• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Authors > Are Multi-Cultural Books Dead? Maybe . . . maybe not.
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    April 11, 2014:
    Fall 2014 Children's Sneak Peek
    A peek at forthcoming middle grade books (as well as picture books and YA books) in a round-up from Publisher's Weekly. First printed in the February 22 issue, but now available online. Time to add to your to-read list. Read more ...

    April 9, 2014:
    How many Newbery winners have you read?
    You could make a traditional list of all the Newbery Medal Award-winning Children's Books you've read, but there's something so satisfying when you check them off and get a final tally on this BuzzFeed quiz. Read more ...

    March 28, 2014:
    Middle Grade fiction is hot at 2014 Bologna Children's Book Fair

    For the second year in a row, publishers are clamoring for middle-grade, reporters Publishers Weekly. "I’ve been coming [to Bologna] for 12 to 15 years, and I’ve never had as many European publishers asking for middle-grade," said Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency. Read more ...

    February 14, 2014:
    Cybils Awards announced
    Ultra by David Carroll (Scholastic Canada) wins the Cybil for middle grade fiction; Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Hyperion) wins for Speculative Fiction. Read more.

    January 27, 2014: And the Newbery Medal goes to ...
    Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal for "Flora & Ulysses"; Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author award for "P.S. Be Eleven." Newbery Honor awards to authors Vince Vawter, Amy Timberlake, Kevin Henkes and Holly Black. For all the exciting ALA Youth Media Award News ... READ MORE

    November 12, 2013:
    Vote in the GoodReads semifinal round

    Readers' votes have narrowed the middle-grade semifinals down to 20 titles. Log in to your GoodReads account and vote for your favorite middle-grade (and in other categories, of course). Read more ...

    November 9, 2013:
    Publishers Weekly Top Children's Books of 2013

    Middle-grade and young adult titles selected by the editors of Publishers Weekly as their top picks of the year. Let the season of "top ten books" begin! Read more ...

    October 14, 2013:
    Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids debuts January 2014

    Shelf Media Group, publisher of Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine, will launch a new free digital-only publication for middle-grade readers. The debut issue features interviews with such notable authors as Margaret Peterson Haddix and Chris Grabenstein as well as reviews, excerpts, and more. Middle Shelf will be published bi-monthly beginning in January 2014.
    Read more ...

    September 19, 2013: Writer-in-Residence program at Thurber House

    Dream of time and space to focus on your own writing project? Applications now being accepted (11/1/2013 deadline) for The Thurber House Residency in Children's Literature, a month-long retreat in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Read more ...

    September 18, 2013: Vermont College of Fine Arts Scholarship opportunity

    Barry Goldblatt Literary launches The Angela Johnson Scholarship, a talent-based grant for writers of color attending the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Up to two $5,000 grants will be awarded each year. Read more ....

    September 16, 2013:
    National Book Awards longlist for youth literature

    For the first time, the NBA is presenting lists of 10 books/authors on the longlist in each category. The 2013 young adult literature list includes five middle grade novels and five YA. Read more ...

    Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
    Check out Publishers Weekly roundup of upcoming children's books to be published in spring 2014. Read more...

    August 21, 2013:
    Want to be a Cybils Award Judge?

    Middle grade categories are fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction. Applications due August 31! Read more ...

    August 19, 2013:
    S&S and BN reach a deal
    Readers will soon be able to find books from Simon & Schuster at Barnes & Noble. The bookstore chain was locked in a disagreement with the publisher over how much it was willing to pay for books. Read more ...

    August 6, 2013:
    NPR's 100 Must-Reads for Kids
    NPR's Backseat Book Club asked listeners to nominate their favorite books for readers ages 9 to 14. More than 2,000 people nominated titles, and a panel of Newbery authors brought the list to 100. Most are middle grade books. Read more ...

    July 2, 2013:
    Penguin & Random House Merger

    The new company, Penguin Random House, will control more than 25 percent of the trade book market in the United States. On Monday, the newly formed company began to take shape, only hours after a middle-of-the-night announcement that the long-planned merger had been completed. Read more ...

    March 28, 2013: Big at Bologna

     This year at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the focus has shifted to middle-grade.  “A lot of foreign publishers are cutting back on YA and are looking for middle-grade,” said agent Laura Langlie, according to Publisher's Weekly.  Lighly illustrated or stand-alone contemporary middle-grade fiction is getting the most attention.  Read more...


