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Whether you celebrate a holiday this time of year or not. Whether one of your family’s love languages is buying each other presents, or you’d rather just avoid this consumeristic season. In these political times, stories of resistance, messages of anti-oppression, and the spirit of anti-fascism are necessary to the children in your life; whether you’re buying them books or helping them find great ones to check out at your local library.

This is a list I have wanted to write for a while. In the age of Trump, we are all reeling from the hatred, ignorance, and constant attacks on our freedoms and civil rights. There is so much wrong with what is being said and legislated, and so many disgusting fringe ideas being mainstreamed right now- I had no idea where to start with a list like this. With so many communities under attack, it felt like going in any one direction would leave out an important group, idea, or cause.

So, to make myself write this list, I have to acknowledge that I cannot write one list that will encompass every community experiencing oppression. I’d have to write an encyclopedia to do that, and while that’s pretty much what I actually want to do, I do not have the time or resources to make that happen. Further, this is not going to be a book list. It’s going to be a list of book lists, or a list of resources I turn to, to find great diverse, defiant youth literature. Many of these are resources I always have listed on my blog’s Resources page, and all of these are great places to find incredible books, media, and information for young people.

One thing, very quickly before we dive in. When we live in a world where books published for children and young adults are still mostly about white, straight, cisgender Christian people, part of the purpose of lists such as these is to help children and families of diverse cultures, ethnicities, religions, and identities find books that reflect themselves and their communities back to them. But also in a world where white supremacy and fascism are on the rise, it is very important that we give privileged children windows into other people’s experiences. It is vitally important that adults show the children in their lives the normalcy, brilliance, and beauty of people from marginalized experiences that are not their own.

Catch all resources to help you find diverse books

The most logical place to start is We Need Diverse Books. #WeNeedDiverseBooks started as an activist movement. Aware of the great lack of diversity in book publishing, authors and readers came together and posted about why they need diverse books, to prove to publishers that there was not only a need but a market for diverse stories. It was a big turning of the tide in the conversations publishers were having, and books that were being put out there. Book publishing still isn’t diverse enough, and We Need Diverse Books is still doing great work! They do mentorship programs for all you undiscovered authors out there, they put out anthologies of diverse work, and they put together great book suggestions most easily found on their Tumblr. They’ve also created the app Our Story, where you can program in the age of your child and the type of diverse stories you’re looking for and it will generate a list of books at the right reading level for you!

Diverse Book Finder is a new resource, it is a database of books aimed at helping you find books that reflect your diverse experience. Their search capabilities are a bit basic, there’s just one search bar. But in the search results there are a number of categories that allow you to filter the search to find the books you’re looking for.

Books for Littles is a website featuring diverse reads that I found out about because of their fantastic list Captivating Kids Stories to Recognize Privilege. It begins by talking about privilege and why it is so crucial to discuss with young people. The list goes on to talk about picture books that address all kinds of privilege, economic, male, white, non-disabled, straight, body size, freedom from religious persecution, colonialist, documented citizen, language and cultural fluency. Truly incredible and one of a kind.

M is for Movement is another great newer resources online. It is edited and maintained by children’s book authors and illustrators who are all also long-time activists. They give great write-ups on activist books, and insight into their process and goals. There are also some great lists for kids about activism: this one from geekdad.com, this one from Popsugar, and this one from All the Wonders.

 

Christian Zabriskie put together a really great list “Children’s Books Featuring Social Justice Themes A Practical Bibliography Prepared for the Rita Gold Community.” It’s a lovely list of picture books he prepared for his daughter’s school.

 

 

 

One of my long-time, go-to resources is Diversity in YA. It’s a great blog that updates regularly about new great diverse YA titles. It was founded by Malinda Lo, herself an amazing writer of diverse YA books. Rich In Color is another fantastic resource for for finding diverse YA titles, with a diverse staff of writers there’s always a new book to discover.

 

 

And even though this list is aiming not to be an encyclopedia, it is too long to be held in one article! Please check out the other two articles in the Give the Gift of Resistance series: Resources to find books, media, and information about specific communities and identities, and Necessary Histories.

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So, the first thing I need to say about this list is that it is going to be incomplete. There are so many communities and identities in the US, that there is no way I could do a round up of for every one. If I am missing you, your family, your community, I am sorry; please let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to do a round up for y’all soon!

Latinx In Kid Lit is a great resource that focuses on Latinx representation in youth literature. Remezcla is another good website to keep an eye on, as an online newspaper focuses on Latinx culture and issues, they regularly include book reviews; I really loved this list of 8 YA Books With Latino Protagonists We Wish We Had As Teenagers. Along with some fantastic book lists about latinx experiences– like this one on Book Riot, this one on Social Justice Books, this incredible YA list on Bustle, Stanford University’s Children’s books by or about Latinx and Hispanic Americans list, also one of the best books that came this year is called The First Rule of Punk for middle schoolers, and this super sweet one time webcomic by Terry Blas— it’s also a good idea to connect with local immigrant’s rights organizations and engage your kids with local activism. In the Seattle area: Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network does some amazing work you and your kiddo can help out with. Burien Represent does some vital work to amplify the knowledge and experiences of those who have been historically marginalized and disenfranchised. AID NW has a trailer and offers aid to folks released from the for profit immigrant detention center in Tacoma, and they could certainly use community support.

