Thursday, January 27, 2011

Good job, '60s and '70s!

Recently, I made a reference list of books in our store's children's department that depict non-white characters. The goal of this list is for any bookseller, familiar with kids' books or not, to have answers when approached with questions like, "Do you have any books for my children/students with characters who look like them/don't look like them?"

There's a lot to say on this topic, some of it very positive, some of it about areas for growth. But I was particularly struck by the age of what I think are some of the best examples. Like Whistle for Willie, published in 1964. Corduroy, published in 1968. The Snowy Day, published in 1976.

Plenty of good books are about race, and there's definitely a place for those, too. But these books and others (John Steptoe's work, for instance) do something that's at least as important: they show non-white children just living lives. You know, like real children. I don't remember Lisa's race even registering with me when I read and re-read Corduroy as a child; she was just another kid with a lot of love to give to a scruffy teddy bear. There's some implication of economic struggle, but to Corduroy, Lisa's apartment is what so many small apartments are to so many kids: a home.

Positive multicultural representation in children's books is not a new idea. I'd even say it's a classic.


  1. i always loved the snowy day and its extra apropriate right now

  2. We have it prominently displayed at the store, and it's doing well!

  3. The Snowy Day is indeed a perfect book for this time of the year, great review.