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Posted on Jun 21, 2022 in Blog, International, Writing

Honoring the Old and the New: The 2022 We Are Kid Lit Reading List

Honoring the Old and the New: The 2022 We Are Kid Lit Reading List

The 2022 We Are Kid Lit Summer Reading List is out! While it’s appearing later in the summer than our previous lists, it’s worth the wait — our most robust list yet! This year’s list features board books, picture books, early readers/chapter books, middle grade, and young adult. There’s fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in a wide variety of genres, and coloring and activity books to keep hands moving and minds at peace. (In fact, one of the titles in the YA section is Ricardo Levins Morales’s Color for Justice, Color for Calm, with activities that can be downloaded for free.) In all, the list contains 28 books for the youngest readers, 18 first chapter books, 21 middle grade books, and 13 books for teens. Focusing on BIPOC creators and stories, these books portray protagonists from a variety of cultures and intersectional experiences, including LGBTQ+ kids and families, diverse religions, and characters with disabilities. The 2022 collective that assembled and annotated the list, available here, consists of teachers, librarians, and writers Sam Bloom, Edith Campbell, Sujei Lugo Vázquez, and me.

Besides its size, the most unusual feature of this list is our effort to honor older classics and books by creators who we’ve lost in the past two years. The period between 2020 and now has been a difficult one for book creators, and we looked for works by those who are no longer with us — George Ancona, Eloise Greenfield, bell hooks, Jerry Pinkney, Bernette Ford, Ashley Bryan, and Floyd Cooper. Some of the books we included, such as Eliose Greenfield’s Alaina and the Great Play and Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Floyd Cooper, were their creators’ last works. Others, like Ashley Bryan’s Words to My Life’s Song, are classic titles that deserve to be remembered and appreciated forever.

We were glad to see the republication of other classic titles from the 1990s and 2000s, some of them in new formats. bell hooks’s Be Boy Buzz and John Steptoe’s Baby Says are now available in sturdy board book editions. We Need Diverse Books was involved in the 2021 republication in paperback of Cynthia Leitich Smith’s groundbreaking picture book from 2000, Jingle Dancer, illustrated by Cornelius van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu. The new edition contains updated text and expanded backmatter. Among our oldest titles are Angela Johnson’s Mama Birds, Baby Birds, a picture book from 1994 illustrated by Rhonda Mitchell; I Want to Be, by Thylias Moss and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, from 1993; and Hakim Adi’s nonfiction book African Migrations from 1994. About a third of the books on the list are from 2021.

We have always sought to include books from smaller publishers and self-published books, a way that this list has distinguished itself over the years. We cast a wide net and are not limited by books with big names on the covers and big marketing budgets to go along with them. When we choose books written by well-known figures in the wider culture, such as hip hop artist Lil Nas X or actor and activist George Takei, the quality of the book comes first. Our books also explore life beyond the borders of the United States and Canada, with translated books such as the collection of poems from the great indigenous poet from Guatemala Humberto Ak’abal, Aquí era el paraíso: Selección de poemas de Humberto Ak’abal/Here Was Paradise: Selected Poems of Humberto Ak’abal, illustrated by Amelia Lau Carling and translated by Hugh Hazelton.

With such a large list, there are many books for children and families to choose from! We hope you enjoy your summer reading and continue into the next school year!

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