There are a number of great resources about Muslim people and communities, Isra Hashmi wrote this great 10 must Have Books, Simply Islam has a very long list of Islamic Children’s Books, Stanford University’s Library has a Children’s books with an Islamic theme list,  BrightMuslim.com has its own 10 Muslim Children’s books list. Book Riot has quite a few lists of YA books featuring Muslim characters (and written by Muslim authors), Diversity in YA has many book reviews featuring Muslim main characters. A great online resource for teenagers is MuslimGirl.com, an online magazine written by and made for young Muslim women. There are independent Muslim kids book publishers like Muslim Children’s Books, or the subscription service Noor Kids. And also I just wanted to point out one book I’m particularly excited about, 1001 Inventions and Awesome Facts from Muslim Civilization! A vitally important look at the incredible achievements Muslim people and culture have brought to our world.

There are quite a few places to find quality youth literature about Black people and communities. One resource I’ve used for a long time is The Brown Bookshelf, written and maintained by Black authors the Brown Bookshelf regularly updates with great picture book recommendations. 1000 Black Girl Books Resource Guide is a guide put together by a Black girl named Marley Dias (her excellence and magic are beyond impressive). The Sweet Peas @thesweetpeagirls on Instagram includes photo post recommendations and video submissions of Black girls talking about their favorite books- it’s informative and delightful! We Read Too is an app with loads of recommendations of books by people of color about people of color. Stanford University has a list of Children’s books by or about African Americans, Huffington Post has a list of 21 must read, Essence has a list of 17, you’d think Book Riot would have the most with their list of 100, but the African American Literature Book Club beats them all with their list of 120+. A great local group to be aware of is Seattle Urban Book Expo, they do an annual Book Expo featuring independent Black authors, and their Facebook features local Black authors year round.

The internet is filled with good options if you’re looking for books about Jewish people and their faith. Jewish Books for Kids is cute and delightful, PJ Library offers free books to Jewish Families, and I very much enjoyed their Awesome Multicultural Jewish Children’s Books list. Book Browse has a list of YA books for readers who are done reading about the Holocaust and a list of Jewish Themed books not about the Holocaust. I was also a very big fan of these two short lists, Jewish Journal’s Shavuot inspires children’s books and Interfaith Family’s Little Critics’ Picks for Jewish Children’s Books. Also this “holiday season” perhaps your family would like to learn more about Hanukkah. Tablet did a best list of 2015 and 2016, and My Jewish Learning has a great Jewish Children’s Literature list that explores the classics, and of course Stanford University’s library made a list Children’s books with a Jewish theme.

I was able to find a number of lists about Asian American youth literature, but I had a hard time finding a website that focused solely on the subject (please point out a resource if I missed it). Stanford of course has a great list Children’s books by or about Asian Americans. Multiracial Asian Families (another very cool online resources) had another great list of Multiracial Asian Children’s Books. Brightly has a cute list of 13 children’s books, and The Color of Us had a list of 30. There’s also quite a few YA lists: Bustle made a list of 11, Diversity in YA did a roundup, and the list Sharanya Sharma put together for Book Riot is the most comprehensive I’ve ever seen! Also the best YA romance I’ve read since Eleanor and Park (Another good romance with an Asian American lead) is When Dimple Met Rishi. When Dimple Met Rishi is a light-hearted and endearing story of two young Indian Americans, who meet without Dimple knowing their parents had arranged for them to be married. After Dimple sets the record straight that she will be married off, the two are awkwardly trapped together as teammates in Insomniacon, then against all odds they find themselves falling in love. Also I want to quickly mention one of my all time favorite authors Gene Luen Yang, he is a prolific graphic novelist who always features Asian main characters, most frequently Chinese and Chinese American. I also tried to find book lists and resources solely dedicated to Pacific Islander stories, and was only able to find Pacific Island Books, whose design looks like it came straight from the 90’s… [edit, suggestion from the comments: Here’s a site that focuses on South Asian children’s books and diverse books: https://kitaabworld.com]

American Indians in Children’s Literature is a resource I have been using for years to get reviews of youth literature featuring Indigenous characters, all run and written by Indigenous people. Indian Country Media Network is an online Indigenous-run newspaper, that is a great way to keep up on current events, culture, and opportunities for Indigenous communities. The Library at The University of Illinois created a fairly comprehensive list of online and print materials. A fantastic book list that just came out is #IndigenousReads by Indigenous Writers: A Children’s Reading List, put together by the Conscious Kid Library. Stanford University has a very strong list of Children’s books by or about Native Americans. Strong Nations has a comprehensive database of Indigenous books for teens, and books for kids. Book Riot put together a list of YA books featuring Indigenous main characters by Indigenous women. YA Interrobang did a great list of  #OwnVoices Representation: Native American Authors. We are also very fortunate in Seattle, because we are neighbors with the highest population of Indigenous Americans in an urban area. You can go visit and support the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, or go to one of their amazing events. The Duwamish Tribe has a Longhouse and Cultural Center you can support and visit, as well as a calendar of events to go to. And there’s the Steinbrueck Native Gallery that features Native arts and artists year round.

