their father's brother and his wife, seeing their mother once a week in an arrangement that's as imperfect as it is loving and necessary. Writing in Patty's voice, Reynolds creates a fully dimensional, conflicted character whose hard-earned pragmatism helps her bring her relay team together, negotiate the social dynamics of the all-girls, mostly white private school she attends, and make the best of her unusual family lot. When this last is threatened, readers will ache right alongside her. Another stellar lap–readers will be eager to see who's next.” – Kirkus Reviews

Just Ask: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor & Rafael López
(Pre-School – 2nd Grade)
OverDrive / Library Catalog

¡Solo pregunta!: sé diferente, sé valiente, sé tú by Sonia Sotomayor & Rafael López
(Preschool – 2nd Grade)
OverDrive / Library Catalog

“Drawing on her experiences as a child with juvenile diabetes, the Supreme Court justice addresses kids' curiosity about disability and illness. ‘Each of us grows in our own way,’ says Sonia, a Latina child based on the author, as she and her friends plant a garden. Just as each plant has a ‘different color, different shape, and different purpose,’ kids are ‘all different too.’ Encouraging curious readers to ‘JUST ASK,’ Sonia and 11 friends introduce their respective disabilities and chronic illnesses–ranging from blindness to nut allergies–by asking such questions as ‘How do you use your senses?’ and ‘Are you really good at something?’ The kids' matter-of-fact explanations blend strengths and difficulties. Bianca, who has dyslexia, ‘love[s] learning by doing things’; Manuel, who has ADHD, ‘can get frustrated when [they] really feel the need to move around even though [they're] supposed to sit still.’ Though the number of conditions may tax younger readers' attention spans, kids with those conditions who ‘don't feel ready to explain’ will appreciate the text's inclusiveness; as Sonia acknowledges, ‘Not everyone is comfortable answering questions about themselves.’ Enlivening the familiar theme, López's bold figures, vibrant colors, and close perspective welcome readers into a garden bursting with assorted blossoms, insects, and birds. Refreshingly, most characters present as kids of color of various heritages, ranging from black and Latinx to South and Southeast Asian. One presents white. An affirmative, delightfully diverse overview of disabilities.” – Kirkus Reviews

Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor & Lulu Delacre
(Grades 2-6)
OverDrive / Library Catalog

Pasando páginas: la historia de mi vida by Sonia Sotomayor & Lulu Delacre
(Grades 2-6)
OverDrive / Library Catalog

“Writing in eloquent first-person prose, Sotomayor relays her upbringing and path to the Supreme Court, emphasizing how reading books, ‘written both in Spanish and in English,’ has remained at the center of her personal development. She begins her story as a child in the Bronx. After being diagnosed with diabetes, Sotomayor found strength in comic books; following her father’s death, her local library became a refuge. Sotomayor offers variations on this theme, describing books as ‘lenses,’ ‘teachers,’ a ‘life preserver,’ and ‘mirrors of my own universe.’ Finally, Sotomayor finds her way to law books, and to one of the most meaningful texts of her lifetime—the Constitution. Delacre’s work shows earnest admiration for the subject, and compositions make intriguing use of angle, shadow, and collage detail. A Spanish-language version will also be available.” – Publisher’s Weekly

It All Begins with Jelly Beans by Nova Weetman
(Grades 4-6)
OverDrive / Library Catalog

“Two 12-year-olds from different worlds find themselves needing each other. Meg Kieran and Riley Jackson meet in the nurse's office of their Australian elementary school–and each is curious about why the other is there. Since her father's death, Meg has been anxious and having panic attacks; her severely depressed mother can't work, and money is tight. Now, when life gets overwhelming, Meg escapes to the nurse's office, where she can have a snack and read her favorite book, Anne of Green Gables. Riley, on the other hand, craves freedom and autonomy in managing her Type 1 diabetes. Struggling to fit in at her new school–especially since her overprotective mother doesn't allow her many social activities–she's uncomfortable discussing her diabetes. Though their paths continue to cross, the girls are slow to warm to one another. But if they can get past their preconceived notions, maybe they'll find they have more in common than the emergency jelly beans Riley shares with Meg. Told in alternating first-person chapters, this narrative sensitively portrays a young person learning to manage a chronic health condition as well as the struggles of a tween forced by a parent's mental health issues to grow up too quickly. The author also seamlessly weaves in typical school dramas rather than solely making this about Meg's and Riley's challenges. Both girls read as White. An emotionally honest portrayal that is empowering to those seen as different.” – Kirkus Reviews

Categories: Authors & Books, Featured, Homepage Kids, Kids, and Library News.

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