Dive Into Diversity: 2021 Releases

White Plains is a wonderfully diverse community! Parents, children, and teens have expressed an interest in titles that reflect the diversity in the community, and Ashley, Kathlyn, and Raquel's “Dive Into Diversity” column will spotlight noteworthy children's and teen titles that are inclusive, diverse, and multicultural to fulfill that interest. Ashley's portion is aimed at readers in grades 4-6.

It is absolutely shocking to me that 2021 is winding down! This year has been quite the whirlwind. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds as we head into 2022! There have been a ton of amazing diverse books published this year. Here’s one that I did get around to reading and recommend as well as a few that I haven’t gotten around to yet but am excited about! Especially since I’ve read previous books from all of these authors and really liked them! Here’s hoping I get to them at some point soon!

Show Me a Sign & Set Me Free by Ann Clare LeZotte
For children in grades 3-7.
Show Me a Sign
Library Collection: Print
Hoopla: Audio
OverDrive: eBook
Set Me Free
Library Collection: Print
Hoopla: Audio
Three years have passed since the terrifying ordeal that Mary Lambert went through in Boston that took place in the prequel to this book called Show Me a Sign. I very much recommend first reading Show Me a Sign if you haven’t already before delving into Set Me Free! In this historical fiction tale, the year is 1808 and Mary is now 14-years-old. She’s been struggling to find her place in the world as her schooling finished when she was 12 and her best friend Nancy traveled away from their home in the town of Chilmark on the island of Martha's Vineyard. It seems that lately her life has been all chores around the house for her Mama and Papa as well as the pressure of figuring out what she’s going to do with her life. Although she used to be called to writing, she’s been struggling to find inspiration lately. Her journey back to the mainland begins when she receives correspondence from Miss Nora O’Neal, whom she met during her time in Boston. In the letter, Nora asks Mary to leave her home and travel back to the mainland to teach sign language to a young girl that she believes may be deaf-mute. Despite her fears of the mainland after what occurred the last time she was there, Mary decides to take the position since she’s dreamed of being a teacher. However, she comes to find that all may not be what it seems when she reaches the stately home of the young girl she’s going to be working with. As in the previous book, Mary proves to be a brave and virtuous character as she discovers the young girl’s predicament and sets her mind to make it right despite other characters standing in the way. I found Show Me a Sign incredibly hopeful as well as moving and happily dove into another book in this world!
Yusuf Azeem is Not a Hero by Saadia Faruqi
For children in grades 5 and up.
Library Collection: Print
OverDrive: Audio & eBook
“Quiet, bespectacled, robot-loving Pakistani American Yusuf Azeem, who is almost 12, is excited to start the sixth grade—until a series of ominous notes appears in his locker. Yusuf’s family is one of 11 Muslim families in the small town of Frey, Tex., and the Islamophobia, xenophobia, and racism the family has faced have only intensified in the weeks leading up to the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Ethan Grant is Yusuf’s nemesis: he’s a vicious bully and the son of a white nationalist who opposes the construction of a town mosque. Yusuf tries to keep his head down, but when Ethan accuses him of carrying a bomb in his backpack—actually a micro:bit ‘virtual cat'—and Yusuf suffers repercussions, he gathers his friends to take on Ethan and his hateful father. Faruqi (A Thousand Questions) effectively intersperses Yusuf’s narrative with his maternal uncle’s journal entries from 2001; these epistolary interludes, written when Yusuf’s uncle was 12, are particularly powerful, capturing the raw emotions of American Muslims at the time and serving to reinforce the importance of learning unwhitewashed histories in this timely, hopeful middle grade novel.” –Publishers Weekly
A Soft Place to Land by Janae Marks
For children in grades 4 and up.
Library Collection: Print
OverDrive: Audio
“When 12-year-old Joy Taylor’s dad loses his job and the family has to give up their house, Joy’s dreams of learning to play the piano and someday becoming a film score composer are put on hold. Their new apartment is too small, her mom and dad are fighting, and there is no money for piano lessons. A secret room in the apartment complex, known as the Hideout, provides a place where Joy and the other kids in the building can temporarily escape. Soon Joy makes new friends, starts a dog-walking business, and even begins writing to someone who is leaving heartrending messages on the wall of the Hideout. One weekend things go terribly wrong, and Joy must face uncomfortable realities about loyalty and responsibility. This relatable story touches on topics such as divorce (Joy’s parents briefly separate, then reconcile), the ups and downs of having a job at a young age, and the difficulties that arise from keeping secrets from family and friends. Joy is Black, and there is a diverse cast of characters with different experiences including her new best friend Nora, who is Latinx, and a boy named Miles, who is one of only a few Black students at a private school.” –School Library Journal
Categories: Authors & Books, Featured, Homepage Kids, Kids, and Library News.

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