There are also a number of places you can turn to when looking for queer representation in Youth Literature. Don’t let the title of Gay-Themed Books for children fool you, they feature books for trans and gender nonconforming people, alternative family building, and even gender play via “crossdressing” and “tomboys” (I do wish they had a bi section though…).  LGBTQ Reads is a great Tumblr to follow, they review and recommend books regularly, and have an “ask for a rec section” that they answer all the time! Another great Tumblr to follow is YA Pride, while they are a little more tumblr-y with many reposts of related but not all book-rec posts, they are constantly posting about queer YA and issues surrounding queer representation in literature. Stanford University has a great list of Children’s books with an LGBTQ theme. Book Riot just put together this lovely long list of great 20+ LGBTQ reads for your kids. Book Riot also has a list of 100 YA books. Autostraddle’s book reviews are not purely for young people, but many of them are. The Advocate has a good list of 21 picture books. Bustle has a lovely list of 30. Common Sense Media has a list with books for folks starting at 3 and ending at 17. I also would recommend you check out the independent book Publisher Flamingo Rampant who creates and publishes books for gender-independent kids and families!

Of course we need resources on mixed race protagonists and multiracial families. As I mentioned in the Asian American resources paragraph Multiracial Asian Families is a great online resource. Mixed Remixed is the nation’s premiere cultural arts festival celebrating stories of mixed-race and multiracial families and individuals through films, books and performance, and I love their Top 10 Children’s Books with Mixed Race Families list. Colours of Us is a website all about multicultural Children’s books, and here’s a great list they did of 50 books. I’m NOT the Nanny is Thien-Kim’s blog she writes about her life, which is in large part about her biracial kids, and she put together this list of 9 picture books. What Do We Do All Day has a list of 14 Children’s Books with Multiracial Families. I had a harder time finding YA books, YALSA’s The Hub did a list Mixed but Not Mixed Up, VOYA did a list of Mixed-Race Identity and Power in YA Fiction, and Diversity in YA has a Multiracial Characters tag that will bring you a long list of reviews.

There are also a lot of great resources to help kids engage with feminism. A Mighty Girl offers regular book reviews, and has the most comprehensive book review section I’ve seen on a website not solely dedicated to books. Rejected Princesses is really fun online resource; they tell the stories of incredible women throughout history–warriors, explorers, scientists, spies, etc– as if they were Disney princesses, they are real fun to follow on Facebook too. New York Magazine did a great list of 16 books, and Buzzfeed did a list of 30, Mother mag made their own feminist kids books list. For YA New York Mag made a list of 11, and both Book Riot and Bitch Media made lists of 100. A book I want to Highlight is Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History. I also want to highlight a few (not at all comprehensive) kids books about Transgender girls and Trans Feminine kids, because what is feminism that’s not trans inclusive? Worthless. Be Who You Are, I am Jazz, My Princess Boy, and 10,000 Dresses. And a great local resource is Geek Girl Con (Twitter) (Facebook) (Tumblr) (Instagram), they always post fun facts, and great recommendations, plus an annual con!

Again, please let me know in the comments if you would like to see a list for a community, identity, or experience not represented here. And please check out the other two articles in the Give the Gift of Resistance series. The series began with Catch all resources to help you find diverse books, and finishes with Necessary Histories.

One resource I was really hoping to find was world history resources for young people. One of the reasons white Supremacy is allowed to thrive is because African, Latin American, Asian, Middle Eastern and Arab histories are not taught in primary school. The great advances that civilizations made outside of Europe and post-colonial US simply are not known to the average American- not because they didn’t happen, but because of our Eurocentric educations. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a lot. You can of course find kids books about all the countries in the world at your local library. But a single hub where you can learn world history remains out of my grasp (please, please, PLEASE let me know if you know of such a resource). One great list I was able to find, was put together by Kelly L Roll and Kathryn M Kerns, both librarians at Stanford University. Their list Children’s Books About History is one of the most comprehensive and inclusive ones I’ve seen. Roll and Kerns also made great picture books lists on Children’s books with an African theme, Children’s books with an Asian theme, and Children’s books with a Latin American theme.

A good place to look for World History online is Britannica Online, which you can access for free with your library card from (Seattle Area Library’s) KCLS or SPL’s websites. Britannica allows you to search as a child, teen, or adult; you can search for continents, countries, cultures, and ethnic groups that should be covered more in US public education. A great way to learn about the contemporary world is via Culturegrams, which again you can access for free with your library card on KCLS or SPL’s websites. And of course you can always go into your local library, and a librarian or another information professional will be happy to show you print and online materials about any topic you’d like to know more about.

The Zinn Education Project is a really great resource for learning about US histories that far too often get left out of school curriculum. Howard Zinn is famous for being a historian who put together A People’s History of the United States of America, a history book focused on people’s movements–primarily labor– and trying to demystify some of the mythology that leads to our worship of some pretty terrible leaders from our past. The Zinn History Project continues his work, and collects a wide variety of resources from fiction books, to profiles of untold American heroes, to even more great websites.

