If you haven't noticed already, the girl on the cover of CONTACT is Latino. Why? The short answer is because the protagonist, Mira Ortiz, is of Mexican descent. Her romantic interest, David Valdez, is also Latino, an immigrant from Guatemala.
The race of the characters isn't a major factor in the story. It's just who they happen to be. I chose to make the heroes of my story Hispanic because my husband was born and raised in Guatemala, and our children are half Hispanic. Years ago, when I wrote my first novel (unpublished) I wrote about a girl who was half Hispanic because I wanted my children to "see" themselves in my books.
Today diversity in children's literature is an issue of growing concern. In 2013, 3200 children's books were published, yet less than 8% (253) of those featured characters of color (African American, American Indian, Asian & Latino). This doesn't make sense in light of the fact that 46% of kids enrolled in American schools are kids of color.
Part of the problem is that the majority of authors of children's books are Caucasian. [Out of those 3200 books, only 223 were written by authors of color.]
So, getting back to CONTACT...
Kids deserve to see themselves reflected in the stories they read. I'm not exactly sure why there are so few books written for them. Could it be that many kids of color can't afford to purchase books, and publishers generally publish books that can sell? Maybe. Could it be that not enough people of color are going to college to pursue a career in writing? Possibly. I really don't know for sure, though with a little more research I could probably come up with some pretty convincing stats. But I think what we should be focusing on is solutions.
How can we put more books featuring kids of color into readers' hands?
How can we encourage more people of courage to write books?
It's great that authors like me are expanding our minds and writing books for a wider audience of readers. That's a start. But I do hope that in the years to come we will see the numbers change, that it really won't matter what color of skin an author, a character or a reader has at all.
CCBC "Children's Books By and About People of Color Published in the United States" http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp