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By Myriam Dumont, North Vancouver teacher-librarian

When choosing books for my elementary school library last year, I made a commitment that at least

50% of my collection would be by authors and illustrators who identify as BIPOC. When I inherited this library and did an informal equity audit, the results made it clear that our collection lacked diversity. The books we had were primarily written and illustrated by White authors and illustrators. We needed more diverse representation in the stories that were being told.

When purchasing books, I consider first and foremost the author and illustrator as well as the story and the characters. Whose voices are being centred? Who is being left out? Are characters fitting into a problematic stereotype? If I don’t have enough books written by authors with disabilities, then it becomes a priority for me to seek those out. If my books featuring BIPOC characters are primarily ones where there is a struggle and obstacles to overcome, then I need to find more stories that center voices and storylines of characters who are thriving.

Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron


I eagerly anticipated this novel, the first in a new series from well-known author Rena Barron. The book is a middle school novel based on West African mythology. It features a Black girl from the south side of Chicago who discovers that her father is the guardian between our world and the mysterious Dark World. This book is a page turner that received the following review from a Grade 7 student at my school last year:

“I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up until 11:00 p.m. last night and read the entire thing!“

There is so much great diversity embedded in the story, including a friend with two moms and a principal who uses “they, their, and them” pronouns. This book is a must for all elementary and secondary school libraries.

There is so much great diversity embedded in the story, including a friend with two moms and a principal who uses “they, their, and them” pronouns. This book is a must for all elementary and secondary school libraries.

Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang, illustrated by Charlene Chua

amy wu and perfect bao

This book has been a school favourite since it was added to our library last year. The young protagonist in the story struggles to make the “perfect bao.” What I love about her journey is that it is a great example of what growth mindset looks like. She is really struggling but keeps on trying until, one day, she achieves her goal. The picture book ends with a recipe for bao dough and filling. Every time I read it, many of our Chinese Canadian students’ faces light up. You can see them making a connection to the story. They see themselves represented, and they are so proud to tell classmates how they make bao in their homes. The illustrations are also beautifully done. This is an essential book for all elementary school libraries.

Johnny’s Pheasant by Cheryl Minnema, illustrated by Julie Flett


Johnny’s Pheasant is based on the author’s childhood memories of her brother and grandmother. When Johnny and his grandmother spot what appears to be a dead pheasant that has been hit by a car, they decide to bring it home and use its feathers for craftwork. The pheasant turns out to be alive. What follows is a sweet story of a new connection between a child and a bird. Cheryl Minnema is Ojibwe and born in Minneapolis. Julie Flett, one of my favourite illustrators, is Cree-Métis and lives in Vancouver.

Land of Cranes by Aida Salazar

Land of Cranes is Aida Salazar’s newest book. Written in verse, it tells the story of Betita, a nine-year-old Latinx girl whose family has fled to Los Angeles to escape violence in Mexico. One day, Betita’s father is arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and deported to Mexico. Betita is left alone with her mother, who is pregnant. Soon after, they too are detained. Land of Cranes is a story of survival and struggle in a family detention camp. The story is powerful, moving, and necessary for children to read. It is a must-have for all libraries. Salazar’s new book would also make an excellent read-aloud for teachers to engage students in current events and social justice issues.

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