And while we’re talking about filling in the massive gaps left out of most US history classes, I think it’s vitally important we learn about the cost that European Colonialism had on Indigenous nations and tribes. When searching for children’s books about colonialism what you tend to find are Eurocentric books, with lots of illustrations of white people in settler towns. So to find resource lists about that brutality of European colonizers I had to search for the trail of tears, and even then the pickings were slim. The Best Children’s Books offers this short list, and Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus offered this longer one. I would again refer you to American Indians in Children’s Literature, Indian Country Media Network, and The Library at The University of Illinois’ list to find more materials about how messed up colonization was.

Another topic very much worth discussing with young people in your lives are Indian boarding schools (here in the US) or Indian residential schools (in Canada), and there are quite a few lists and books on this topic. American Indians in Children’s Literature offers a great list, with books for multiple ages, along with nonfiction titles, websites, and videos. Color in Colorado also offers a hefty list, as does Worlds of Words. A movie I watched in high school that introduced me to the realities of Indian Boarding Schools was Rabbit-Proof Fence. Set in Australia– where they had a near identical boarding school program for Aboriginal communities– you see three girls taken from their families, forced into a cruel boarding school, and then break out to start an incredible and dangerous journey home.

Also, it is incredibly important that as we teach young people about the oppression of indigenous people, that we talk about how these are not problems relegated to the United States’ past. Standing Rock only happened last year, Nations and Tribes continue to fight for sovereignty, sacred lands, and that the federal government respect treaties it signed. Teaching For Change has some great resources on teaching about No DAPL, as does the Institute for Humane Education. The Duwamish Tribe–local to us here in Seattle– is currently fighting for Federal Recognition, you can learn about them on their website, join the Real Rent movement to support them— please learn more about real rent at realrentduwamish.org—work with your young activists to support their cause.

Another part of history young people need to have a very honest understanding of is slavery. First let’s address this absolute foolishness that the confederacy was about anything besides maintaining slavery. There are a great number of books for children and teenagers about The Civil War, and I hope that they all will tell the truth that confederate leaders rallied their support around the cause of supporting slavery. In fact the Vice President of the confederacy gave a speech calling slavery the ‘cornerstone’ of the confederacy. There are many booklists about slavery, and all young people need to learn how horrible and disgusting that part of our history was. The Huffington Post has a list of honest books about slavery for varying ages, Carol Hurst’s Children’s Literature Site has a number of teaching tools along with a book list, School Library Journal has a list of Slightly more recent books about Slavery, Social Justice Books has a great long list for all ages. Also, as we try and position ourselves in these times I think it’s important that we show young people heros who stood for freedom. Horn book has a great list of books about Harriet Tubman, who, let’s be real, was the actual GOAT. And I want to highlight a book John Brown: His Fight For Freedom. John Brown is the person Malcolm X said white allies should try and emulate if they wanted to be allies to Black Liberation; and this book has beautiful and dynamic pictures, well-written verses, and tells Brown’s story in a compelling way for children.

There are also a number of great resources on the Civil Rights movement. A Mighty Girl has a fantastic list featuring women and girls who were instrumental to the Civil Rights movement, Common Sense Media has a long list starting for kids 4 years old and going up to 13, The Best Children’s Books has a hefty list for younger and older kids, and YALSA has a list of books for teen readers. I also want to highlight a few books, first and foremost the March graphic novel series by John Lewis. March tells John Lewis’ story of the Civil Rights Movement in an incredibly moving and compelling way. The illustrations are beautiful, and the story action packed and suspenseful, amazing enough to get the most reluctant readers into history. Lewis highlights all the great activists and change makers he worked with, highlighting some lesser known and incredibly important leaders in the Civil Right Movement. I think the March series is important to activists of any age, because it grounds you in the work it takes to create change. John Lewis was involved in many actions and campaigns, he put his comfort, safety, and life on the line over and over again. These times have us all overwhelmed and overloaded, but reading about the incredible work Lewis and his peers did is an important reminder that we have to continue to show up, continue to keep fighting. Now, because this is Lewis’ story it’s from his point of view, and takes his side on infighting within the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. I would suggest that in tandem with reading March young readers also check out The Black Power Movement and Black Power, both of which look at folks like Stokely Carmichael–the man who coined the phrase “black power”– and Black Liberation Politics in a more positive light.

And again, it is important to ground these histories in the contemporary civil rights struggles of the Black Lives Matter movement. Kiera Parrott made this excellent Black Lives Matter reading list for teens, that I am going to add onto mostly because a few amazing books came out after she wrote this list. Hush by Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of 12 year old Toswiah, who goes from always having had a positive relationship to the police–her father is a cop– to having to hide from them in witness protection when her dad speaks out about fellow officers shooting an unarmed Black teen. The Hate U Give is one of the most talked about books this year, and for good reason. Angie Thomas is a beautiful writer, you feel so deeply for Starr as she has to deal with the pain of her childhood best friend being gunned down by police in front of her eyes, and then deciding how to respond and be involved in the aftermath. Dear Martin just came out in October, and tells the story of a young man who experiences brutality, told in real time and in his letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I am Alfonso Jones, which is so new it’s still on order at the King County Library System, is a graphic novel about the ghost of Alfonso Jones as he follows friends and family in a subway car on their way to fight for justice for him.

