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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Out-of-Print Diversity

There is a perception that we’re all very sophisticated and educated these days, as opposed to the past.  That older books for children have a tendency to be racist or contain outdated ideas.

Not so.

In my *does the math* thirteen years as a children’s librarian I’ve discovered that you can find some real gems if you just dig deeply enough into a library’s backlist.  And just because a title came out twenty or thirty years ago, that doesn’t mean it’s any less forward thinking than our books today (in some cases, more so).

The other day someone asked me a very specific question:  If you could bring back in print any diverse out-of-print children’s book titles, what would they be?

Now the crazy thing is that the first two books I thought of are actually still in-print, albeit in ebook form.  I’ll put them here anyway since they deserve a wider readership.  The first is the delightful Lavender Green Magic by Andre Norton.  Considering the fact that even today I can count the number of middle grade fantasy novels starring African-American characters on one hand, Norton’s book deserves to be better known.


The other novel is Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush by Virginia Hamilton.  A slightly more difficult sell as a YA (a genre that I believe dates more quickly than its younger counterparts) it’s still a compelling read.


Both of those are available through Open Road Media as ebooks, of course.  You know one book that isn’t?  A book that’s about a black, female, space explorer with art from the Dillons?  I’ve mentioned it once before but it bears repeating:


An interior image:


Get more information on the book at Stephanie Whelan’s blog Waiting to Tesseract.

And just to make myself feel old, I’m including here a book that was in-print when I first reviewed it back in 2006 but has since fall out.  The delightful early chapter book Younguncle Comes to Town by Vandana Singh.


I know that there are many other out-of-print diverse books out there.  Can you think of any favorites of your own?

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. I LOVED Younguncle Comes to Town and am so sad I seem to have lost my copy. I seem to recall at least one sequel.

  2. Far and away my students’ favorite book, sadly out of print, is the book about Bill T. Jones entitled, Dance! Susan Kuklin did the photography. This book rivals anything by Mo Willems in my classroom and has every single year!

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Oh yes!!! That book was remarkable. It’s out of print? There goes my mojo for the day.

    • Susan Marston says:

      I am a huge fan of both Dance! and Younguncle Comes to Town (Junior Library Guild still has some stock of Younguncle Comes to Town; Dance! is long O.S.) I am not familiar with some of the others Betsy mentions, but the cover for Lavender-Green Magic looks inviting!

  3. And on a side note, I have a complete collection of every single Newbery winner and honor complete through 2016. However, my first collection attempt was Coretta Scott King books. These are even harder to collect than Newbery books. They typically had a smaller print run, went out of print faster, and sold mostly to libraries. This has me thinking about things like the Edwards award in which titles must stay in print before we can award an author this award. Hmmm?

  4. Gems indeed. And while it’s understandable, it’s always sad to see good but lower-circulation older books removed from cramped library shelves to make room for new ones.

  5. I really loved The Empty Schoolhouse, by Natalie Savage Carlson. It really resonated with me as a kid, and as an adult the indefatigableness of the protagonist, going to school even when no one else was going, has stuck with me as a model.

  6. I’m pretty sure this is out of print but as a child I loved What Mary Jo Shared by Janice May Udry, illustrated by Eleanor Mill

    looks like it was published by Albert Whitman in 1966 , I prefer their cover to the scholastic paperback cover) can’t put either. There were 2 other Mary Jo books as well.

  7. I’d love to see the Everett Anderson books re-printed and re-illustrated. (Maybe all by the wonderful Jan Spivey Gilchrist, who illustrated one.)

    A STEP FROM HEAVEN by An Na, which won the Printz, is OOP. All three of her YA books are amazing and all three are OOP.

    The first volume in Y.S. Lee’s delightful Victorian mystery series A SPY IN THE HOUSE is OOP, though the rest remain in print. But if you want to start reading…

    I think #3 & 4 of Sharon Draper’s delightful early chapter book series SASSY are OOP as well and I love those.

  8. Happy to see some history in the diversity discussions, Betsy. I’ll include my book, “Good Morning Digger” by Anne Rockwell (Viking 2004); urban family, no issues, just slice of life.

  9. Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl by Virginia Hamilton…a favorite

  10. Mona Kanin says:

    Hi Elizabeth; Hello All. I was a children’t librarian at the Boston Public Library in the 70s and we worked hard on diversity then. Since many schools didn’t have libraries, we spent time in classrooms, held conferences and meetings for parents and teachers and developed book lists. So, as is true with many social justice issues, it’s my perspective that we’ve moved backwards and are catching up again. It was such a joy to introduce patrons in Roxbury to the work of Tom Feelings,The Dillons, Virginia Hamilton, Margaret Taylor, Donald Crews, John Steptoe, Lucille Clifton, Pat Cummings (and remind kids and parents about Langston Hughes). Thank goodness, it looks like many titles from these greats are still in print.

  11. Melynda Huskey says:

    *Ashanti to Zulu* was one of our favorites, because of the beautiful pictures. *The Planet of Junior Brown.* *The Egypt Game.*

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Ah, but fortunately I think all of those are still in print. Even Ashanti to Zulu (the advantages of a Caldecott Award, no doubt).

  12. Great selection here and I always enjoy reading what your readers share too, love the comments sections on SLJ blogs, thank you

  13. I’m sad to see Baby Says by John Steptoe out of print. It was always a great story hour favorite and is also a most excellent new baby book.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      YES!!! THIS THIS THIS!!! I think perhaps a Harper Collins treasury of titles may still be in print and contain it, but that thing needs new life as a board book.

  14. On the other hand… Little Black Sambo STILL IN PRINT!

  15. The year that An Na won the Printz was the same year that Linda Sue Park won the Newbery. My Korean son, Max, came up to me after reading both books (I said “reading BOTH BOOKS,” which was huge for him at the time) and asked about sequels for both. It was a wake up call for white me that was so used to seeing myself in books that I forgot to remember my own son and his needs. It breaks my heart that the fabulous A Step From Heaven is no longer in print!

  16. For some truly ancient history, my Little Apple series “Two Plus One”, published in 1991 and now going for $.01 on Amazon, had an African American main character. No big issues, just every day family and school events and challenges, with warm, sweet, terrific illustrations by Nancy Poydar.