Guest Post: Karen Leggett Abouraya

Happy Summer and welcome June! In keeping with this month’s theme – Diversity – we are fortunate to have Karen Leggett Abouraya’s contribution to ATEB!

Karen Leggett Abouraya, a member of SCBWI MD/DE/WV, is a veteran journalist and children’s author who lives in Silver Spring, MD. Her first book, Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books, written in collaboration with illustrator Susan L. Roth, won a CABA award in 2013.  Karen is also the author of the picture book biography, Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words and an active member of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, D.C. @LeggettAbouraya facebook./com/handsaroundthelibrary

Take it away, Karen~~

Gene Luen Yang was a programmer and cartoonist who is now the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Comics continue to be his first love and perhaps that is why he is asking us all to Read Without Walls this year.

1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you.

2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about.

3. Read a book in a format that you don’t normally read for fun. This might be a chapter book, a graphic novel, a book in verse, a picture book, or a hybrid book.

Number 3 seems especially apt for Yang since he was reading and writing comic books long before they became an accepted genre of their own as graphic novels!

The winners of the Children’s Africana Book Award often fit into some or all of these categories, and this year the CABA award is celebrating its 25th anniversary. There will an elegant celebration dinner on Friday evening, November 3, and a free family festival on Saturday at the Smithsonian Museum of African Art.

Founder Brenda Randolph, now Outreach Director for Howard University’s Center for African Studies, created the award to spread the word about accurate, balanced children’s books about Africa – books that acknowledge first and foremost that Africa is not a country.  Awards are presented in two categories – young children and older readers. Let’s take a quick look at this year’s winners:

Gizo-Gizo! A Tale From the Zongo Lagoon.  (Ghana) Emily Williamson with the students and teachers of the Hassaniyya Quranic School in Cape Coast Ghana. Legon-Accra: Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2016. (African Books Collective, distributor) – The story of a lazy spider named Gizo-Gizo grew out of Williamson’s work teaching local students about local water and environmental concerns.

The Storyteller(Morocco) Evan Turk. New York, Atheneum, 2016.  Evan Turk wrote and illustrated this picture book about the power of a tale well told.

Amagama Enkululeko! Words for Freedom: Writing Life Under Apartheid. (South Africa) Equal Education, Muizenberg, South Africa. Cover2Cover, 2016. (African Books Collective, distributor) This mix of famous and often forgotten writers tackles the history of colonialism and apartheid.

HONOR BOOKSdetails at

Aluta,  Adwoa Badoe  (Ghana) London: Walker Books / Kane Miller, 2016.

Bitter Side of Sweet, Tara Sullivan (Ivory Coast). New York: G.P. Putnam, 2016.

The Boy Who Spat in Sargrenti’s Eye, Manu Herbstein. Ghana, Techmate, 2016.


The World Beneath. Janice Warman. (South Africa) Somervillle, Candlewick, 2016. 

Whenever you are looking for diverse books – to share with children, read yourself or as sources for your own writing –  an excellent starting point is organizations representing particular ethnic groups that have annual literature awards. In addition to the well-known ALA awards, try these organizations:

·      Middle East Outreach Counci

·      Arab American National Museum

 ·      Asian Pacific American Librarians Association 

·      American Indian Youth Literature Award 

 ·      Américas Award 

·      American Indian Youth Literature Award 

 ·      Américas Award 

Consider asking your publisher to nominate your own new book if it fits the criteria and take advantage of the winners lists when you are seeking books about particular cultures or countries. I leave you with poet Marilyn Nelson’s comment in The Horn Book Magazine,  “Literature allows us to extend our understanding beyond ourselves; it asks us whether we can understand others. Literature teaches us empathy.”

About Susan Mannix

Susan worked as a biomedical research editor for the Department of the Navy for fourteen years and has been a member of SCBWI since 2007. She writes young adult and middle grade novels. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time doing all things horses, including attending her teenaged daughters’ many competitions. Susan lives in Maryland on a small farm with her husband, two children, an adorable black lab, two cats, and three horses.
This entry was posted in Awards, Guest Contributors, Writing Tips. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Guest Post: Karen Leggett Abouraya

  1. schmelzb says:

    Thank you, Karen. I found the Read Without Walls bookmarks at my local bookstore: Old Fox Books in Annapolis on Maryland Avenue. I was there to hear a book talk by SCBWI member Leah Henderson’s about her debut MG novel “One Shadow on the Wall” about a boy from Senegal.
    I used to work with Brenda Randolph Montgomery County,MD, who has always been a cheerleader for Diverse Books. Great work sharing great children’s literature with us! I wrote your quote from Marilyn Nelson in my Bullet Journal. Beth Schmelzer

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