A part of American history so shameful many of us are not taught about it at all in US history is Japanese Internment Camps. The Best Children’s Books has a list for students grades 1-8, Pragmatic Mom’s list is beautiful as she weaves her own family history into it, YALSA has a list for teen readers. But to be honest I see far more overlap in the books mentioned in the lists then in others I have pulled together. I would like to highlight a couple of books, keeping in step with the need to show young people heroes I would strongly recommend Fred Korematsu Speaks up. Fred Korematsu, a Japanese American man, fought the internment camps all the way to the Supreme Court. Also Dear Miss Breed which chronicles the real life correspondence between children in internment camps and their friend and Children’s Librarian Miss Breed; I am so deeply honored to share a profession with her.

Anti-Asian racism is also not a thing of the past and often times written off as not a problem. Talk to your kids about the lack of Asian representation in movies and TV shows. Learn about Asian American history and contemporary culture! Splinter News just did a great article on America’s radical Asian Activists. American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs is a fantastic documentary about a bad-ass woman who fought for change until she died. No area libraries have it but you can watch it on Netflix. A+J did a great series on contemporary Chinese culture. A great local resource is the Wing Luc Museum, which always offer great exhibits and insight into Asian American and Pacific Islander experiences and histories.

I was very depressed by the greater lack of queer history books for young audiences then I was expecting. I could find one book for teens that looked contemporary Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights and I was fairly disappointed that I didn’t find Sylvia Rivera or Marsha P Johnson listed in the index for it… And I was able to find one book for Children Gay & Lesbian History for Kids The Century-long Struggle for LGBT Rights, With 21 Activities. The supreme lack of youth literature in queer history alone shows how contemporary homophobia and transphobia are. An upcoming book I am very excited about, All Out edited by Saundra Mitchell, is a collection of short stories where amazing contemporary YA authors write historical fiction of queer youth throughout time. Also if you know any teens who want to start a queer history project, hit me up, that’s my dream library program.

And to finish off this list I think it’s necessary we teach all young people about the evils of Nazis and facism, and the great heroes who resisted and fought them. Teach with Picture Books has a short list on their website, and a very long annotated list in pdf form, many of which are about resisters. Carol Hurst’s Children’s Literature Site has a comprehensive list, Pragmatic Mom has a good list of books for kids, and the Jewish Book Council offers a long list of books for teens. One book I adored and very much want to recommend is We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler. We Will Not Be Silent tells the true story of young people brave enough to write and distribute anti-fascist literature in Nazi Germany. Their words are beautiful, their story compelling, and the price they paid harrowing. It is heartbreaking and inspiring, and while it cannot offer its readers a happy ending it reminds us how powerful young change makers can be.

These are not even close to all the histories that need to be told, and I hope if you see stories and communities I left out you will let me know in the comments! I hope you have enjoyed the Give the Gift of Resistance series, and in case you missed it this article has two predecessors: Catch all resources to help you find diverse books and Resources to find books, media, and information about specific communities and identities.

When I was a kid I loved comics, but I didn’t really buy them or collect them myself – they didn’t really feel like they were for me. And they kinda weren’t – it’s still a male-dominated medium – but during my childhood, it was nearly impossible to find a comic series fronted by women that I could relate to. If there were women they were always too sexy, too femme, too stylish, too one dimensional, too focused on their love interest, too actually-a-man-reincarnated-into-a-woman’s-body (no, for real) for me to find my child self in them.* It’s important to point out that authentic representations of people of color, in particular women of color, were even harder for young readers to find. (After I sent this piece to editing I read about how a variant cover for Marvel’s new Iron Man series, featuring Riri Williams a 15 year old Black Girl as Iron Man, was released. The picture was hyper sexualized, and in no way looked like a 15 year old girl. Which is to say the the comic industry’s over sexualization of women and girls, in particular Black women and girls, is not a thing of the past.)

And it’s been a bit of a bummer as I’ve grown up to see that so many white boys and men have really taken nerdom’s marketing to straight white men to mean that they are the cultural gatekeepers. From video games and comic books to participation in nerd culture women and girls have to fight for their ability to critique and often times even just participate in the fandoms they love (not that white fanboys have taken comic franchises attempting to diversify their flagship characters any better).

So I bet you can imagine how excited I was to learn about Seattle’s GeekGirlCon! A Con that exists to “…create community to foster continued growth of women in geek culture through events”. I kinda feel like GeekGirlCon is what the world needs. I am heartbroken to tell you that I was unable to go this year (it’s not even for a good reason, I had too many errands… adulting is hard, ok?!), but I just had to do something in tribute to GeekGirlCon, and hope this blog post will suffice for this year.