    March 10, 2013: Marching to New Titles

    Check out these titles releasing in March...


    March 5, 2013: Catch the BEA Buzz

    Titles for BEA's Editor Buzz panels have been announced.  The middle-grade titles selected are:

    A Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

    Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward

    Nick and Tesla's High-Voltages Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

    The Tie Fetch by Amy Herrick

    For more Buzz books in other categories,


    February 20, 2013: Lunching at the MG Roundtable 

    Earlier this month, MG authors Jeanne Birdsall, Rebecca Stead, and N.D. Wilson shared insight about writing for the middle grades at an informal luncheon with librarians held in conjunction with the New York Public Library's Children's Literary Salon "Middle Grade: Surviving the Onslaught."

    Read about their thoughts...


    February 10, 2013: New Books to Love

    Check out these new titles releasing in February...


    January 28, 2013: Ivan Tops List of Winners

    The American Library Association today honored the best of the best from 2012, announcing the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards, along with a host of other prestigious youth media awards, at their annual winter meeting in Seattle.

    The Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature went to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Honor books were: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin; and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

    The Coretta Scott King Book Award went to Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

    The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award,which honors an author for his or her long-standing contributions to children’s literature, was presented to Katherine Paterson.

    The Pura Belpre Author Award, which honors a Latino author, went to Benjamin Alire Saenz for his novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which was also named a Printz Honor book and won the Stonewall Book Award for its portrayal of the GLBT experience.

    For a complete list of winners…


    January 22, 2013: Biography Wins Sydney Taylor

    Louise Borden's His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, a verse biography of the Swedish humanitarian, has won the Sydney Taylor Award in the middle-grade category. The award is given annually to books of the highest literary merit that highlight the Jewish experience. Aimee Lurie, chair of the awards committee, writes, "Louise Borden's well-researched biography will, without a doubt, inspire children to perform acts of kindness and speak out against oppression."

    For more...


    January 17, 2013: Erdrich Wins Second O'Dell

    Louise Erdrich is recipient of the 2013 Scott O'Dell Award for her historical novel Chickadee, the fourth book in herBirchbark House series. Roger Sutton,Horn Book editor and chair of the awards committee, says of Chickadee,"The book has humor and suspense (and disarmingly simple pencil illustrations by the author), providing a picture of 1860s Anishinabe life that is never didactic or exotic and is briskly detailed with the kind of information young readers enjoy." Erdrich also won the O'Dell Award in 2006 for The Game of Silence, the second book in theBirchbark series. 

    For more...


    January 15, 2013: After the Call

    Past Newbery winners Jack Gantos, Clare Vanderpool, Neil Gaiman, Rebecca Stead, and Laura Amy Schlitz talk about how winning the Newbery changed (or didn't change) their lives in this piece from Publishers Weekly...


    January 2, 2013: On the Big Screen

    One of our Mixed-up Files members may be headed to the movies! Jennifer Nielsen's fantasy adventure novel The False Prince is being adapted for Paramount Pictures by Bryan Cogman, story editor for HBO's Game of Thrones. For more...


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Are Multi-Cultural Books Dead? Maybe . . . maybe not.

Authors, Book Lists, Giveaways, Inspiration

Wonderful author and writing teacher, Uma Krishnaswami (of many terrific Middle-Grade novels and picture books), is in the camp that believes the term “multicultural” is dead – to which I agree. “Multicultural” books seemed to take a nose dive between 2002-2005, but that doesn’t mean wonderful and marvelous books are not being published. They are, and often to great acclaim and winning big literature awards – see below for some of the titles!

Uma blogs on this subject frequently as well as teaching at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in their MFA program for children’s literature. She calls them *Books With Cultural Contexts* – I like that! Books With Cultural Contexts describes books about other cultures and people around the world much better. (Click here to read Uma’s intriguing bio).

UmaKrishnaswami-225x295More from Uma: “I have given up using the term “multicultural.” I think its overuse has reduced it to a cliché. Also, in my opinion, it’s imprecise. You can describe a collection of books as “multicultural” if it contains titles from many cultures but how on earth can the term describe a single book grounded in a single culture, or even a book with elements of cultural fusion or blending?

Here are several books with specific cultural contexts—they are only a small selection of the many, many fine books out there.”

(This is a list that Uma graciously put together for us, books from the last several years). LOOK at how many great titles there!!! How many have you read? (And scroll down for the giveaway of Uma’s new MG books!)

