Are you looking for a curated summer reading list that celebrates diversity and all its intersections? The team at We’re the People select books that are by and about IPOC (Indigenous and People of Color), people with disabilities and people from the LGBTQ+ community. Chosen books are thoroughly discussed, vetted and given second reads.
WTP team members: Tad Andracki, Edith Campbell, Laura M. Jimenez, Alia Jones, Sujei Lugo, Lyn Miller-Lachmann & Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez
Alire Sáenz, Benjamin; illustrated by Esau Andrade Valencia. A Perfect Season for Dreaming/ Un tiempo perfecto para soñar. (Cinco Puntos Press, 2008) Bilingual (English/Spanish). On the eighth day of the loveliest summer of her life, six-year-old Regina listens while her grandfather Octavio Rivera tells her all about his wonderful dreams.
Argueta, Jorge; illustrated by Lucia Angela Perez. Talking to Mother Earth: Poems/ Hablando con Madre Tierra: Poems/Poemas. (Groundwood Books/ Libros Tigrillo, 2006) Trilingual (English, Spanish, and some Nahuatl). Raw, honest, and powerful, these moving bilingual poems by noted Salvadoran poet Jorge Argueta explore a young indigenous boy’s connection to mother earth and how it heals the terrible wounds of racism.
Cline-Ransome, Lesa; illustrated by James E. Ransome. My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015) English. From his childhood in the church choir and karate lessons to his eventual success on stage with Alvin Ailey’s dance company, this is the story of African American dancer, Robert Battle.
Gonzalez, Maya Christina; translated by Dana Goldberg. Call Me Tree/Llámame árbol. (Children’s Book Press/Lee & Low, 2014) Bilingual (English/Spanish). Bilingual read-aloud that encourages children to think freely and strong and to stand, grow and be like a tree.
Haitian Schoolchildren, Rogé and Solange Messier (Editors). Haiti My Country. (Fifth House, 2014) English, Haitian Creole. A collection of poems by Haitian children, inspired by Haiti’s natural landscape, life and history. Each poem is accompanied by a beautiful portrait of the young poet.
Herrington, John. Mission to Space. (Chickasaw Press, 2016) Bilingual (English/Chickasaw). Meet Chickasaw Astronaut John. B. Herrington, the first tribally-enrolled person to fly to space. Herrington shares with readers his early love for rockets and how he became an astronaut on the Shuttle Endeavor.
Highway, Tomson; illustrated by Julie Flett. Dragonfly Kites/Pimithaagansa. (Fifth House Publishers, 2016) Bilingual (English/Cree). Imaginative story of two brothers and their adventurous time playing and meeting different animals during their summers by the lake.
Khan, Hena; illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors. (Chronicle Books, 2012) English. A rhyming concept picture book with vivid illustrations that features a Muslim girl exploring the colors and customs of Islam.
Khan, Rukhsana; illustrated by Christiane Kromer. King for a Day. (Lee & Low, 2013) English, English Braille. It’s the Festival of Basant in Pakistan and a young boy is ready to test his kite flying skills. He enjoys the feast and party from his rooftop where he tries to become the King of Basant, the best kite flyer.
Laditan, Bunmi; illustrated by Tom Knight. The Big Bed. (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018) English. Through humor and wit a young girl tries to convince her dad to leave the bed he shares with her mom. The story reflects the thoughts and feelings of a toddler’s fear of sleeping alone and of sharing their parent’s love.
MacDonald, Margaret Read and Hatia Jameel Taibah; illustrated by Carol Liddiment. How Many Donkeys? An Arabic Counting Tale. (Albert Whitman and Co., 2009) Bilingual (English/Arabic). In this traditional tale, Jouha and his son set off with a caravan of 10 donkeys to sell dates at the market. But, every time they stop, a donkey disappears only to then reappear and they have to keep counting!
Okorafor, Nnedi; illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. Chicken in the Kitchen. (Lantana Publishing, 2017) English, Spanish. A huge chicken masquerade spirit is making a ruckus in Anyaugo’s kitchen late one night. Anyaugo, with the help of the trickster nature spirit, Wood Wit, finds the courage to talk to the chicken and keep it from ruining all the delicious food her aunties prepared for The New Yam Festival.