So as this title says I’m going to recommend comics written for young audiences with girl heroes, and as the title further says these books would be great reads for girls, boys, and kids beyond the binary. #BooksHaveNoGender, yes girls need to see female heroes, SO DO BOYS, so do nonbinary kids! Plus these comics are just plain GOOD, all kids should like them, seriously #BooksHaveNoGender.

lunch_lady_and_the_video_game_villain_-_high_res_coverThe Lunch Lady series has a perfect combination of classic comic corniness and absurd concepts to permanently wedge its way into your heart! By day Lunch Lady is, in fact, a lunch lady, serving nutritious meals to Hector, Terrace, Dee (the Brunch Bunch) and their schoolmates; but by night Lunch Lady is a baddass mystery-solving crime-fighting wielder-of-justice! Lunch Lady’s tools? Fish-stick nunchucks! Whisk Whackers! Sloppy Joes on the road, and honey mustard on the windshield! And of course, her sterile yellow rubber gloves! With her sidekick Betty (a fellow lunch lady) and the Brunch Bunch always close on their heels Lunch Lady foils even the most sinister capers, all while using a flawless amount of food puns. You may find yourself gasping “great spaghetti!” for days to come. And if that isn’t enough to sway you, the author Jarrett J. Krosoczka gave a heartwarming TED Talk about how he created the Lunch Lady books to sing the praises of unsung heroes in our school lunchrooms! A working-class superhero your kids will LOVE! I would say this book is well suited for mid-elementary to late-elementary school-aged kids.

51qpuvt9mwlThe first awesome kid’s comic I found focused on around a great heroine was Zita The Spacegirl. I was visiting a friend in Western Massachusetts, I stopped into their radical bookstore and devoured the book in one sitting! Zita blew my mind! It’s the tale of a girl (Zita) and her how her life gets thrown into an adorably whimsical sci-fi adventure when she and her best friend (Joseph) press a red button they find at the bottom of a crater and are sucked into a world many galaxies away! Once in the new world Joseph is abducted by the Screed – a kid-appropriate alien doomsday cult – and Zita must try and find a way to save him. As Zita goes along on her journey she acquires a crew of misfits (probs a bit of a nod to The Wizard of Oz) who are loyal and endearing, and by working together they hope to get Joseph back! This book has just the right amount of complication, Zita is not perfect and in fact, may need to save Joseph for her own redemption as much as anything else to give the book weight and importance – but don’t worry it doesn’t get too heavy. AND if you, or a young person in your life, loves Zita she has a whole series you can read! I would say this book is geared for kids around late-elementary to early-Middle school.

41a92bgtwrdl-_sx342_bo1204203200_Next, I want to recommend a graphic novel author, Raina Telgemeier. She does really fun earnest graphic novels with a bright classic-cartoon style about tween girls. She got her start doing The Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels, a book series she brings to life perfectly as she was a fan of them as a child. She grew to great children’s-graphic-novel-writer’s fame when she wrote Smile. Smile is is a fantastic little book, it’s her memoir of her childhood, dealing with a long-term process of fixing a dental accident, earthquakes, boy interest, and other sixth-grade adventures. She followed up Smile with Sisters, which is another memoir about her relationship with – you guessed it – her sister! It’s told over the course of a multi-day road trip, staggered with flashbacks of their younger childhood, it’s about the difficulty, resentment, competition, and ultimately the love and real tangible need sisters have for each other. Finally I’d like to recommend Drama. The main character, Callie, develops crushes on twin brothers who both are also involved in the school play she is set designing for. It’s lovely and has a very diverse group of characters, and while it focuses on her crushes, Callie ending up with a boy at the end isn’t the point (or even what happens). I recommend Telgemeier’s books for later elementary school through middle school.**

moon-girl-and-devil-dinosaurI want to sing the praises of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. Lunella Lafayette is a nine-year-old genius (so smart in fact that Marvel has announced Lunella is the smartest person in the Marvel Universe – step aside Mr. Fantastic), she’s so smart that she has a really hard time fitting in. She’s too smart for her classes, her classmates DO NOT get her, and her parents pressure her to act more like everyone else so that she can blend in, make friends, be happy. But Lunella is not about that. Lunella has a secret lair underneath her school, more baddass inventions then you can shake a stick at, and a mission! You see Lunella has the inhuman gene, and she is terrified that the gene will transform her (as it is apt to do) into something else, so she is on a mission to save herself from the possibility of an inhuman transformation. So she hunts down a Kree Omni-Wave Generator convinced she can harness its power to prevent any inhuman changes, and when the Kree Omni-Wave Generator brings a bright red T-rex and a crew of evil cavemen who proceed to wreak havoc on New York City her mission gets a little sidestepped. Lunella initially is scared of Devil Dinosaur, but when they team up it is delightful, and they’re just a perfectly matched odd couple. Can I also just throw in there that Lunella’s fashion sense makes me LIVE? Her uniform in life is a tee shirt (often with a science graphic on it), khaki shorts, knee high socks, and her natural hair always up in in a pony or pigtails – it is TOO CUTE! I would recommend this book for late-elementary on through high-school-aged readers.

