Previously, I’ve talked mainly about YA because that’s what I read currently. However, picture books and middle grade books are just, as if not more, important than YA.
At 4 or 5 years old, flipping through picture books, it’s impactful to see people who look like you in those pages. Hearing parents and grandparents read books to you telling the stories of your family, friends, and ancestors shapes your views of yourself and the world.
Patricia Mckissack is the author of numerous picture books: some purely fictional and some presenting the lives of African American heroes in a new light. When I was younger I read her story Flossie & the Fox, and I still remember the feeling these 10+ years later. It’s a narrative that reads like an Aesop Fable or Just So Story about a witty little girl who outsmarts the fox.
Flossie’s character makes this book. She’s sassy, funny, and intelligent. It may be simple: a little girl outsmarts a fox, but the underlying message is that this girl is smart, funny, and quick-witted, she’s the main character, the hero, and she’s black. It’s a powerful message that everyone should read.