Smith, Monique Gray; illustrated by Julie Flett; translated by Mary Cardinal Collins. My Heart Fills With Happiness. (Orca Books, 2018) English, Plains Cree, Spanish. Attractive board book that explores what makes children happy and grateful. The story reflects the author’s mixed heritage by including bannock, Fancy Shawl dancing and pow wow drums.
Suzhen, Fang; illustrated by Sonja Danski; translated by Huang Xiumin. Grandma Lives in a Perfume Village. (North South Books, 2015) English. This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of young Xiao Le’s last visit to his grandmother and how he comforts his mother after grandma passes away. This book can help remove some of the discomfort of talking about death.
Velasquez, Eric. Grandma’s Records. (Walker & Co., 2001) English, Spanish. Every summer, Eric goes to live with his grandmother in El Barrio while his parents work. Through the long hot days, Grandma fills her apartment with the blaring horns and conga drums of bomba y merengue and stories of her beloved Puerto Rico.
Chapter Books/ Beginning Readers
Cepeda, Joe. Up. (Holiday House, 2016) English. A child standing by a window on a very windy day is carried away with the cows and pigs. This easy reader delights the imagination.
DeGross, Monalisa; illustrated by Cheryl Hanna. Donavan’s Word Jar. (Harper Trophy, 2008) English. Third grader Donavan Allen is a collector like no other. He collects words, and whenever he finds a new word he writes it on a piece of paper and adds it to his word jar. While at his grandma’s house, Donavan learns the power of words and the value of his hobby.
Forten, Charlotte. Diary of Charlotte Forten A Free Black Girl Before the Civil War (Fact Finders series). (Capstone, 2014) English. Charlotte Forten was a free black girl living in the northern United States prior to the Civil War. Snippets of her diary are brought to life with images that engage us in Charlotte’s awareness of the world around her.
Lin, Grace. Starry River of the Sky. (Lee & Low, 2012) English. The moon is missing in the remote village of Clear Sky, but only a young boy named Rendi seems to have noticed! Rendi has run away from home and is now working as a chore boy at the village inn. He can’t help but notice the village’s peculiar problems.
McKissack, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack; illustrated by Dana Regan. Messy Bessey’s Family Reunion (Messy Bessey series). (Children’s Press, 2000) English, Spanish. A day with Bessey and her family reunion at the park and the different activities, games, stories, and cleaning duties they share together.
Montalván, Luis Carlos & Bret Witter; photographs by Dan Dion. Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond between a Soldier and his Service Dog. (Roaring Brook Press, 2014) English, Spanish. The story of Tuesday a service dog and Luis Carlos Montalván, former U.S. Army Captain diagnosed with PTSD is told through color photographs and simple text. This is an engaging story of human-animal relationships and veterans with disabilities.
Montijo, Rhode. The Gumazing Gum Girl: Chews Your Destiny (Gum Girl Novel series). (Disney/Hyperion, 2013) English. An electrical accident mixed with some pretty special bubblegum gives Gabby Gomez amazing, chewy superpowers in this comics-style early reader. Follow the Gumazing Gum Girl as she figures out how to deal with secret identities and ultra-nemeses!
Nelson, Vaunda Micheaux; illustrated by Derek Anderson. Ready? Set. Raymond! (Random House, 2002) English. A short story collection with simple text for early readers. From Raymond’s daily routines, making new friends, to using his new sneakers for a race, this a fun reading with vivid illustrations.
Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Indian Shoes. (HarperCollins, 2002) English. From spending time at baseball games to haircuts and fishing, this collection of stories portray the connection and love between Grandpa and Ray.
Yoo, Paula; illustrated by Shirley Ng-Benitez. Want to Play? (Lee & Low, 2016) English. A group of friends spend sunny days outside playing pretend games that are driven by their imagination.
