Looking for kids of color in current middle-grade fantasy books

All of you who come here regularly know that I am rather keen on finding and reviewing mg sff with kids of color. So when The Enchanted Inkpot (a great group blog of mg and YA fantasy writers) ran a feature showing many of the late summer/fall covers of mg fantasy books, I scanned them closely (aka squinched my eyes up and pressed my nose to the computer screen), looking for non-white kids. Out of the 53 covers featured, 2 new releases, Starfields, by Carolyn Marsden, and Fox and Phoenix, by Beth Bernobich, showed kids of color, as did one older release (not sure why this is included), The Immortal Fire, by Anne Ursu. (Oddly, and somewhat botheringly, two of these showed the characters from behind).

In fairness, once the covers that don't show anyone are gone, that's 3 books out of 34, one of which isn't a new release. Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu, coming out this fall, isn't shown--that makes it 3 new releases of fantasy books showing kids of color.

The Enchanted Inkpot was looking at fantasy books, but, since there is almost no middle grade sci fi, it is not difficult to add it in. There's one I know of coming out in early fall--Galaxy Games, by Greg R. Fishbone, from Tu Books, an imprint which guarantees diversity.

Please note--this doesn't mean that kids of color aren't inside other books featured at The Enchanted Inkpot; since I haven't read most of them, I don't know the numbers for that. I'll get back to you once I've read them.

I have no other new middle grade fantasy/sci fi books on my tbr/reviewed pile. I have reviewed a grand total of 2 new mg fantasy books with kids of color this summer, and not because I wasn't trying--The Boy at the End of the World, by Greg van Eekhout, City of Ice, by Laurence Yep. Neither clearly showed a kid of color.

The only new book for middle grade kids I reviewed that did was Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity, by Dave Roman, a sci fi graphic novel, and since I read very few graphic novels, I should probably exclude it from consideration in this particular post, because I have no idea what else is out there--for all I know, the world of fantasy/sci fi graphic novels for 9-12 year olds is absolutely teeming with children of many diverse heritages (any thoughts?).

Two books from this summer that I missed are Moonshadow: The Nightmare Ninja, by Simon Higgens, and Shaolin Tiger (Samurai Kids #3), by Sandy Fussell (would you say this later series is fantasy? or unrealistic historical fiction?). Both show their respective Japanese and Chinese central characters. One could make the arguement that Vanished, by Sheela Chari, with its age-old curse, is fantasy, but is the (very small) girl on the cover clearly a "kid of color?"

The results of my math: 6 new relases of mg sff books (not including graphic novels) with kids on the cover who clearly aren't white in the summer and fall of 2011. Please let me know if I missed any!!!!! I have no illusions that I've found them all, especially the small press books.

Edited to add: at Back to Books I just found a review of Space Race, by C.E.L. Welsh, a graphic novel for younger mg kids that combines fact with sci fi--

The upshot of my investigation is that this was an even worse summer than usual for anyone wanting to walk into a bookstore and leave with a newly published fantasy book for their kid that showed someone who wasn't white. If you wanted one showing a girl, it would have been impossible (Vanished being the one possible exception), unless you were in a very special bookstore that stocked small press/independent titles. Fall will be only marginally better--how much so will depend in large part on whether bookstores stock the four fall releases included in my tally.

I rather passionately feel (as I said in this post from last spring) that this is an issue important to all of us who buy books for kids, and so I find the dismal tally rather discouraging.

(However, on the encouraging side--here's an update on Anne Urus's Chronus Chronicles, of which the third, The Immortal Fire, was shown above. Anne just let me know in the comments that the series is being repackaged. Here's the new cover for the second book (cool!):


  1. I'm not sure what that Immortal Fire cover is--a reprint of the paperback?-- but they're actually repacking the whole series. I think you'll be pleased--I certainly am:


    Thank you for the Breadcrumbs mention!

  2. And by "repacking" I mean "repackaging!" I should say too that both Atheneum and Harper/Walden Pond Press were both great about this (while Zee might be from behind here, in the old Siren Song--book #2 in the series-- cover you can see his face.) I think they did a great job, and I'm just thrilled with that Breadcrumbs cover. Thank you for your continued advocacy--you were one of the reasons I realized this was such an issue in the first place!

  3. Oh well--thank you, Anne, for writing the books! And thank you, Anne's publishers!

  4. Re: graphic novels. This isn't new (2009) but it definitely has a character of color who is shown on the cover -- The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook, by Eleanor Davis.


  5. I would have liked to see the cover of The Boy at the End of the World show the boy's skin color more clearly.

  6. I know that The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner had a cover, in its earlier releases, that showed the protagonist's ethnic roots. But unfortunately that cover has disappeared. Also, the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane has one main who's Hispanic, and if I remember correctly there are a number of diverse characters in the books. (cover of book one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sywbaw_cover.jpg) None of these are new, but...

  7. Granted, it was earlier this spring, but Luminous by Dawn Metcalf had a clearly hispanic (and absolutely gorgeous, in my opinion) young woman on the cover. But it might be YA, so I'm not sure if that counts.

    And for the graphic novel field, there is always Avatar: The Last Airbender The Lost Adventures that was just released a month ago, or less. AWESOME series, and it features Katara and Toph prominently on the covers alongside their male hero counterparts. It's a win all around. (I will try and poke around more into the graphic novel field for you, since I quite enjoy the genre. Is it just MG you are looking for, or YA as well?) :)

  8. Me too, Jen! It's a pity.

    Thanks for the reminder to add a Young Wizard review to my list, Rina!

    And thanks, Heather, for the Lost Airbender recommendation-- I should get that for my boys!

    I'm interested, right this moment, in the current releases--although I'll always welcome recommendations for older books!

  9. Ooh, how about Akata Witch? Amazon says Young Adult, but the main character is 12, and fwiw I'm interested in reading it, which is usually a good litmus test for whether something is middle grade or YA.

  10. Akata Witch is just a smidge on the YA side of things for me, Anamaria! But thanks for the reminder!

  11. This is such a great post! Not only am I a little tired of the lack of diversity in ethnicity in middle grade books in general, but also bored with what's been coming out cover-wise. It would be wonderful to have more diverse covers that illustrate some really fantastic characters as opposed to the same old thing over and over again.

    Personally I'm thrilled to hear about Anne's upcoming "repackaging" and am not surprised being that Walden Pond Press is involved, they're a fantastic publisher. Also, I was so excited to see the addition to Lee & Low with Tu Books. Even though it's a YA novel, I loved the cover of Tankborn by Karen Sandler! It's fantastic and also a marvelous novel!

    Wonderful post! I'll definitely let you know if I come across any additions to your list. :o)

  12. Thanks for stopping by, 1stdaughter! And yes, please, do keep me in mind if you come across more....


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