This seems to happen with even greater frequency with books by and about people of color and First Native/Nations. Joseph Bruchac's memoir Bowman's Store: A Journey to Myself was published by Dial in 1997 and went out of print so fast it never had time to find its audience or work its way into the secondary curriculum -- and this in a time when teachers were crying out for authentic books about First Native/Nations for their classrooms. Luckily, Lee & Low managed to bring it back into print just four years after its original publication, and it's been in print and available from them since 2001.
Just this fall Lee & Low has brought back into print another great book, Mama and Papa Have a Store by Amelia Lau Carling (as well as the Spanish language version La tienda de mamá y papá, with the translation by Carling as well). This exceptional picture book recounts part of the author/illustrator's early childhood in Guatemala as a member of a second generation Chinese immigrant family. It was originally published by Dial in 1998 and it won the Américas Award, as well a Pura Belpré Honor for illustration in 2000. In the early years of the award, there were so few Latinx books that the Belpré Award was given every two years so there would be a large enough pool from which to choose. And there were times when one of the awardees would already be out of print by the time the award was announced.
I always want to buy John Steptoe's brilliant picture book Baby Says (Harper, 1988) as a gift for every new baby I know. But I can't because it's been out of print for years and I can't afford the $47.50 used book dealers are asking for for it on Amazon. It's a shame Harper never had the foresight to issue it as a board book. They wouldn't even need to change the trim size or truncate the text. How can we let publishers know that we want these books when we can no longer buy them to demonstrate that? Diverse books need to stay in print longer than they currently do, and they need to be available in paperback and board book editions, too.
With this in mind, we're launching a new series on Reading While White called "Bring It Back!" We hope to call attention to the great #OwnVoices books we have on our library shelves which have all too quickly disappeared from the stores and warehouses. Because it's not just that #WeNeedDiverseBooks. #WeNeedDiverseBooksToStayInPrint.