Bolden, Tonya. Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl. (Harry N. Abrams, 2005) English. Maritcha was a free, middle class, black girl growing up in New York City in the mid 1800s. This is a brief look into a rarely explored piece of American history.
Bowles. David. The Smoking Mirror (Garza Twins series). (IFWG Publishing, 2015) English. Twins Johnny and Carol’s mother has been missing for months and their grief is tearing. When their father sends them to Mexico so that he can enter therapy, they begin to discover more about themselves and their Mexican heritage than they could ever have imagined. This witty, fast action drama will leave readers wanting more.
Cervantes. Angela. Gaby, Lost and Found. (Scholastic, 2015) English, Spanish. After Gaby’s mother is deported to Honduras Gaby finds herself in need of a forever home, and so does her favorite shelter cat. Gaby would love to adopt her–but if Gaby doesn’t have a place that feels like home to her, how can she help Feather?
Dumas, Firoozeh. It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel. (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016) English. Zomorad Yousefzadeh changes her name to ‘Cindy’ so her American classmates can pronounce her name. She’s an Iranian living in California with her parents during the time of the Iran hostage crisis. She simply wants to fit in while most Americans want her to go home, or worse.
Guojing. The Only Child. (Schwartz & Wade, 2015) Wordless. When left alone, this only child realizes that they can use their imagination and not be lonely. This fantasy is a wordless graphic novel.
Jordan-Fenton, Christy & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton. Fatty Legs: A True Story. (Annick Press, 2010) English. Through short chapters and simple text, the book recounts the true story of Olemaun Pokiak, an Inuvialuit girl who attended Canadian residential schools and her experience in this dehumanizing and colonial environment.
Kadahota, Cynthia. The Thing About Luck. (Antheneum, 2013) English. After their parents are called back to Japan, twelve year old Summer and her brother work as migrants during the summer with their grandparents. Her family seems to have nothing but bad luck, but Summer is learning that sometimes you have to step up and create your own luck.
Kendall, Christine. Riding Chance. (Scholastic, 2016) English. Troy may think he can fool himself, but he can’t fool anyone else. He wears his pain like a badge. This pain makes it difficult for him to make good choices, but he’s about to be given the chance of a lifetime through the opportunity to work with horses.
Lee, C. B. Not Your Sidekick (Sidekick Squad series). (Duet/Interlude Press, 2016) English. Living in a town filled with superheroes can be thrilling, but not for Jessica Tran whose powers still haven’t kicked in. She settles for an ordinary internship to build her college application, but this position proves to be anything but ordinary.
Woodson, Jacqueline. Feathers. (G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers, 2007) English. “Hope is the thing with feathers” begins the poem Frannie is reading in school. Frannie hasn’t thought much about hope. There are so many other things to think about. Each day, her friend Samantha seems a bit more “holy.” There is a new boy in class everyone is calling the Jesus Boy. And although the new boy looks like a white kid, he says he’s not white. Who is he?
Acevedo, Elizabeth. The Poet X. (Harper Teen, 2018) English. Xiomara Batista has plenty she wants to say, and she pours her frustration onto the pages of her leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers–especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class. With mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.
Browne, Mahogany L; illustrated by Jess X. Snow. Black Girl Magic: A Poem. (Roaring Brook Press/MacMillan, 2018) English. Mahogany L. Browne’s powerful poem, Black Girl Magic, is full of positive affirmations, strength and truths for young black girls. Jess X. Snow’s bold illustrations bring the poetry to life. All ages.
Bsharat, Ahlam; translated by Nancy Roberts. Code Name Butterfly. (Neem Tree Press, 2016) English, Arabic. A Palestinian teenager under the Israeli occupation experiences first love and loss in this coming-of-age story told through five vignettes that span a year in the unnamed narrator’s life.
Charleyboy, Lisa & Mary Beth Leatherdale (Editors). Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices. (Annick Press, 2014) English. Stunning collection of stories, poetry, art and photography by First Nations young adults, artists, activists and community leaders. Topics include bullying, food, community, residential schools, poverty and mixed heritage.
