I am an elementary school librarian in an urban setting in Massachusetts. Through the work of creating a more representative and inclusive library collection for my students, I learned a lot about the politics of the publishing industry, the accepted institutional racism and purposeful exclusion of communities in books and that we should be outraged at the continued disenfranchisement of our children.
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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Series of Series: EllRay Jakes

Students in my library love series fiction. Teachers and parents sometimes will grumble when students read series but the truth is, series fiction allows a reader to feel successful. Readers can anticipate the story arc, get to know characters and make viable predictions...they can really flex those reading and fluency muscles and feel good about it!

This will be a first post in a "Series of Seriesthat have primary characters of color. I will be posting series fiction and a few words and reviews about them. Today I will focus on, "EllRay Jakes", written by Sally Warner. This is a popular series with relatively high circulation in my library, especially among 3rd and 4th grade boys. I've used these books to help coax some kids to get their nose out of the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid".

Ellray Jakes is a funny, likable 8 year old boy with broad appeal. He deals with problems that many children in school deal with, bullies, stage fright and being unsure of himself. EllRay is a character we can sympathize with. There are currently 5 books in the series, "EllRay Jakes is Not a Chicken", "EllRay Jakes is a Rockstar", "Ellray Jakes Walks the Plank", "EllRay Jakes the Dragon Slayer" and "EllRay Jakes and the Beanstalk".

School Library Journal reviewed the first book in the series back in 2012:

"EllRay Jakes is Not a Chicken is just the first in a long line of EllRay Jakes books to come....My hope, above all, is that EllRay paves the way for other books about other present day African-American boys. Preferably short, funny stories like these that give kids new heroes to grapple with. Writing such books isn't easy, but I've always felt that aside from easy readers, early chapter titles are the hardest and most rewarding books to make for kids. And rewarding isn't a bad word to use in conjunction with EllRay here. Better check him out."

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