Happy & Sad about the NPR Top 100 YA List



This was a pleasant middle-of-summer surprise! NPR asked listeners to vote for their favorite YA novels of all times, and both SPEAK and WINTERGIRLS made the cut. (SPEAK was #26 and WINTERGIRLS was #99. Given that they only chose the top 100, that one was a little close!)

As lovely an honor as this is, it also made me sad. And angry and frustrated. This just might be the whitest YA list ever. And that is saying something, given that children’s literature is far from diverse. A Minnesota teacher blogged about the issues this raises for all readers. Please take the time to read her post – it is important.

If you are going to browse the NPR list, please also browse through the lists that are linked to over at Reading In Color. Pull all of these lists together and then you’ll have a robust resource for YA readers.

This list was announced almost a week ago and it has taken me this long to process what the honor means to me and what the unbalanced representation means to me, too. You could argue that since the nominations came from NPR’s audience, and that same audience voted for the finalists, that the exclusion of authors of color reflects those voters, and is not any oversight on the part of NPR. The fact that in the commentary, the NPR writers admit they had no idea who John Green was (he has FIVE books on the list and has become a YA force of nature) is another clue that the people involved have a lot to learn about the current state of YA literature.

But then I came across this short announcement, dated 8/2/12: “National Public Radio, criticized in recent years for a lack of diversity of its staff and coverage, is using a $1.5 million grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to put together a six-person team to report stories on race, ethnicity and culture.”

Ya think?

I want to give NPR a thank-you, and also some kudos for at least acknowledging that YA literature is a genre worth paying attention to. But I’d like to challenge them to recognize the bias that they are operating with…. and to fix it. We cannot be a great nation unless and until all of our people are always seated at the table.

Contact the NPR Ombudsman and share your opinion.

Share your opinion with me, too. What do you think about this?


I have a couple of tidbits I’ve been wanting to share with you, so get your pens and paper ready.

1. Congratulations to Professor Annette Gordon-Reed for winning prize after exquisite prize for her incredible, important, must-be-read-by-all-Americans book, The Hemingses of Monticello. In addition to taking last year’s National Book Award for Non-Fiction, and the Pulitzer for History earlier this year, it was recently announced that Hemingses was awarded the Frederick Douglass Book Prize, awarded for the best book written in English on slavery or abolition.

2. Christopher Moore, curator of the Schomberg Center and one of the generous vetters for Chains, has written a book with his eight-year-old son Matthew based on a 400 million-year-old boulder that is now in a park near their home in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The book is not published yet, but the story has been turned into a musical, Matthew Takes Mannahatta, which opened last weekend. Bravo!

3. An independent bookseller (who is NOT my daughter) has written an open letter to all authors about the vital bookseller-author relationship. Please read it.

4. The first two books of my Vet Volunteers series have been translated into Japanese!!! Squeeeeeeeee!



  They have ILLUSTRATIONS!! How cool is that?

And that is all the Tidbits from the Forest today.


I know you guys are getting sick of this, but the contest is almost over. Zoe still needs one vote a day, every day, if she is to stand a chance at winding up in abox of Cheerios next year.

When I was a kid, I lived in a house that had the most ridiculous rule in the world: no reading at the breakfast table. This meant that I read the cereal box obsessively. I can still recite way too many lists of ingredients.

When I grew up and became The Boss, I made a new rule: you MUST bring a book to the breakfast table. And now, because all the stars are lining up, one my books – THE HAIR OF ZOE FLEEFENBACHER GOES TO SCHOOL – could be the book that winds up on a million breakfast tables. This is most important to me because a lot of the kids who get a book in their cereal live in families who don’t have the extra money for books. Because of this fun contest, if they eat a good breakfast, they get a free book. That is pretty cool.

But Zoe still needs your vote. Please!


1. Go to the voting page.

2. In the bottom right corner, click on MORE BOOKS twice. (Yes, this is the tricky part. No, I don’t know why Zoe is buried at the absolute back of the pack. Kind of makes you feel sorry for her, huh?) That will take you to ZOE.

3. Click on the yellow box that says VOTE!

4. Notify all of your friends, neighbors, family members, the folks at church or temple or mosque or other house of faith, the rest of the PTA, the people at the firehouse, everyone in your classroom, and tell them all pretty, pretty please with a headful of unruly red hair, PLEASE VOTE FOR ZOE.

5. Do this every day until the end of October. That is only a few more days!