My recommendations for World Book Day. LGBTQ+ and/or BIPOC, Indigenous, Latine, AAPI subjects and authors. All of them are brilliant stories.
“Ghost Squad” by Claribel Ortega
Coco meets Stranger Things with a hint of Ghostbusters in this action-packed supernatural fantasy. For Lucely Luna, ghosts are more than just the family business. Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely’s firefly spirits before it’s too late. With the family dynamics of Coco and action-packed adventure of Ghostbusters, Claribel A. Ortega delivers both a thrillingly spooky and delightfully sweet debut novel.
“Felix Ever After” by Kacen Callender
This is such a great book. It’s beautifully written and warm and funny and heart-wrenching. There’s also a significant element of suspense over several aspects of the plot and I was kept guessing for most of the book. I also guessed wrong. The bits about being trans and falling in love and finding your true self, and who your real friends are, and making art, are wonderful. I hope this book will find its way to transgender teenagers and their parents, and help the teenagers to find their true selves, and help their parents understand and support them.
“Hunting by Stars” (the sequel to “The Marrow Thieves”) by Cherie Dimaline
Years ago, when plagues and natural disasters killed millions of people, much of the world stopped dreaming. Without dreams, people are haunted, sick, mad, unable to rebuild. The government soon finds that the Indigenous people of North America have retained their dreams, an ability rumored to be housed in the very marrow of their bones. Soon, residential schools pop up—or are re-opened—across the land to bring in the dreamers and harvest their dreams. Seventeen-year-old French lost his family to these schools and has spent the years since heading north with his new found family: a group of other dreamers, who, like him, are trying to build and thrive as a community. But then French wakes up in a pitch-black room, locked in and alone for the first time in years, and he knows immediately where he is—and what it will take to escape.
“Golden Boy” by Abigail Tarttelin
The Walker family is good at keeping secrets from the world. They are even better at keeping them from each other. Max Walker is a golden boy, with a secret that the world may not be ready for. This novel is a riveting tale of a family in crisis, a fascinating exploration of identity, and a coming-of-age story like no other.
“Last night at the Telegraph Club” by Malinda Lo
It’s the 1950s — not a good time to be LGBT+. It’s the McCarthy era — not a good time to have Chinese ancestry in San Francisco. Tue main character is both Chinese and a lesbian. This brings conflict with her family. When she eventually ventures into the Telegraph Club — a lesbian club — to see Tommy Andrews (male impersonator, who kind of reminds me of k d lang), she’s the only Chinese person there. This is a poignant, beautiful book: a queer coming of age story, and a brilliantly drawn portrait of Chinese San Francisco in the 1950s. This is in an era when the San Francisco police were deeply intolerant of LGBT+ people. It also illustrates the widespread racism against Chinese people. Bit of a slow start with this book but it was very good and I highly recommend it.
On World Book Day, instead of worrying about the books of dead white men being rewritten, worry about hungry children and whether they have access to books at all. Worry about the publishing industry failing to publish enough books by BIPOC people.
Many BIPOC authors have reported that they have been told “oh we already have one BIPOC author, so we don’t need another one”.
Also we should be worrying about kids not having adequate housing, heating, food, and books, or a place to curl up and read.
As Frank Cottrell-Boyce writes in The Guardian,
Of course I know there are important issues behind the Dahl row. But whatever you think of the rights and wrongs of sensitivity reading, surely it’s equally important that all our children have access to a couple of shelves of books and a corner to read them in. The key to reading for pleasure is having a choice about what you read. As a child I disliked Dahl intensely. I felt that his snobbery was directed at people like me and that his addiction to revenge was not good. But that was fine – I just moved along to Joan Aiken, Moominland and Narnia. Today publishers such as Knights Of, writers such as Nadia Shireen, Elle McNicoll, Katherine Rundell, Phil Earle, Lissa Evans Onjali Q Raúf and Alice Oseman are pumping out masterpieces that would suit any sensitivity or none. I name the names – as Philip Pullman did when he was asked the question – because they don’t crop up enough in the national conversation.