lumberjanes_coverLumberjanes is the comic book series I wish I had when I was a kid. It’s about a cabin of girls at Lumberjanes’ Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. It’s so lighthearted and fun, it’s a fantasy adventure that doesn’t take itself seriously, and packs on awesome punch of girl empowerment (they are constantly exclaiming “holy Joan Jett” or “holy Ida B. Wells” or “holy [insert awesome woman from history here]!”) and the importance of friendship (“FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX” is a Lumberjanes saying). It shows a number of different girls, who express their girl-ness in different ways and shows great diversity in terms of race and ethnicity, sexual identity, and gender identity. Another thing I love about Lumberjanes is that each girl contributes to the team in different but equally important ways. It’s also a series I have no doubt they will just keep on printing, so if you and/or the kids in your life like it y’all can keep on reading it forever. I’d say middle-school on through high-school students (on through adults!) would enjoy Lumberjanes.

princelssI also am a huge fan of the Princeless series. It’s about a princess (Adrienne) whose father puts her in a high tower guarded by a dragon to wait for a prince to save her, but Adrienne comes up with a better plan! She and her dragon go across the countryside freeing her sisters from the monsters that are guarding them! Making a half-dwarf-blacksmith friend, and running into all kinds of silly adventures on the side, the Princeless books are perfect for any kid who read a fairytale and found themselves wanting more. Princeless is a wonderfully diverse comic series, Adrienne and the entire royal family are Black, and in the second volume they meet up with an equally cool pirate princess (Raven) who is Asian. Raven actually gets her own spin off series, Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess, which is also deeply wonderful. While Princeless is a goofy parody of fairy tales, Raven is a full an attack of anti-feminists and male cultural gatekeepers. As Raven tries to assemble a crew for her ship – to fight and destroy her brother’s who manipulated their father the pirate king into disinheriting her – the men of the pirate-laden port town she’s in throw every anti-woman insult we’ve heard over and over again at her during their interviews, the most memorable being one screaming “not all men!” Raven ends up putting together an all-women crew, which has great diversity in gender expression, race and ethnicity, and sexual orientation, and I cannot wait to see where this adventure goes! I would say that the Princeless series is good for readers in middle school, and Raven is good for high-school-aged readers.

ms-marvelAnd finally, I would just like to say for the record that Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) is EXCELLENT! Ms. Marvel is just a darn good superhero comic. Period. Kamala also is the first Pakistani-American and Muslim-American superhero in the Marvel Universe, and in times like these when Islamophobia doesn’t feel like it could be any worse, Ms. Marvel is the hero we so desperately need. We see her as part of a loving, caring and accepting family that puts no more rules or restrictions on Kamala then one would expect from involved parents of any religion. We see her participating in her mosque, and in one scene she goes to talk with her Imam when her parents are worried about her being out all the time (you know, because of the evil she’s thwarting!), and he doesn’t tell her to change her behavior or that she needs to act a certain way as a young woman, instead he tells her that if what she’s doing is so important to her then she needs to find a mentor to help her be the best at whatever it is she’s doing (then she teams up with Wolverine, it’s great)! And you don’t have to be a superhero fan to get these comics either, Ms. Marvel is also a lovely coming-of-age story about a teen girl trying to navigate high school, complicated friendships, family expectations, and superhero responsibilities. I think middle-school- through high-school students could read and love these comics.

And this isn’t even a comprehensive list. As I am wrapping this article up I am thinking of comics I could have included (I haven’t read Cleopatra in Space yet, but I know it would be a good fit! I ADORE the book Giants Beware, it’s a great fantasy adventure for tweens! Valiant Comics recently started a series about Faith a wonderfully nerdy fat/plus sized super hero! Also, Skim and This One Summer should be required reading for all tween and teen girls!). I remember the first time I rattled off the bulk of this list I came to a big realization. At the end of the year meeting of 2015 for all the Teen Services Librarians in the King County Library System, we were asked to list off any of our favorite books that year. When it was my turn I named many of the titles included in this article, and I realized as I was listing them that all of these comic books were about girls, many of which were girls of color, and how different the world of comics is today. It was then that I realized that if you grew up thinking that comics weren’t for you, you could never find yourself in your favorite superhero stories, but that isn’t the case anymore. You are in comics. And today’s kids can grow up seeing themselves and their friends as the heroes spread across glossy comic pages. And I cannot tell you how much that warms this former-girl’s / current-comic-lover’s heart!

*I feel that my list of things that women in comic books were implies that femme or sexy or stylish, even is a negative. Being femme and sexy is awesome! Any way that someone wants to express themselves is rad. My issue is/was more that the ONLY way women were portrayed in comics was as sexualized and femme.

**I am not recommending Telgemeier’s most recent book Ghosts, in part because I haven’t read it yet. But also because it has received criticism for exploring two Chicana girl’s relationship with the Day of the Dead in a very inauthentic way. I hope to explore this topic further in a future post, it’s a bit off topic for this post, but I wanted to acknowledge this issue and not ignore it.


adapted from South Seattle Emerald

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So Mask Magazine is a “Reader Supported, Ad-free, Style + Culture for the Disappointed Generation” online publication. I know the editors, started subscribing and have really enjoyed it. I suggest you check it out as well. I was asked to write a buying guide of youth lit for it, and promptly and excitedly threw this thing together. Check it out, get some books to some kids or something!