Elliott, Zetta. A Wish After Midnight. (Skyscape, 2010) English. Genna is a fifteen-year-old girl who wants out of her tough Brooklyn neighborhood. But she gets more than she bargained for when a wish gone awry transports her back in time. Facing the perilous realities of Civil War–era Brooklyn, Genna must use all her wits to survive. In the tradition of Octavia Butler’s Kindred and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, A Wish After Midnight is the affecting and inspiring tale of a fearless young woman’s fight to hold on to her individuality and her humanity in two different worlds.
Farizan, Sara. Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel. (Algonquin, 2014) English. Leila, an Irani-American high school girl and total theater kid, has a crush on the new girl, Saskia. Leila struggles to balance thinking about her LGBTQ identity, her feelings about Saskia, her growing responsibilities to the theater group, her school work, and her family. This is a story of coming out, accepting oneself, trust, love and family.
Franklin, Tee; illustrated by Jenn St-Onge, Joy San and Genevieve FT. Bingo Love. (Image Comics, 2018) English. The story of two African American women, Mari and Hazel, who meet in middle school. The girls grow up best friends, but their friendship changes. One day they have their first kiss, confess their mutual love, and get into trouble with their families. Mari hesitates and all is lost until they meet 45 years later and build a life together.
Gill, Joel Christian. Bessie Stringfield: Tales of the Talented Tenth. (Fulcrum Press, 2016) English. Graphic novel depiction of Bessie Stringfield, the first African American women to be inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame. She travels across the Jim Crow south as a single woman.
Kwaymullina, Ambelin. The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf (The Tribe series). (Candlewick, 2014) English. In this post-apocalyptic world, a small group of persecuted young people with supernatural abilities is fighting the oppressive government that hopes to detain everyone with these powers. As Ashala Wolf, the leader of the group, is captured and interrogated, their plot to rescue detainees is slowly and shockingly revealed.
Johnson, Angela. Bird. (Dial, 2004) English. Bird has run away from her home in Ohio for rural Alabama in search of her stepfather, who left her family suddenly. As she ekes out her survival in a farming family’s shed, her paths cross with two boys whose lives are deeply connected in unexpected ways.
Nye, Naomi Shihab. The Space Between Our Footsteps: Poems and Paintings from the Middle East. (Simon and Schuster, 1998) English. Nye curates a thought provoking collection of poetry and artwork from throughout the Middle East. Subjects covered are as broad and diverse as the region.
Okorafor, Nnedi. Binti (Binti Trilogy). (Tor, 2015) English. SFF novella about a young girl named Binti. She is the first of her people, the Himba, to leave earth. On this first voyage to study an intergalactic university, her skills as a harmonizer are put to the ultimate test.
Pon, Cindy. Serpentine (Serpentine series). (Month9Books, 2014) English. In this fantasy set in the fictional kingdom of Xia, Skybright has been adopted by a wealthy family. She has happy life as handmaid and companion to the youngest daughter. As young adults, the girls become more aware of their sexuality. Skybright learns more about her mysterious past and the powers it gives her.
Quintero, Isabel; illustrated by Zeke Peña. Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide. (The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2018) English. A non-fiction graphic novel of the life and work of Mexican photographer and filmmaker, Graciela Iturbide. Intertwining Iturbide’s photos, Peña’s pen and ink illustrations, and Quintero’s poetic words, young and older readers will discover the magic of this great artist’s work.
Adult Crossover (Books that will appeal to older teen readers)
Bennett, Brit. The Mothers. (Riverhead Books, 2016) English. In Nadia’s journey to womanhood, she cannot escape the need to know why her mother committed suicide.
Long Soldier, Layli. Whereas. (Graywolf Press, 2017) English. Layli Long Soldier (Oglala Lakota) uses poetry to examines the politics of language.
Nicholson, Hope, Erin Cossar and S. M. Belko. Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-Fi Anthology. (Bedside Press, 2016) English. A collection of 11 speculative fiction prose and poetry by Indigenous writers who mostly identify themselves as queer, bisexual, lesbian, transgender and two-spirit.