This week’s recommendation comes from:

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IFL and Syracuse City School District 

This week’s recommendations draws on several sources. We have compiled a list of some book recommendations for readers of all ages that welcome, celebrate, and honor diversity in its many forms and can help [further] diversify your personal, family, classroom, and school libraries. Some of these titles come from the IFL team’s libraries, and some are recommendations from our friends in Syracuse City School District. There are so many great stories out there, real and fictional, that center different ways of knowing, speaking, believing, and being.

The Proudest Blue

by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S. K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly (Ages 4 to 8, 40 pages)

A powerful, vibrantly illustrated story about the first day of school—and two sisters on one’s first day of hijab—by Olympic medalist and social justice activist Ibtihaj Muhammad. With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special.

When Stars Are Scattered

by Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed (Grades 6 to 8, 269 pages)

Heartbreak and hope exist together in this remarkable graphic novel about growing up in a refugee camp, as told by Omar Mohamed, a Somali refugee, to Victoria Jamieson, the Newbery Honor-winning creator of Roller Girl. Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya.

We Are Water Protectors

by Carole LindstromMichaela Goade (Ages 3 to 6, 40 pages)

Water is the first medicine. It affects and connects us all . . . When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth and poison her people’s water, one young water protector takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource. Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, this bold and lyrical picture book issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguarding the Earth’s water from harm and corruption.

Hairs / Pelitos

by Sandra Cisneros, illustrated by Terry Ybáñez (Ages 5 to 8, 32 pages)

This story shows through simple, intimate portraits, the diversity among us. “Everybody in our family has different hair”/ “Todos en nuestra familia tenemos pelo diferente,” begins this rhythmic, bilingual picture book from Cisneros, an acclaimed novelist/short-story writer. A celebration of individuality and of the bonds of family

Julián Is a Mermaid

by Jessica Love (Ages 4 to 8, 40 pages)

This gorgeous Stonewall Award-winning picture book stars Julián, a child coming to understand their gender nonconformity after a joyful encounter with three women dressed as shimmering mermaids. Julián fantasizes about dressing up like a mermaid too, and wonders what his abuela will make of it in this celebration of self-love and individuality.

Our Class is a Family

by Shannon Olsen (ages 6 to 9, 28 pages)

With its heartfelt message and colorfully whimsical illustrations, Our Class is a Family is a book that will help build and strengthen the class community. Kids learn that their classroom is a place where it’s safe to be themselves, it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s important to be a friend to others.

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad

by Ellen Levine (Grades 1 to 5, 40 pages)

Henry dreams of freedom from slavery and injustice. When his family is sold away from him, he risks everything to do what he knows is right. He mails himself to freedom! Henry’s Freedom Box gives students the opportunity to make connections between the text and the illustrations in this powerful, true story.

The Name Jar

by Yangsook Choi (Ages 3 to 7, 40 pages)

The Name Jar explores questions about difference, identity, and cultural assimilation. When Unhei, a young Korean girl, moves to America with her family and arrives at a new school, she begins to wonder if she should also choose a new name. Her classmates suggest Daisy, Miranda, Lex, and more, but nothing seems to fit.

Home of the Brave

by Katherine Applegate (Grades 4 to 8, 265 pages)

In Home of the Brave, we learn about the hardest year in the life of Kek, an immigrant from Africa. He moves to Minnesota after being in a refugee camp. Using poetry, the author, Katherine Applegate, tells this story of sadness, loneliness, discovery, and a new chance at life through Kek’s prospective.

Sing Down the Moon

by Scott O’Dell (Grades 3 to 7, 144 pages)

Sing Down the Moon is a fictionalized retelling of a little-known and shameful part of American history. Told in the first person through the character of Bright Morning, a Navaho girl on the verge of adulthood, the novel relates the crushing of the spirit of the Navaho people at the hands of white people.

Esperanza Rising

by Pam Muñoz Ryan (Grades 5 and 6, 262 pages)

This novel focuses on Esperanza, the only daughter to wealthy Mexican parents, and the events after her father’s murder and her subsequent move to California: Esperanza’s uncles Tio Luis and Tio Marco tried to marry Esperanza’s mom but she declined, which causes conflict.

Middle School’s a Drag, You Better Werk!

by Greg Howard (Ages 10+, 304 pages)

This book follows entrepreneurial 12-year-old Mikey Pruitt as he starts his own talent agency and represents clients in the leadup to the big talent show. Among his roster is eighth-grader Julian Vasquez—drag queen name Coco Caliente—who helps Mikey see that he, too, can be openly gay at school.

American Born Chinese

by Gene Luen Yang (Ages 12+, 260 pages)

This graphic novel follows three main storylines that converge in the end. Each one focuses on a character who feels judged. The story features many Chinese stereotypes and insults prevalent in America throughout the twentieth century.