There is a perception that we’re all very sophisticated and educated these days, as opposed to the past. That older books for children have a tendency to be racist or contain outdated ideas.
In my *does the math* thirteen years as a children’s librarian I’ve discovered that you can find some real gems if you just dig deeply enough into a library’s backlist. And just because a title came out twenty or thirty years ago, that doesn’t mean it’s any less forward thinking than our books today (in some cases, more so).
The other day someone asked me a very specific question: If you could bring back in print any diverse out-of-print children’s book titles, what would they be?
Now the crazy thing is that the first two books I thought of are actually still in-print, albeit in ebook form. I’ll put them here anyway since they deserve a wider readership. The first is the delightful Lavender Green Magic by Andre Norton. Considering the fact that even today I can count the number of middle grade fantasy novels starring African-American characters on one hand, Norton’s book deserves to be better known.
The other novel is Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush by Virginia Hamilton. A slightly more difficult sell as a YA (a genre that I believe dates more quickly than its younger counterparts) it’s still a compelling read.
Both of those are available through Open Road Media as ebooks, of course. You know one book that isn’t? A book that’s about a black, female, space explorer with art from the Dillons? I’ve mentioned it once before but it bears repeating:
An interior image:
Get more information on the book at Stephanie Whelan’s blog Waiting to Tesseract.
And just to make myself feel old, I’m including here a book that was in-print when I first reviewed it back in 2006 but has since fall out. The delightful early chapter book Younguncle Comes to Town by Vandana Singh.
I know that there are many other out-of-print diverse books out there. Can you think of any favorites of your own?
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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