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The World in Multicolour

An Alternative Summer of Reading

in: Children's books

sunThe advent of the summer holidays always brings with it plenty of discussion about what children (and adults) should be reading. This summer has been no exception, and much discussion has circulated around the TES’ list of the top 100 books teachers recommend children should have read before they leave primary school (http://ow.ly/QvWZs). In the US, We Need Diverse Books has been publicising its own summer reading recommendations: the ‘Summer Reading Series 2015’ in an effort to open readers’ eyes to the range of multicultural books that are available for children (http://ow.ly/QvXdo).

Inspired by We Need Diverse Books’ series of posts, at Lantana Publishing, we have created our own list of classic children’s fiction (from picturebooks to young adult reads) alongside some fantastic and less well-known multicultural alternatives. Parents and teachers trying to find diverse titles to complement more familiar books need look no further!

You can find all of the images of our summer alternatives on our Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/lantanapub/an-alternative-summer-of-reading/.

 

PICTUREBOOKS

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1. Martha Mumford and Ada Grey, Shhh! Don’t Wake the Royal Baby (Bloomsbury)

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1. Mingfong Ho and Holly Meade, Hush! (Scholastic)

Both books are about the difficulties of keeping a baby asleep. Mumford and Grey’s book features members of the royal family while Ho and Meade’s story is based on a Thai lullaby and features a lizard, monkey and water buffalo, all of whom are asked to be quiet so as not to disturb the sleeping baby.

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2. Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat or the new title, What Pet Should I Get? (Random House)

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2. Anushka Ravishankar and Pulak Biswas, Tiger on a Tree (Tara Books)

Anushka Ravishankar is often referred to as ‘India’s Dr Seuss’ and it is easy to see why from the whimsical verse that runs through this imaginative book.

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3. Judith Kerr, The Tiger Who Came to Tea (Harper Collins)

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3. Nnedi Okorafor and Mehrdokht Amini, Chicken in the Kitchen (Lantana Publishing)

Although they revolve around different species and cultures, these two stories focus on the extraordinary encounter of a young girl with an animal who really shouldn’t be making itself at home! Okorafor’s Chicken in the Kitchen is set in modern-day Nigeria.

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4. Lenny Lipton and Eric Puybaret, Puff the Magic Dragon (Macmillan)

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4. Joyce Chng and Jeremy Pailler, Dragon Dancer (Lantana Publishing)

Everyone loves a dragon and Puff the Magic Dragon is one of the most enduring dragon stories in Western culture. Dragon Dancer is set in Singapore, in a culture that greatly reveres this mythical beast. In Chng’s story, readers are deliciously uncertain about whether or not this dragon is actually real.

Puff and Dragon

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5. Michael Foreman, One World (Andersen Press)

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5. Tutu Dutta and Martina Peluso, Phoenix Song (Lantana Publishing)

Like Foreman’s book, which illustrates the importance of environmental issues through the example of a polluted rock pool, Phoenix Song, set in a bamboo grove in Malaysia, has a clear message about the importance of respecting the natural world.

 

FOR OLDER READERS

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1. Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

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1. Nnedi Okorafor, Zahrah the Windseeker (Graphia Books)

Despite coming from very different cultures (Zahrah is set in a world influenced by West African culture), both Alice and Zahrah learn something about themselves as they undertake magical journeys through landscapes inhabited by extraordinary and eccentric creatures.

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2. Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (Puffin)

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2. Mahtab Narsimhan, The Tara Trilogy (Dundurn Group)

Riordan and Narsimhan’s narratives have both been inspired by mythological characters and stories. Percy Jackson is the son of the Greek God Poseidon, while the characters in Narsimhan’s trilogy occupy a world influenced by Hindu mythology.

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3. Joan Aiken, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Puffin)

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3. Isabel Allende, The City of the Beasts Trilogy (Flamingo)

Two classic adventure stories set in very different landscapes. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase takes place in an alternative nineteenth-century England of frozen countryside overrun by wolves, while The City of Beasts and its sequels are set in the Amazon jungle, the Himalayan mountains and Sub-Saharan Africa respectively and feature totemic animal spirits among many other fabulous beasts.

Wolves and Beasts

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4. Alexander Key, Escape to Witch Mountain (Sourcebooks)

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4. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Brotherhood of the Conch Trilogy (Chicken House)

The characters in all of these novels must embark on journeys to protect something important. Twins Tia and Toni are forced to run away from a detention home because their paranormal gifts make them ‘strange and different’. In Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s novels, inspired by the Buddhism practised by many communities in the Himalayas, Anand must undertake a series of quests to protect the magical Silver Valley and the values he holds dear.

 

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

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1. Stephanie Meyer, Twilight Saga (Atom)

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1. Lani Wendt Young, Telesa Series (Pasifika Books)

Teen romance is complicated by a strong supernatural plot element in both of these books. Vampires and werewolves abound in Twilight while the epic Telesa series is peopled by elemental goddesses wielding earth, air, water and fire (influenced by Samoan cultural beliefs).

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2. Scott Westerfield, Uglies (Simon and Schuster)

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2. Catherine Knuttson, Shadows Cast by Stars (Atheneum)

In both of these novels, young heroines are forced by their ‘differences’ to live a more spiritual and wilder existence in closer commune with nature than those in the worlds they have left behind. Knuttson’s world has been shaped by her knowledge of Canadian Métis beliefs and mythology.

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3. John Green, The Fault in Our Stars (Penguin)

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3. Candy Gourlay, Shine (Tamarind)

Young people have a lot to deal with in these novels by Green and Gourlay. Hazel is living with terminal cancer while Gourlay’s heroine, Rosa, suffers from a condition that renders her mute and causes other people on her home island (loosely based on the Philippines) to view her as a monster.

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4. Annabel Pitcher, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece (Orion Children’s Books)

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4. Crystal Chan, Bird (Tamarind)

The authors of both of these novels write movingly about a young person coming to terms with their grief at losing a family member. Look no further for a multicultural alternative to a modern classic – Jewel Campbell in Bird has a Jamaican father and a Mexican mother and lives in Iowa in the US.

Mantelpiece and Bird

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5. Lauren Oliver, Delirium (Hodder)

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5. Ambelin Kwaymullina, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf (Walker Books)

Both of the heroines in these gripping dystopian novels stand apart from the status quo and must find a way to live within their communities without denying a fundamental part of their own personalities. Kwaymullina’s novel is informed by her own Australian Aboriginal heritage.

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6. Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games (Scholastic)

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6. Lily Hearne, Deadlands Trilogy (Much-in-Little)

Like The Hunger Games, the Deadlands Trilogy, set in South Africa, combines a political and environmental message with a fast-paced dystopian plot in which teenagers must struggle with more than their fair share of jeopardy.

 

If you enjoyed reading about diverse alternatives to some classic children’s books, look out for future posts that link fantastic classic and multicultural books together by theme – perfect if you’re a fan of a particular genre but want to diversify your reading, or are teaching particular concepts in school.

Caroline and Alice