The response to our recent list of Culturally Diverse books has been passionate and engaging. Many SLJ readers pointed out the lack of titles focusing on Native American culture—particularly titles by Native authors and illustrators. Others implored the editors to take a closer look at wonderful new books being published by small and independent presses. Some educators and librarians questioned the organization of the list and mused about the problematic nature of dividing multicultural literature into categories such as “specific,” or “neutral.” Many librarians responded on Twitter and other social media by offering specific title suggestions.
Below is an expanded list based on those suggestions as well as favorite new titles selected by Betsy Bird, K.T. Horning, the editors at the Horn Book, and other experts in the field. (Annotations are excerpted from SLJ reviews, except where noted.)
We encourage our readers to continue to post great title recommendations in the comments section.
MORALES, Yuyi. Niño Wrestles the World. illus. by author. 40p. glossary. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781596436046. LC 2012012989.
K-Gr 2–Playing alone in his room, Niño dons his Lucha Libre mask and lets his imagination take flight. (According to an endnote, Lucha Libre is a dramatic form of professional wrestling followed by fans in Mexico.) The young hero is then ready to take on an eclectic cast of monstrous opponents. Spurred on by chanting crowds, the boy handily defeats the Guanajuato Mummy (La Momia de Guanajuato), Olmec Head (Cabeza Olmeca), and the Weeping Woman (La Llorona), using a variety of clever strategies. In comic-book fashion, the bold portrayal of each match includes dialogue bubbles and sound effects printed in decorative fonts (“whunk,” “bloop,” “krunch”). The endpapers feature amusing profiles of the competitors. Captivated youngsters will cheer for Niño as he takes on each opponent in this action-packed story.—Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston, MA.
TINGLE , Tim. How I Became a Ghost. RoadRunner Press. 2013. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781937054533.
Gr 7 Up –Told from the perspective of Isaac, a Choctaw boy who does not survive the Trail of Tears, this is a tale of innocence and resilience in the face of tragedy. Isaac leads a remarkable foursome of Choctaw comrades: a tough-minded teenage girl, a shape-shifting panther boy, a lovable five-year-old ghost who only wants her mom and dad to be happy, and Isaac’s talking dog, Jumper.—from publisher.
WILLIAMS-GARCIA, Rita. P.S. Be Eleven. HarperCollins/Amistad. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780061938627; lib. ed. $17.89. ISBN 9780061938634; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062208507.
Gr 4-7 –The Gaither sisters return to Brooklyn after their revolutionary experiences in One Crazy Summer (HarperCollins, 2010). Armed with poetry and Black Panther pride, the girls contend with Big Ma’s rules, Uncle Darnell’s homecoming from Vietnam, and Pa’s lady friend. Authentic details bring late-1960s Brooklyn to vivid life, while laugh-out-loud drama delights.—Best Books 2013
FLETT, Julie. Wild Berries. trans. by Earl N. Cook. illus. by author. 32p. Simply Read Bks. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781897476895.
PreS to Gr 3—Spend the day picking wild blueberries with Clarence and his grandmother. Meet ant, spider, and fox in a beautiful woodland landscape, the ancestral home of author and illustrator Julie Flett. This book is written in both English and Cree, in particular the n-dialect, also known as Swampy Cree from the Cumberland House area.—from publisher.
POWELL, Patricia Hruby. Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. illus. by Christian Robinson. 104p. bibliog. further reading. Chronicle. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452103143. LC 2012030440.
Gr 5-8–This charming biography invites readers to step inside the vibrant and spirited world of performer and civil rights advocate, Josephine Baker. Robinson’s paintings are as colorful and rich as Josephine Baker’s story, offering page after page of captivating and animated illustrations and rhythmic text, which is written in blank verse. In a few short and well-organized parts, readers learn the story of one of the world’s most well known female performers who danced and sang her way from the poor and segregated streets of St. Louis to the dazzling stages of Paris all the way to Carnegie Hall.–Natalie Braham, Denver Public Library
ALEXANDER, Kwame.The Crossover. 240p. Houghton Harcourt. Mar. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544107717. LC 4500437263.
Gr 6-10–A middle school story through and through, it follows twin brothers and the inevitable break that comes when they start to grow apart. Finding contemporary African-American teen boy fare where the book isn’t just the usual overdone urban stereotypes is incredibly hard sometimes. Plus it’s hard not to love the power and energy of the writing. A verse novel kids are really going to enjoy.—Betsy Bird
NERI , G. Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty. illus. by Randy DuBurke. Lee & Low. 2010. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781584302674.
Gr 6 Up–Heartbreaking and smart as a whip all at once, Neri’s book dares to ask what makes a kid “good” or ‘bad”. Takes a real life incident and gives it a special twist. A beautifully drawn graphic novel.—Betsy Bird
OKORAFOR-MBACHU, Nnedi. Akata Witch. 352p. Penguin. 2011. ISBN 9780670011964.
