The #ownvoice movement in the Children's Literature community encourages publishers to seek out authors of diverse backgrounds to write from their personal and cultural experiences. We encourage students to read these authentic stories both true and fictional.
Bronze and Sunflower
by Cao Wen-Xuan, Chinese, translated by Helen Wang (5th to 8th grade)
Set against the backdrop of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, this story about the unyielding and geninune friendship between young girl from the big city (Sunflower) and a mute boy from the poor family in the country (Bronze) shows the devastation of the time and the resilience of a tightly-knit, caring, and resourceful Chinese farmers family in the 1960s.
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
by Rita Williams-Garcia, African American (4th to 6th grade)
Cool Papa has been Clayton's music mentor in the ways of the Blues and the coolest grandpa anyone could ever wish for. Early on in the story, Cool Papa peacefully passed away, leaving Clayton in a state of deep and quiet sorrow. Forbidden by his mother who had a tempetuous relationship with her own father, from paying tribute to Cool Papa, decides to run away and join Cool Papa's old Blues Band. In the end, he discovers the tender side of his mother and is hopeful for a brighter tomorrow.
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle, Cuban American, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez (5th to 8th grade)
Poet Margarita Engle, the first Latina woman to receive a Newbery Honor, relives her own experiences of growing up as a child of two cultures during the Cold War. Her heart lies in her mother's Cuba, a tropical island paradise but she spends most of her life in her father's city of the noisy, man-made, Los Angeles, dreaming of the enchanted air of Cuba.
First Rule of Punk
by Celia C. Pérez, Mexican American (4th to 6th grade)
Twelve-year-old María Luisa O'Neill-Morales, or Malú, is obsessed with two things: to make creative and humorous "Zines" (hand-made magazines on single topics) and to start and sing in her own punk band! Starting over in a new school in 7th grade sure isn't easy but Malú has the full support of both her parents (although not together any more, their love for her has never changed) and the most important rule of PUNK to back her up: be yourself.
by Jason Reynolds, African American (4th to 8th grade)
The first two titles in the Track quartet, multi-award winning author Jason Reynolds tells the stories of Castle Crenshaw (Ghost) and Patty Jones, respectively: both have somewhat complicated childhood stories, a lot of athletic talent, strong sense of self, and some roadblocks that need to be cleared. The adults in these fast paced stories are guides and mentors and each character is likable with a sense of humor.
by Erin Entrada Kelly, Filipino American (4th to 6th grade)
Owen, a Filipino American boy, is shy but has a rich and passionate inner life. He has a quite admiration of his classmate Valencia, who is deaf/mute but strong and confident. When Owen's backpack is thrown down to the bottom of an unused well by the school bully, he has to muster the courage to go after the backpack to rescue his pet guinnea pig. Who will rescue Owen from the deep well then? This story, interwoven with Filipino folklore, explores the idea of fate and development of genuine friendship among reflective children. Winner of the 2018 Newbery Award. Inside Out and Back Again
by Thanhha Lai, Vietnamese American (4th to 6th grade)
10-year-old Hà knows nothing outside of her life in Saigon when the city fell during the Civil War in Vietnam. She has to flee with the family and settle in the strange land of Alabama, United States. Her story, based on the author's family experiences, is vividly captured in this Newbery Honored verse novel.
Long Way Down
by Jason Reynolds, African American (7th grade and up)
15-year-old Will's brother Shawn has been murdered. Will believes that he knows who did it. With the three rules of his neighborhood (No Snitching. No Crying. Revenge.) in mind, Will takes an spectral-filled elevator ride down the 7 flights of his building, with a gun tucked in his waist band. On each floor - the elevator door opens and lets in someone from Will and Shawn's past - all victims of violent crimes. Readers can't help but hold our breaths on Will's journey documented in breathtakingly powerful free verses. What will be Will's choice when he hits ground floor and the elevator door opens for the last time? National Book Award short-listed, Newbery Honor, Coretta Scott King honor.
Piecing Me Together
by Renee Watson, African American (6th to 8th grade)
Jade finds navigating her mostly white and privileged private school sometimes challenging and often frustrating. An excellent Spanish scholar with a strong application, she is still denied a slot for the school's study abroad program. Instead, she has to enroll in a mentoring program for students of color, with a not very compentent mentor. In the end, Jade's artistic talent and maturity both helps her adult mentor and the entire mentorship program to take on activist actions. In lyrical sentences and frank sentiments, Watson holds a mirror for many capable young readers of color and allows others better understanding of the experiences of those like Jade. A Newbery Honor title and winner of the Coretta Scott King Award.
by Shannon Hale, European American (4th to 6th grade)
In this fiercely honest and emotional Graphic Novel memoir, Shannon experiences friendships lost and gained, the impact of having an emotionally volitile sister, and the gradual realization of her true self.
A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman, Indian American (6th to 8th grade)
Trained in classical dance and is on her way to fame, teenager Veda's life in Chennei, India is shattered when she lost a lower leg in a tragic accident. How could she ever dance the Bharatanatyam again. But Veda is dedicated, passionate, and resilient: she trains all over again with a prosthetic leg, under the spiritual guidance of a mentor. Infused with her new found maturity and wisdom from her suffering: Veda finds that it is A Time to Dance again. The book is written in verse from multiple perspectives
by Katherine Applegate, European American (4th to 6th grade)
Told in the first person perspective of Red, a gender-fluid tree that has been around for more than 200 years who has witnessed many changes of the small American town. Being the "wishtree" of the town and knowing the secrete wishes (on paper hung all over their branches) of many, Red is compassionate and tries to help the folks. When an ugly word is carved on Red's trunk in response to a muslim family that only recently moved to the area, Red uses their uncanny power to help bring peace and understanding back. Applegate's short and finely crafted phrases carry the wise narrative through with funny tidbits of the animals that call Red their home.