This month, when updating our African American book list (so many great new books that have come out in the past year!), we’ve been thinking about Rudine Simms Bishop, often referred to as “the mother of multicultural children’s literature”
Many of us have heard that in order to be reflective and representative, books should be “mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors”. But did you know that Rudine Simms Bishop, a Black woman Profesor Emerita of Education at Ohio State University, coined the term in 1990?
She said, “Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.”
Watch a video here of her talking about the need for mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors and diverse representation in children’s books.
In our 2023 book list, you can find books by African and African American authors that we love. This year, we focused on adding in newer books that highlight Black joy and pride, and that reflect the diversity of the Black experience. Here are a few that we’re really excited about:
For young children and preschoolers, Charlie Makes a Splash celebrates the power of water and family for a boy on the autism spectrum, and its bright illustrations of Charlie and his twin sister bring a smile to our faces.
For early elementary readers, Free the Curls, by local author Marissa McGee, tells the story a young girl and her mom who mount an advocacy campaign when they discover that only the hair products for Black folks are locked up at the store.
For middle grades, Swim Team is a graphic novel centering on Bree, a middle schooler who has just moved from Brooklyn to Florida and whose only choice for an elective is swimming, one of her greatest fears. With the help of an elderly neighbor she prepares to try to help her new school win the state championship.
For young adult readers, Felix Ever After tells the story of Felix, a teenager accepting his identities as Black, queer, and transgender, while falling in love for the first time. When someone posts of his deadname and pre-transition pictures publicly, Felix develops a revenge plot that ends up putting him on a path to self discovery and self love.