Gr 5 Up—Why is it that magic always has to be European? If you’re tired of wizards in castles, this is the book for you. Smart, with a plot that’ll keep you guessing from page one onward, Okorafor-Mbachu’s book is one of those titles I honestly would use the phrase “undiscovered gem” to describe. Trust me when I say you have NEVER seen a book like this one before.—Betsy Bird
PERKINS, Mitali. Bamboo People. Charlesbridge. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781580893282.
Gr 7-10—While this probably isn’t the first book on Burmese child soldiers we’ve seen, it may well be the best. In a time when every other novel for teens is just a reiteration of an idea we’ve seen done a hundred ways before, here we have at least one book that knows that being important and being enjoyable are simply opposite sides of the same coin.—Betsy Bird
UEHASHI, Nahoko. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. tr. from Japanese by Cathy Hirano. Scholastic/Arthur Levine Bks. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545005425.by Nahoko Uehashi (ill. Yuko Shimizu)
Gr 5 Up—People will tell you that boys won’t read novels with girls on the cover. Not even one with a full repertoire of kicks, punches, dodges, and feints at her disposal. This is not always true but it is often the case (I’ve seen it first-hand). Moribito, in spite of its thirty-year-old female protagonist, may have an advantage over other books though, in part because the Moribito series (ten books in total) is very popular in Japan. The first book was even adapted into an anime series, and that’s something you can talk up. Plus it’s awesome.—Betsy Bird
AlliE Bruce, Bank Street College of Education:
THONG, Roseanne Greenfield. Round Is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes. illus. by John Parra. 40p. glossary. Chronicle. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452106168.
PreS-Gr 2–This picture book in rhyme focuses on everyday things–a square for a park, a round pot of stew, a rectangle for the scoreboard at the baseball game. All of the shapes and activities reflect Hispanic culture–stars are for parties and the celebration depicted is a fiesta. Round is a sombrero; squares are ventanas, or windows; and triangles are for chips and guacamole. –Susan Lissim, Dwight School, New York City
SHETH, Kashmira. Tiger in My Soup. illus. by Jeffrey Ebbeler. 32p. Peachtree. 2013. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781561456963. LC 2012025539.
PreS-Gr 1—An unnamed narrator is left in the care of his older sister while their parents are away for the day. Although he asks her to read him a book about a tiger, she would rather read her own book. He captures her attention long enough to get her to heat up some alphabet soup, but she then tunes him out and doesn’t even notice when a tiger rises up out of the steaming bowl. The boy uses a spoon, chair, and other handy utensils to fend off the raging beast until his sister finally puts down her book and agrees to read to him. But her tiger roar is so convincing that he vows to keep a watchful eye on her as he finishes his soup.—Martha Simpson, Stratford Library Association, CT
HILL, Laban Carrick. When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop. illus. by Theodore Taylor III. 32p. bibliog. chron. websites. Roaring Brook. A2013. RTE $17.99. ISBN 9781596435407.
Gr 3–5—As a child in Jamaica, Clive Campbell aspired to be a DJ. At 13, he moved to the Bronx, where he gained the nickname Hercules because he grew to be more than six feet tall. He shortened the name to Herc, added Kool, and is credited as a pioneer of hip hop. He created a new art form for his parties when he plugged in two turntables to create longer breaks for dancing and began chanting the names of his friends during the breaks. Hill’s descriptive writing is paired with Taylor’s vibrant artwork, which features large crowds dancing, close-up shots of breakdancing, or Herc’s hands masterfully spinning the dual turntables.—Glynis Jean Wray, Ocean County Library, Toms River, NJ
TINGLE , Tim. How I Became a Ghost. RoadRunner Press. 2013. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781937054533.
ABIRACHED, Zeina. A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return. tr. from French by Edward Gauvin. illus. by author. 192p. diags. maps. Lerner/Graphic Universe. 2012. PLB $29.27. ISBN 9780761385684; pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781575059419; ebook $21.95. ISBN 9781467700474. LC 201103891.
Gr 5 Up–Zeina and her younger brother are growing up in Beirut, where civil war is a part of daily life. To protect against strikes and sniper fire, the family’s living space has been reduced to the relative security of their apartment foyer, where a rug hanging on the wall, depicting Moses and the Hebrews fleeing Egypt, figures predominantly as a story background. This account chronicles one day in their lives, as the siblings await their parents’ return and neighbors come and spend time with them, building an island of sanctuary for the children during this time of uncertainty. Bold, graphic, black-and-white images are visually and emotionally striking. Circular images of an embracing family contrast with the stark linear images of a war-torn country. Warmth and humor of daily life is shown in baking and storytelling, and wedding-dress close-ups touchingly highlight a mother’s worry over soiling the hem, masking her worry over sniper fire.–Babara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, NY
ELLIOTT, Zetta. A Wish After Midnight. 288p. AmazonEncore. 2010. ISBN 9780982555057.