(the most recent of many covers)

So I had only ever seen the movie, and the movie’s pretty crazy. Like you know the magical amulet, what’s this amulet and what does it have to do with animal testing? Nothing? Great. However, the book, is good, not crazy, and totally sensicle. No magic, just science.

I think the first thing I liked about this book is what a strong woman Mrs. Frisby is. She is intelligent, resourceful, and very brave. While we often see how scared  Mrs. Frisby is, she constantly over comes and achieves amazing feats. Perhaps more importantly is Mrs. Frisby is a fierce single mama. She over comes all of her obstacles to protect her children and maintain their safety. With limited resources and unideal circumstances she facilitates a loving, caring, and happy family.

While I love cats, I am I librarian after all, I recognize that they can be very disruptive to the mico environments they live in: cats were animals that were brought to the Americas by Europeans who rapidly kill native animals. Early on in the book Mrs. Frisby comes upon a young crow named Jeremy (who has a much smaller part in the book then the movie) whose claw is caught in the fence surrounding the farm, putting herself at risk, she frees him. When Jeremy thanks her, she simply replies with “we all help one another against the cat.” Which is a sentiment that is repeated again and again by different native animals living around the farm. In fact Mrs. Frisby can talk to all the other animals in her surrounding environment, except the farmer’s cat. Without outright saying it O’Brien communicates that the cat is not only an enemy/predator but an outsider to their world.

Half way through the book Mrs. Frisby comes into contact with the rats of NIHM, and we learn their story. It turns out that they, along with some mice like late Mr. Frisby, were tested on in the NIMH laboratory, given drugs to advance their IQ and strengthen their bodies. So the rodents of NIHM can read and have longer then natural lives, so the rats created an underground city with electricity, elevators, and carpeted floors. However what’s interesting about this is that Mrs. Frisby has no problem keeping up with the rats, nobody talks down to her, and without hesitation they trust her with important and dangerous tasks. Also, she can read, not as well as the rats and her children, but quite competently none the less. Suggesting that all animals are capable of extraordinary things humans would never imagine.

The story of the rodents of NIMH is told by Nicodemus the unofficial leader of the rats. He also tells Mrs. Frisby about their plan for the future, “the plan.” They want to move to a far off uninhabited part of the forest and start their own town without relaying at all on humans. What I don’t like about the way this idea is framed is the very strong anti-stealing sentiment, they don’t wanna relay on humans because it’s stealing.  Contextualizing stealing as always wrong is morality that I personally don’t subscribe to. Calling stealing always wrong often times oversimplifies reality, for instance rats needing to eat scraps left behind by humans, as our cities and suburbs have taken over their natural habitats, and destroyed their natural foods. However some of the thought behind the plan is quite exciting, Nicodemus wants to create a rat world completely outside of human society. Niccodemus talks about how in prehistoric times rats had very advanced and intricate cities, and suggests that a lot of things about human civilization are pretty undesirable, and really wants to see what rats could create independently. Which I thought was a very exciting idea to suggest to children.

A Children’s book about the Black Panthers. I know, I didn’t believe I myself. But, finally, it exists, and more over, it’s nothing sort of amazing. The book is beautifully written, with poise and personality. The adventures and relationships jump off the page and make it nearly impossible to put down.

It tells the story of Delphine the eldest of three sisters who leave Brooklyn for the summer of 1968, to spend it with their mother in Oakland. While in Oakland they attend the Black Panther day camp, which is these young girl’s first introduction to Black Liberation politics.

The theme that is explored most thoroughly is identity.

The first being family identity. Delphine and her sisters (Vonetta and Fern) have not seen their mother since Fern was born 7 years ago, and she isn’t too excited to see them now.  A central issue the girl’s struggle with is what their relationship to this woman should be, and what it actually is.

Another identity they explore is their Black identity. The girls have been raised by their grandmother and father, and their grandmother’s views of Blacks in America differ greatly from the views that the girls are taught in Oakland. They go from a life where they press their hair and think that if they make a scene in public it’ll “be an embarrassment to the negro race,” to a world of afros, know your rights trainings, and protests. It’s a lot for three pre-teens to deal with, and Gracia gives them space to think about and suss out these ideas for themselves.

The thing that most excited me about this book was how it legitimized politically radical people’s lives. We meet Black Panthers in this story that aren’t scary or crazy. People who are at odds with America and the police are given a voice and legitimate reason for having these believes. Delphine, Venotta, and Fern’s close friend is the son of a political prisoner, they themselves have negative experiences with the police. It’s a very real look at the lives of Black Liberation activists in the late 60s, and it manages to do it in a way that isn’t too intense for child readers.

And why wouldn’t it? There were many children like Delphine and her sisters in the Black Panther movement. Why wouldn’t those experiences be made accessible to children today? I think Williams-Garcia sums it up perfectly with the last line in her author’s note: “And yes, there were children.”

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