Books that celebrate diversity for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders
One Crazy Summer
by: Rita Williams-Garcia - (Amistad, 2010) 218 pages.
Delphine, 11, and her two younger sisters don’t know what to expect when their dad puts them on plane to visit their mother, who abandoned the family years ago. It is 1968 and their mother is active in Oakland’s Black Power movement. The girls hope to visit Disneyland, but instead, their mother sends them to a camp run by the Black Panthers. As the summer wears on, the sisters learn about themselves, their mother, and their country during a pivotal moment in African American history. Delphine both blames and longs for her mother, and in the end these two strong characters find a measure of reconciliation. If this is your child’s first exposure to historical fiction, she may be hooked.
Perfect for: A glimpse of 1968 Oakland from a child’s point of view.
Find One Crazy Summer at your local library.
P.S. Be Eleven
by: Rita Williams-Garcia - (HarperCollins Publishers, 2013) 304 pages.
Delphine and her sisters are back in this sequel to One Crazy Summer. After self-discovery and empowerment gained during their summer in Oakland, the girls return home to Brooklyn. But now, they must readjust to the changes at home. Pa has a new girlfriend, Uncle Darnell returns from Vietnam, and Delphine is about to start sixth grade. Amidst all the changes, Delphine continues to keep in touch with her mother, Cecile. In her letters, Cecile advises Delphine to be 11 while she can.
Perfect for: Readers who want more Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern!
Find P.S. Be Eleven at your local library.
Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities
by: Mike Jung, illustrated by: Mike Maihack - (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2012) 320 pages.
In Vincent Wu’s world, superheroes are real. He’s obsessed with Captain Stupendous. But even Vincent can admit something’s off with his hero. Turns out, Captain Stupendous is actually his crush, Polly Winnicott-Lee. She recently gained Captain Stupendous’ powers in a fluke accident. Now, it’s up to Vincent and his friends to train Polly so she can defeat Captain Stupendous’ nemesis, Professor Mayhem.
Perfect for: Superhero and graphic novel fans.
Find Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities at your local library.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
by: Grace Lin - (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011) 304 pages.
Minli lives with her family in the valley of the Fruitless Mountain. In the evenings, her father tells folktales, including one about the Old Man on the Moon, who holds everyone’s destiny. Inspired by her father’s tales, Minli decides to go on a journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him to change her family’s fortune. Along the way, Minli encounters magical creatures and makes new friends who accompany her on her adventure. Themes from Chinese folklore fuel this beautifully illustrated story.
Perfect for: Children who dream of mystical lands and epic journeys.
Find Where the Mountain Meets the Moon at your local library.
by: Anne Ursu, illustrated by: Erin McGuire - (Walden Pond Press, 2011) 336 pages.
Hazel and Jack are kindred spirits — and they also used to be best friends. One day, 11-year-old Jack disappears into the forest with a mysterious woman made of ice. It’s up to Hazel to rescue Jack, and so her quest begins — though Jack may not wish to be saved. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, this story combines modern coming-of-age themes with the mystical elements of a fairy tale.
Perfect for: Kids who seem all grown up one day, and young again the next.
Find Breadcrumbs at your local library.
by: Kwame Alexander - (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014) 240 pages.
Twins Josh and Jordan Bell are 12-year-old basketball stars. Josh, a.k.a. Filthy McNasty, executes way more than a slammerific shot. He’s creative, narrating his story using verse-style poetry that never skips a beat. When Jordan gets a girlfriend, Josh feels abandoned. With the brothers’ close relationship threatened by tension, Josh uses rhymes to share his take on sports, school, race, and, most importantly, a loving family.
Perfect for: Sports fanatics who can appreciate storytelling through poetry.
Find The Crossover at your local library.
by: Ann M. Martin - (Feiwel & Friends, 2014) 240 pages.
Rose adores prime numbers. Homonyms, too. And she relies upon routine. She’s a tad obsessed, actually, which is a symptom of her high-functioning autism. At school, Rose struggles to connect with the rest of her classmates. Rose’s closest companion is a stray dog she befriends and shelters. (She names her new dog Rain — a homonym for Reign!) When Rain is lost during a storm one night, Rose must abandon personal rules and routine to find her beloved Rain.
Perfect for: Understanding the black-and-white perspective of a girl who struggles when rules — or routines — change.
Find Rain Reign at your local library.
