The end of this year, 2020, cannot come soon enough! Our world has seen a pandemic, grief, sadness, racism, poverty, and so much more throughout this last year. At the same time, we have also seen hope, joy, resilience, and love. It truly has been a historic year for us. 

Personally, I am trying to stay hopeful for 2021. It becomes harder and harder as my family, friends, and I have seen some really tough times. My husband always reminds me, “Next year will be better. Next year will be better.” 

One thing that keeps me going is definitely Colorful Pages. The ability to help educators, librarians, and families select and use multicultural books has been empowering and helped me work toward My Why in life. And, 2021 will bring in a new journey for Colorful Pages as we try to grow as an official nonprofit (fingers crossed!) and have been receiving tons of new diverse books to review. 

To try to help add some of that same excitement for our Colorful Pages Community, I have cultivated a list of the Diverse Books That Make Us Excited for 2021. There are 14 diverse books being released in 2021: 5 Picture Books,  6 Early Chapter Books & Middle Grade Books, and 3 Young Adult Books. Big thanks to Indie Bound for providing the summaries that are quoted in this article! Ready, Set, Let’s Jump Into 2021!

Picture Books

Ambitious Girl, by Meena Harris & Marissa Valdez

Age Range: 4-8 years old

Release Date: January 19, 2021

“When a young girl sees a strong woman on TV labeled as “too assertive” and “too ambitious,” it sends her on a journey of discovery through past, present, and future about the challenges faced by women and girls and the ways in which they can reframe, redefine, and reclaim words meant to knock them down.”

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre, by Carole Boston Weatherford & Floyd Cooper 

Age Range: 5-6 years old

Release Date: February 2, 2021

“Celebrated author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrator Floyd Cooper provide a powerful look at the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst incidents of racial violence in our nation’s history. The book traces the history of African Americans in Tulsa’s Greenwood district and chronicles the devastation that occurred in 1921 when a white mob attacked the Black community. News of what happened was largely suppressed, and no official investigation occurred for seventy-five years. This picture book sensitively introduces young readers to this tragedy and concludes with a call for a better future.”

C is for Country, by Lil Nas X & Theodore Taylor III

Age Range: 3-7 years old

Release Date: January 5, 2021

“Join superstar Lil Nas X—who boasts the longest-running #1 song in history—and Panini the pony on a joyous journey through the alphabet from sunup to sundown. Experience wide-open pastures, farm animals, guitar music, cowboy hats, and all things country in this debut picture book that’s perfect for music lovers learning their ABCs and for anyone who loves Nas’s signature genre-blending style.”

We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know, by Traci Sorell & Frane Lessac

Age Range: 7-10 years old

Release Date: April 20, 2021

“Too often, Native American history is treated as a finished chapter instead of relevant and ongoing. This companion book to the award-winning We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga offers readers everything they never learned in school about Native American people’s past, present, and future. Precise, lyrical writing presents topics including: forced assimilation (such as boarding schools), land allotment and Native tribal reorganization, termination (the US government not recognizing tribes as nations), Native urban relocation (from reservations), self-determination (tribal self-empowerment), Native civil rights, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), religious freedom, economic development (including casino development), Native language revival efforts, cultural persistence, and nationhood.”

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners, by Johanna Ho

Age Range: 4-8 years old

Release Date: January 5, 2021

“A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers’. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her little sister’s. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future. Drawing from the strength of these powerful women in her life, she recognizes her own beauty and discovers a path to self love and empowerment. This powerful, poetic picture book will resonate with readers of all ages and is a celebration of diversity.”

Early Chapter Books & Middle Grade Books

Stella Díaz Dreams Big, by Angela Dominguez

Age Range: 6-9 years old

Release Date: January 12, 2021

“In Stella Díaz Dreams Big, by award-winning author and illustrator Angela Dominguez, how will Stella fare when the waters get rough? Stella is happy as a clam in fourth grade. She’s the president of the Sea Musketeers conservation club, she starts taking swim lessons, and she joins a new art club at school. But as her schedule fills up, school gets harder, too. Suddenly the tides have turned, and she is way too busy!Stella will be in an ocean of trouble if she can’t keep her head above water. But with her trusty Sea Musketeers by her side, she hops to make her big dreams come true! Based on the author’s experiences growing up Mexican-American, this infectiously charming character comes to life through relatable storytelling including simple Spanish vocabulary and adorable black-and-white art.”

