When Kerry O’Malley Cerra, author of Just a Drop of Water, was a teen, she was diagnosed with a hearing problem. She says:
“I tried desperately to hide from it and pretend it wasn’t true. I felt ashamed and insecure. I wish more than anything that I could have met another kid like me, or even read about one. It might have kept me from losing so much of my confidence. And yet, I didn’t discover a book with a character like me until CeCe Bellwrote El Deafo. By then, I was an adult with my own family and had burned a lot of bridges along the way because people simply confused my lack of being able to hear them with me being a snob. I should have admitted my problem. I should have been honest. I shouldn’t have been ashamed. But I was.”
This is one of the reasons that Kerry, along with authors Shannon Wiersbitzky, Shannon Hitchcock, Joyce Moyer Hostetter, and Kathleen Burkinshaw, founded #MGGetsReal, an initiative to highlight middle grade books in which characters face tough, real life issues. Teachers, librarians, counselors, and parents should bookmark this expanding list of titles for use in classrooms, book clubs, and as recommendations for readers facing similar problems.
Kerry explained that they were looking for titles where the MC was facing a realistic problem, even if the book itself fell into a non-realistic genre. The problem itself needed to be a main theme in the book, not just a “sub, sub, sub plot to a larger story.” She also sought to include titles that were as new as possible.
Just a few of the real issues included on the #MGGetsReal list: abuse, adoption/foster care, alcohol and drugs, blended families, body image, bullying, civil rights/integration, death of a family member, depression and mental illness, discrimination/prejudices, illness, immigration, LBGTQ, learning disabilities, poverty, suicide, and war trauma.
Please check out the full #MGGetsReal list HERE, and share it with any teachers, librarians, and parents who might find it a useful resource.