Searching for books with diverse characters? How do you know which underrepresented group to feature? It can be hard to do when you can only choose one book at a time. Enter Flying Lessons, a collection of short stories with several protagonists often overlooked in children’s literature, written by some of our finest authors.
Consider this list. These are the authors who answered editor Ellen Oh’s battle cry for diverse stories:
Kwame Alexander Matt de la Peña Meg Medina
Kelly J. Baptist Tim Federle Walter Dean Myers
Soman Chainani Grace Lin Tim Tingle
…a virtual Who’s Who of children’s and young adult literature.
Our most respected authors offer stories about an array of formerly least-respected characters: those from ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, abilities, and families that have historically been absent from children’s literature. As young Merci, from the story, “Sol Painting,” describes her family: “We are ghosts as they go by – unseen.”
This esteemed group of authors shines a spotlight on the too-often unseen, creating and sharing characters who are accessible, empathetic, understood, seen. Readers will chuckle at the boy whose grandmother unwittingly leaves him at a nudist beach, the geek with newly acquired superpowers who gets his crush to notice him, and the dads who fumble with the explanation of where babies come from.
Many readers will see themselves in characters in ways that they have not before, whether they are chasing their hoop dreams, struggling with their attractions, justifying their relationships, or dealing with parents battling their own demons. Readers don’t have to match up with the demographics of each character. The emotional challenges are universal.
The individual writing styles are as varied as the authors and each provides its own potential mentor text. But more importantly, each story imparts a life lesson, a flying lesson if you will, to help kids fly high, and avoid the crash and burn. Each reader will find the one character, the one story, the one voice that speaks to them, but all readers will appreciate and learn from the entire collection.
Flying Lessons is sure to provoke necessary and even valuably uncomfortable discussions, and will propel readers to seek out more books from these prized authors.