Yasmin the Recycler, by Saadia Faruqi

Age Range: 5-7 years old

Release Date: January 1, 2021

“Yasmin is thrilled about her school’s new recycling program. But getting her friends to pitch in is no easy task. Will some creative thinking get Yasmin’s friends to be good recyclers?”

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls, by Kaela Rivera

Age Range: 8-12 years old

Release Date: April 13, 2021

“Living in the remote town of Tierra del Sol is dangerous, especially in the criatura months, when powerful spirits roam the desert and threaten humankind. But Cecelia Rios has always believed there was more to the criaturas, much to her family’s disapproval. After all, only brujas—humans who capture and control criaturas—consort with the spirits, and brujeria is a terrible crime. When her older sister, Juana, is kidnapped by El Sombrerón, a powerful dark criatura, Cece is determined to bring Juana back. To get into Devil’s Alley, though, she’ll have to become a bruja herself—while hiding her quest from her parents, her town, and the other brujas. Thankfully, the legendary criatura Coyote has a soft spot for humans and agrees to help her on her journey. With him at her side, Cece sets out to reunite her family—and maybe even change what it means to be a bruja along the way.”

Farah Rocks New Beginnings, by Susan Muaddi Darraj

Age Range: 8-12 years old

Release Date: January 1, 2021

“Farah Hajjar is just starting sixth grade at the Magnet Academy when something terrible happens–her house burns down. Even worse, the house fire may be her fault. When her family moves to temporary housing, Farah feels the guilt piling up. Luckily Farah finds comfort in writing, and she channels her energy into starting a creative writing club at her new school. But can Farah convince her new science-focused school to support it?”

Take Back the Block, by Chrystal D. Giles

Age Range: 8-12 years old

Release Date: January 26, 2021

“Wes Henderson has the best style in sixth grade. That–and hanging out with his crew (his best friends since little-kid days) and playing video games–is what he wants to be thinking about at the start of the school year, not the protests his parents are always dragging him to. But when a real estate developer makes an offer to buy Kensington Oaks, the neighborhood Wes has lived his whole life, everything changes. The grownups are supposed to have all the answers, but all they’re doing is arguing. Even Wes’s best friends are fighting. And some of them may be moving. Wes isn’t about to give up the only home he’s ever known. Wes has always been good at puzzles, and he knows there has to be a missing piece that will solve this puzzle and save the Oaks. But can he find it . . . before it’s too late?”

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids, by Cynthia L. Smith

Age Range: 8-12 years old

Release Date: February 9, 2021

“Native families from Nations across the continent gather at the Dance for Mother Earth Powwow in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In a high school gym full of color and song, people dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. Young protagonists will meet relatives from faraway, mysterious strangers, and sometimes one another (plus one scrappy rez dog). They are the heroes of their own stories.”

Young Adult Books

Concrete Rose, by Angie Thomas

Age Range: 14-17 years old

Release Date: January 12, 2021

“If there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison. Life’s not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav’s got everything under control. Until, that is, Maverick finds out he’s a father. Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. But it’s not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he’s different. When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can’t just walk away. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. He’ll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man.”

The Gilded Ones, by Namina Forna

Age Range: 12-17 years old

Release Date: February 9, 2021

“Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs. But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death. Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat. Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.”

Written in Starlight, by Isabel Ibañez

Age Range: 14-17 years old

Release Date: January 26, 2021

“Catalina Quiroga is a condesa without a country. She’s lost the Inkasisa throne, the loyalty of her people, and her best friend. Banished to the perilous Yanu Jungle, Catalina knows her chances of survival are slim, but that won’t stop her from trying to escape. Her duty is to rule. While running for her life, Catalina is rescued by Manuel, the son of her former general, who has spent years searching for allies. With his help, Catalina could find the city of gold that’s home to the fierce Illari people and strike a deal with them for an army to retake her throne. But the elusive Illari are fighting a battle of their own―a mysterious blight is corrupting the jungle, laying waste to everything they hold dear. As a seer, Catalina should be able to help, but her ability to read the future in the stars is as feeble as her survival instincts. While on her journey, Catalina must reckon with her duty and her heart to find her true calling, which is key to stopping the corruption before it destroys the jungle completely.”

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