And I say again: Representation is Paramount
I just finished an awe-inspiring book. You can find my review on both Goodreads and BubblyBibbly.com. It was "King and the Dragonflies" by Kacen Callender. So many tough, serious, emotional topics were handled so beautifully that this was my first 5 star book of the year.
It is written for a middle grade audience, which is comprised of children ages 8-12. But, it is a vital audience. These are the ages when reading can capture a soul. This is the time in life where all sorts of things are starting to happen, some good, some bad, and all a little scary. This is when a group of kids start to become individuals, recognize the similarities to some and differences from others, start grouping together, start avoiding others, and begin to navigate a world of independent thinking.
That is why seeing themselves on the page is so incredibly vital. This is the time to read books about bullying, friendships, family dynamics, grief, race relations, introduction to diverse cultural and heritage depictions, and, a big one, sexuality.
Put yourself in their shoes: Seeing yourself on the page is a literary assurance that you are not alone. That others are going through what you are going through. That what you are feeling is not abnormal. That you will be able to navigate these waters because they are not unchartered.
Books like "King", which presents grief, family dynamics, racism, friendships, communication, abuse, and sexual orientation, all within the safe confines of a book, is the perfect place for a middle grader to be. It is the springboard for family conversations, questions, truth, and unconditional love. It is the place where a parent can share their beliefs, goals, and wishes for their child, and for the child to start to form his/her own beliefs, goals, and wishes of their own. Reading a book is a safe space to learn about others, especially those different from the reader, and grow that one trait that we all need to nurture: empathy.
I read this book in an effort to expand and diversify my 2021 reading list. I cannot tell you how profound it is, how important I think it is, and how vital reading it is. Books like this will make us better people.