More Than Words: A challenge for everyone who’s been asking for more diversity in kids’ books

There’s been a lot of talk lately on social media about diversity in the children’s literature community, and it is wonderful to see so many people asking for more of it. Authors, illustrators, readers, teachers, and librarians have had a lot to say about events like ReedPOP’s homogenous all-star panel of children’s literature “luminaries” proposed for BookCon. The message was clear – our world is more diverse than this, and many of us want the public face of children’s literature to show that. Census estimates show that about half of America’s five-year-olds are members of racial and ethnic minority groups now, and there has been a strong call for books that represent that reality.

Speaking up is one great way to ask for change. But buying books may be an even better way.

At the end of the day, publishing is a business that needs to make money to survive. Given that reality, the best way for readers to ask for more diversity in children’s literature is not with words and tweets and blog posts alone but also with dollars.

If you read my recent blog post on Varian Johnson’s new middle school heist novel, THE GREAT GREENE HEIST, you know how much I loved this book, because it’s incredibly well written, a page turner of a read, and full of diverse, complicated characters.  It is exactly the kind of book many of us have been asking to see more often. So let’s try asking with more than words.

THE GREAT GREENE HEIST comes out on May 27th. I am pre-ordering two copies from one of my local indies, Flying Pig Books in Shelburne, VT. I’m going to keep one for my family and give the other one away in a drawing here on my blog after it arrives.

Who wants to join me?

I’m not going to lie – I’d love to see this title on the NY Times Bestseller list. I’d like every kid to meet Jackson Greene and Gaby de la Cruz.  We may not accomplish that, but if everyone who has been asking for more diversity in children’s literature pre-orders a copy (or two) from a local independent bookstore in the next three weeks, it sure will send one heck of a message to the people in charge of our industry and our book tours and panels.  Let’s show them that we really do want to see more books like this – books with diverse characters, written by men and women of all different cultural backgrounds – and that we’ll support those books with more than just words.

P.S. Does it matter where you buy your copy? It does. local bricks-and-mortar bookstores are essential in getting all kinds of books in front of readers. Pre-ordering from an indie helps a book by a) making it more likely that title will land on the bestseller list and b) letting indie booksellers know that this is a book they’ll want to hand sell. Varian Johnson will also be signing copies of THE GREAT GREENE HEIST pre-ordered from one of his local independent bookstores, and I’ll add details about that soon.

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  1. Posted April 27, 2014 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    This is a terrific idea. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this book before. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. Posted April 27, 2014 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Great post and a wonderful call to action. I’ll be ordering my copy from my local indy bookstore. Looking forward to reading!

  3. Posted April 27, 2014 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    I do buy lots, and this is one way to share more, to let the Indies know we do consider books about many kinds of kids are important. Just shared that I want to read this on goodreads, will call the Indie tomorrow! (This small Indie doesn’t do online ordering.) Thanks for this.

  4. Mike Jung
    Posted April 28, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    I just pre-ordered my copy.

  5. Kathleen Trail
    Posted April 28, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Yay! Love Varian’s books – order placed with Book People!

  6. Cecilia
    Posted April 28, 2014 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    Anyone in DC or Northern VA can preorder by calling Hooray For Books! a local indie bookstore in Alexandria. 703-548-4094

  7. Teresa Bunner
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    I do buy books like this one. All the time. Pretty much all out of my pocket. And I give most of them away. But there still aren’t enough out there. I work with 130 kids of color. I want them to see themselves in a wide array of titles. I want them to have the choice to read about a character that looks like them or doesn’t look like them. Right now, the choices are limited.

  8. Posted April 29, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Anyone interested in a signed copy can order from The Book Spot in Round Rock, a local indie just down the road from Varian. You can call (512) 351-3284 or go online to order at

  9. Posted April 30, 2014 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    I was contacted by my Indie Store-The Tattered Cover-Denver’ and they are going to join the challenge! Thought you’d like to know!

  10. Posted May 1, 2014 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    We’re in!
    -Brookline Booksmith

  11. Posted May 1, 2014 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Just pre-ordered 2 from 8 Cousins, my favorite local indie!

5 Trackbacks

  • […] was DELIGHTED to read Kate Messner’s post about The Great Greene Heist today entitled “More Than Words: A Challenge for everyone who’s been asking for more diversity in kids’ ….” She issues this call to action, “Speaking up is one great way to ask for change. But […]

  • […] lot more diverse than those items would lead you to believe!  So when the awesome Kate Messner challenged her readers  to put their money where their mouth is, I immediately jumped on board.  And so did author […]

  • By We Need Diverse Books | OneFour KidLit on May 1, 2014 at 7:24 am

    […] Is this an issue that you care about too? Want to know what you can do to help? Click on this link to learn all about it. Read about the lack of diversity in published books, join the conversation on twitter, and put your money where your mouth is by pre-ordering a copy of Varian Johnson’s soon-to-be-released novel The Great Greene Heist which has already gotten a shiny starred review from Kirkus, my friends. Why would buying one book matter? Kate Messner explains. […]

  • […] Editor Yolanda Scott shares some hard diversity lessons learned, Kate Messner urges us to voice our desire for diversity with our wallets, not just our words, while Chuck Wendig tells us why a white, heteronormative dude should talk […]

  • […] head to Kate Messner’s blog for more information, a giveaway, and an opportunity to support your local independent […]

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