“Good children’s fiction cultivates empathy, imagination, social conscience, and historical awareness. Some of the best children’s novels written during the early twentieth century also raise class consciousness—Natalie Savage Carson’s The Family Under the Bridge, for example; socialist E. Nesbit’s Railway Children, Eleanor Estes’s The Hundred Dresses, and the original Mary Poppins books, which are wonderfully critical of capitalism and give magical superpowers to a nanny and her working-class friends.
While the politics of these older books hold up well, it’s hard to miss how very white the characters are. Fortunately, a new wave of multicultural, politically attuned children’s fiction is now hitting the shelves. Thanks in part to a movement called “We Need Diverse Books,” many new novels for middle graders and young adults include more people of color, gay and lesbian characters, ethnic and religious minorities, and the differently abled.”
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