Number the Stars
by: Lois Lowry - (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1989) 137 pages.
A brave Danish girl helps smuggle her Jewish friends to safety. Lowry’s sense of timing and choice of details put readers in the middle of the story. A riveting read, but your kids may have questions afterward.
Perfect for: Kids who like historical fiction.
Find Number the Stars at your local library.
Harlem: A Poem
by: Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by: Christopher Myers - (Scholastic Press, 1997) 32 pages.
New York’s Harlem neighborhood is vividly brought to life in this Caldecott Honor Book, illustrated with vibrant pictures — by the author’s son.
Perfect for: Poetry lovers and city slickers.
Find Harlem at your local library.
by: Cynthia Lord - (Scholastic Press, 2006) 224 pages.
A touching story about a 12-year-old girl who longs for a “normal” life that, with an autistic brother, seems nearly impossible. As the protagonist regularly accompanies her younger brother to his occupational therapy sessions, she befriends a disabled boy. This is a great one to read aloud to your kids. Find Rules at your local library.
Africa Is My Home
by: Monica Edinger, illustrated by: Robert Byrd - (Candlewick, 2013) 64 pages.
Magulu, a 9-year-old from the Mende region in Sierra Leone captured by slave traders and taken to Cuba, offers the focal point for this little-known chapter in the history of slavery. Upon being sold in Cuba, she ends up on the Amistad, a 19th century Spanish slave ship. There, the Mende captives revolt against their captors, free themselves, and demand to be taken back to Sierra Leone. This book recounts the abduction, mutiny, and legal trials that ensue — all from young Magulu’s point of view.
Perfect for: Teaching kids about the abolition movement.
Find Africa Is My Home at your local library.
Brown Girl Dreaming
by: Jacqueline Woodson - (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014) 352 pages.
Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of her life, family, and first attempts at writing for younger audiences in this memoir in verse. She provides a rich historical perspective of what it was like growing up in Columbus, Ohio during the civil rights era as she sat at the back of the bus, learned about the death of Martin Luther King Jr., and watched the Black Panthers on TV. In other, more personal poems, Woodson recounts her struggles learning to read and eventually, wanting to write. This may look like a book of poetry, but once your child ventures into the first pages, the story will carry her along.
Perfect for: Aspiring writers who also love a historical memoir.
Find Brown Girl Dreaming at your local library.
The Thing About Luck
by: Cynthia Kadohata, illustrated by: Julia Kuo - (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014) 304 pages.
Summer’s family is plagued with bad luck. When a family emergency sends her parents to Japan, Summer and her little brother, Jaz, are left with their grandparents, who come out of retirement to harvest wheat and help pay the bills. As her family’s luck goes from bad to worse, Summer must figure out how to make it better. Like Kadohata’s Kira-Kira, this story explores the inner lives of tweens in a stark and sometimes heartbreakingly real world; but this story’s slow pace requires a patient appreciation for her nuanced characters and evocative settings.
Perfect for: Patient readers who enjoy reading lyrical, character-driven stories.
Find The Thing About Luck at your local library.
The Great Greene Heist
by: Varian Johnson - (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2014) 240 pages.
Jackson Greene assembles a crack team to ensure the school bully, Keith Sinclair, doesn’t win the election for student council president. Jack and his team, consisting of a reporter, science goddess, and tech genius, work to pull off the school’s greatest con — all to ensure their friend Gaby has a fair shot at winning the election. A cast of multicultural characters propels this fast-paced plot with plenty of twists and turns.
Perfect for: Young political junkies who appreciate a clever page-turner.
Find The Great Greene Heist at your local library.
I Lived on Butterfly Hill
by: Marjorie Agosín, illustrated by: Lee White - (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015) 464 pages.
Celeste lives in Valparaíso, Chile with her inspiring multigenerational family on Butterfly Hill. Things take a turn when a ruthless dictator overthrows the Chilean president, and Celeste’s friends and classmates begin to mysteriously disappear. Her parents, who are doctors, must go into hiding because they are considered subversives for helping the poor. Sent to live with her aunt in the U.S., Celeste struggles to adjust to a new life in exile as her country descends into turmoil. Based on the author’s experience growing up in Chile around the time of the Augusto Pinochet coup, the story offers a very personal entrée into a devastating chapter in Chile’s history.
Perfect for: Serious readers who enjoy a gripping story with weighty themes.
Find I Lived on Butterfly Hill at your local library.