Young Readers’ Book Series with Diverse Characters

One of our resolutions for 2020 is to explore more great literature (for ourselves and our children) that features characters of color, diverse socioeconomic and geographic situations, and even books that weren’t primarily written in English.

I’m making sure my own TBR pile is stocked with diverse authors and books in translation (I finished 2019 with Jacqueline Woodson’s Red at the Bone and started this year off with Mira Jacob’s Good Talk, a graphic novel about her life, which was outstanding).

When it comes to kids, they pretty naturally seek out diverse literature which is so awesome. They’re very curious about characters that don’t look just like them and places they’ve never been to. It’s just a matter of us not stifling their curiosity about the world.

Here are a few of our recent favorites featuring non-white or non-American heroes and heroines.

Zapato Power, series by Jacqueline Jules

One of my boys’ (5yo and 7yo) favorite series they picked up at the library recently. Freddie Ramos is Latino and just an all-around great kid (which makes him a superhero in my eyes!). He lives with his mom because his dad was a soldier who was killed in action. I love how the author treats this difficult theme so well, and I love how she paints real-life, everyday issues that Freddie and his mom face (like how his mom is busy working during the week so they often have microwave frozen meals…very relatable.)



Anna Hibiscus
, series by Atinuke

This is such a sweet series about a young girl growing up in Africa. I love the descriptions of the places in the stories as well as the descriptions of Anna’s extended family and her relationship with them. The author has another series (listed below) that we haven’t checked out yet, but it looks wonderful, too.


Yasmin, series by Saadia Faruqi

We recently binged on these from the public library, and finished the whole series. They’re great simple read alouds for the 3-4yo group and first books for those just starting to read. I love the characters, the simple but meaningful story lines, and I really love that there is a glossary of Urdu words with each book that gives definitions for terms like hijab, kameez, salaam, and more. There are also facts about Pakistan and an activity at the end of each book.


Now here are some that are on our family’s TBR list!

Ruby and the Booker Boys, series by Derrick Barnes

Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel, series by Nikki Grimes

Ling and Ting, series by Grace Lin

The No.1 Car Spotter, series by Atinuke

The Precious Ramotswe Mysteries, by Alexander McCall Smith

Rickshaw Girl, by Mitali Perkins (not a series, but looks great)

I’m still looking for more series or readers with Native American themes and characters, as well as more series featuring characters from Europe, Russia, Australia and the Middle East. I know they’re out there!

 

**These links are Amazon affiliate links. You can also purchase from your local independent bookstore 🙌🏻 or mine which is Parnassus Books.

Enchanting Egypt

I never get tired of ancient Egypt. I don’t think I got enough of it as a kid, so getting to go back there with my children is so much fun.

In the various curricula we use for school, there are lots of good resources on Egypt, but I wanted to share a few extras which have really added to our fun with this subject.

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Here are some we thoroughly enjoyed…for your travels through Ancient Egypt:

(Pictures are affiliate links. You can also purchase through your local bookstore or at Parnassus Books)

Hieroglyphics, by Joyce Milton

This is not only a great little book about Egyptian life, but it also comes with a hieroglyphics stencil. My kids really really loved writing messages for each other in this beautiful form of writing.


Egyptian Diary: The Journal of Nakht, by Richard Platt

A great ‘living book’ about Ancient Egypt in which the author follows an aspiring scribe on his adventures. It really brings to life the time period with colorful characters. Platt also has another book like this that’s wonderful, for the Roman period, called Roman Diary: The Journal of Iliona of Mytilini.


Tales of Ancient Egypt,  by Roger Lancelyn Green

My kids are really interested in Greek mythology, but I was kind of wondering if it was too much to introduce them to a whole other civilization’s mythology at such young ages. They LOVED it. And, the differences and similarities in the Egyptian stories compared to ancient Greece was really interesting for me. I had never delved so far into Egyptian mythology as I have with my young kids. What a joy to discover this interesting world with them!


Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile, by Tomie dePaola

A super fun one that we read long before our studies on ancient Egypt. And who doesn’t absolutely love anything Tomie dePaola has done!? This one will make you smile, and there are some great Egyptian words in here, even for the smallest learners.


Cleopatra, by Diane Stanley

 

One of my favorite books I’ve read about Cleopatra…ok, maybe the only book I’ve read about her. She and Cesar and Antony were always a little confusing to me…like, how did that all happen, again? It was nice to have a beautifully illustrated simple account of the whole drama. And, not too much for my five and seven year old. They followed right along (you may want to edit a little on the fly, depending on what your kids are comfortable with). A great end for your Egyptian studies since Cleopatra was, basically, the end of the empire.
Oh there are so many more. Can’t wait to explore some new books on Egypt when we get around to this subject the next time!

The Four Seasons

Let’s talk about Vivaldi! He’s a new found love for me, all brought about by one children’s book.

Ever since I read I, Vivaldi, by Janice Shefelman, I think about the close-call/alternate universe in which Vivaldi died at birth and we never got to hear his music.

There was an earthquake in Venice on the day he was born and it’s also thought he was gravely ill at the start of life. Either way, he was baptized immediately after birth (not usually done) and his mother dedicated him to the priesthood if he survived.

Lucky for us, he survived and he wasn’t that into being a priest. He found a way to compose the amazing music that played continuously in his head — his first orchestra was a group of orphaned girls whom he taught to play his magnificent work.

Anyway, when I read this children’s book (which I just randomly picked up at the library for my kids) it changed my life. I had never known much about Vivaldi, and now I was curious and I started listening to The Four Seasons all the way through and crying.

All of a sudden I recognized “Winter” as the opening theme music for Chef’s Table. I realized I’d heard “Spring,” “Autumn,” and “Summer” as well, from movies or from life. But I had never known before that they were connected to the same person, much less the same piece of work.

Maybe this is something that other people learned at some point, but for me, it was a breakthrough, brought about by a children’s book that gave me one of the greatest musical gifts of my adult life.

I’m a “Summer” person. Which are you?

Speaking of people who have heavenly music playing in their heads! Another artist from the past that I’ve been introduced to since homeschooling (thanks to curriculum ideas from A Gentle Feast) is Hildegard von Bingen. This is a woman from the Middle Ages (1098-1179!! to be precise) who was a nun, writer, artist, activist, musician, and more.

Here’s the children’s book that gave us more insight into her incredible story/life. I highly recommend listening to a bit of Hilde, as we call her now ☺️ and just letting it sink in that  her music is still as timeless and transcendent as it was 800+ years ago.



Listen here: Luka Sulic’s
The Four Seasons on Spotify. He’s the best I’ve found doing The Four Seasons. Turn it up very loud or have it on softly in the background while you read by the fire. 🔥

Listen here: Hildegard von Bingen (various artists) on Spotify. Turn this on shuffle when you want to relax and get a little bit of heaven, too.

Book links are affiliate links.