Picture Books
Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying Hwa-Hu
The Kamishibai Man by Allen Say
From the Bellybutton of the Moon by Francisco Alarcon illustrated by Maya Cristina Gonzales
The Princess of Borscht by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Bonnie Christensen
Tiger on a Tree by Anushka Ravishankar, illustrated by Pulak Biswas


Chapter Books
Anna Hibiscus (and sequels) by Atinuke
The Year of the Dog (and sequels) by Grace Lin
The No-Dogs-Allowed Rule by Kashmira Sheth
Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Middle Grade
A Suitcase of Seaweed and Other Poems by Janet Wong
Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith chronal engine
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
Looking for Bapu by Anjali Banerjee
Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today edited by Lori Marie Carlson
Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins
The Wild Book by Margarita Engle0-545-26125-2
The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami
The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic by Uma Krishnaswami
Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy
Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri
The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Shang
The Unforgotten Coat
by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Breakaway, Enchanted Runner, and The Last Snake Runner by Kimberley Griffiths Little (soon to be re-released in print and Kindle/Nook versions in a week or two so keep an eye out!)

the last snake runner

Young Adult
Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher Shadow spinner
Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye
A Step From Heaven by An Na
Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac
Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Tantalize series
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos
Tyrell (and sequels) by Coe Booth
A Girl Called Problem by Katie Quirk
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

And now for your chance to win both of Uma’s new MG novels – set in India about Bollywood! Funny and poignant family stories about friendship and magic and dreams and movie stars! Just leave a comment to win BOTH. Our random generator (or a hat!) will pick the winner this Sunday afternoon – after I get back from YALL Fest in Charleston, SC. :-)

Problem with being slightly heroic Gran Plan


Kimberley Griffiths Little is the author of three magical realism novels with Scholastic, THE HEALING SPELL, CIRCLE OF SECRETS, and WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME (2013). Forthcoming: THE TIME OF THE FIREFLIES (Scholastic, 2014) and her Young Adult debut, FORBIDDEN with Harpercollins (Fall 2014). When she’s not writing you can find her reading/daydreaming in her Victorian cottage and eating chocolate chip cookies with a hit of Dr. Pepper.



  1. Linda Andersen  •  Nov 8, 2013 @5:16 am

    Thanks for the great list and your reflections on the term “multicultural.” How terrific of you to offer two of your MG novels in a giveaway. Please include my name in the drawing. Thanks.

  2. Charlotte  •  Nov 8, 2013 @6:12 am

    “diverse” is a sticky term for me as well as “multicultural,” but I keep using both because of not having anything other than “non-white protagonists” to use, which I like even less!

    Thanks for the give away.

  3. tricia  •  Nov 8, 2013 @9:14 am

    Just to say–I love Uma’s own books!

  4. Lynnette  •  Nov 9, 2013 @8:03 pm

    Multicultural really doesn’t make a lot of sense. I like the term ‘books with cultural context.’ I have both of Uma’s books on my to-be-bought list. I’d love to win them!

  5. PramgaticMom  •  Nov 10, 2013 @9:05 am

    I love your chapter books Uma!

  6. Sherry  •  Nov 10, 2013 @3:55 pm

    Yes multicultural is an overused and imprecise term. Why can’t we just talk about specific books without using a catch all term?

  7. Uma Krishnaswami  •  Nov 10, 2013 @9:59 pm

    Good questions, Sherry. The thing is, until the diversity gap disappears, we do need some descriptor for books with minority characters and contexts. It’s easy to say we ought to evaluate them as books like any other, but will taking away the label, or the dedicated awards, or the focused shelving, cause these terrific books to disappear? Until we have a critical mass of these titles, and until they really do get evaluated on par with others, we can’t afford to pull all the labels off.

  8. Uma Krishnaswami  •  Nov 10, 2013 @10:01 pm

    And thank you, everyone, for the kind comments about my books!

  9. Dee Jannereth  •  Nov 12, 2013 @8:23 am

    Thank you Uma for this great concept of unique books. Since a lot of the same things happen to most of the people in different cultures, I try to write in a generic way so that the reader can put his/her own perception in the story – without “labeling” the character or events. Stealing, homework problems, first loves…all happen in every part of our world…sometimes the results are different…but they all happen. I love the fact that there needs a special place for these books … until labels can be erased. Thank you for books that help us remember this.