Gr 6 Up–Genna is a fifteen-year-old girl who wants out of her tough Brooklyn neighborhood. But she gets more than she bargained for when a wish gone awry transports her back in time. Facing the perilous realities of Civil War–era Brooklyn, Genna must use all her wits to survive. An affecting and inspiring tale of a fearless young woman’s fight to hold on to her individuality and her humanity in two different worlds.–from publisher
the Good Comics for Kids bloggers:
DAUVILLIER, Loïc. Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust. illus. by Marc Lizano. First Second. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781596438736.
Gr 1-5—A young Jewish girl living in Paris during the Nazi occupation finds her world turned inside out when her parents are taken away to a concentration camp. Her neighbors hide her, then smuggle her out to the countryside, handing her off to strangers to keep her safe at the risk of their own lives. The story is told from a child’s point of view, narrated by a grandmother to her granddaughter in present-day France.—Good Comics for Kids
LEWIS, John, and Andrew Aydin. March. illus. by Nate Powell. Top Shelf. 2013. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781603093002.
Gr 6 up—Congressman John Lewis tells the true story of his rise from poverty and his part in the Civil Rights struggle. Lewis was the son of a sharecropper who grew up in rural Alabama during the time of Jim Crow; this book, the first volume of a trilogy, focuses on the crusade to integrate the lunch counters of Nashville via sit-ins and other nonviolent protests.—Good Comics for Kids
WILSON, G. Willow. Ms. Marvel. illus. by Adrian Alphona. Marvel. 2014. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9780785190219.
Gr 7 up—There are only three issues out of this comic so far, but it’s likely to be collected as a graphic novel by the end of the year. Kamala Khan is a 16-year-old Pakistani-American girl who must contend with the usual high school issues plus the cultural stresses that come with being a Muslim and the daughter of immigrants. Then she turns into a shape-shifting superhero—but she must struggle to control her powers. This series really sparkles, and Kamala and her friends and family are a varied and interesting group.—Good Comics for Kids
MAIHACK, Mike. Cleopatra in Space. Scholastic. 2014. $22.99. ISBN: 9780545528429
Gr. 3-7. This is a fun, action-packed space opera starring a 15-year-old Cleopatra, who has to balance the rigors of her special space academy with her mission to save the galaxy.—from Good Comics for Kids
ERDRICH, Louise. “The Birchbark House” series. HarperCollins.
Gr 5-8-In Chickadee (HarperCollins/Harper, 2012), the fourth and most recent book in this series about an Ojibwa family, Omakayas is now grown and the mother of eight-year-old twin boys, one of whom is kidnapped. As Chickadee and his family try to find one another, Erdrich eloquently imparts Ojibwe stories, history, and knowledge, and, as in the previous books, her own illustrations add charm to the stories.—Focus On column, November 2013
GANSWORTH, Eric. If I Ever Get Out of Here. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545417303.
Gr 6-9–Through an exquisite use of Beatles music, Gansworth connects with readers on multiple levels in this story of Lewis, an Onondaga teen, as he develops a friendship with George, a white teen from a nearby Air Force base. The family and community of both characters figure prominently throughout.—Focus On column, November 2013
LACAPA, Kathleen and Michael Lacapa. Less than Half, More than Whole. illus. by Michael Lacapa. 40p. Rising Moon. 1994. ISBN 9780873585927.
Gr K-3—Tony notices that his skin is darker than Scott’s, his White friend, and lighter than Will’s, his Native friend. Will’s explanation that Tony is half or “less than half” of each culture does not satisfy him. Questioning his aunt, his brother and sister, and his uncle, the boy strives to understand his heritage. Each person offers him a wise answer, but it is his Native grandfather who helps him see that Tony reflects all the colors of his family, and is “more than whole.” Michael Lacapa has used traditional designs in his beautifully stylized gouache and pen-and-ink illustrations; their derivation is explained at the book’s end, along with beliefs and terms incorporated into the text.—from publisher
SMITH, Cynthia Leitich. Jingle Dancer. illus. by Cornelius Van Wright & Ying-Hwa Hu. HarperCollins. 2000. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-688-16241-2; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-688-16242-9.
Gr K-3–Jenna is Muscogee and Ojibway. With the help of her family, she is able to get enough tin jingles to make her dress sing and is able to participate for the first time in the jingle dance at an upcoming powwow. With gorgeous watercolor illustrations of Jenna’s home and suburban neighborhood, this story is an exquisite presentation of present-day Native life.—Focus On column, November 2008
TINGLE, Tim. How I Became a Ghost. RoadRunner Press. 2013. Tr $18.95. ISBN 978-1-937054-53-3.
Gr 7 Up –The ghost is Isaac, a Choctaw boy who dies on the Trail of Tears, yet continues to interact with Joseph, another Choctaw boy who is a shape-shifter. Tingle’s historical novel normalizes Choctaw spirituality, presenting it as part of the fabric of life of those who lived, died, and were killed on the Trail of Tears of the 1830s.—Focus On column, November 2013
the Adult Books 4 Teens bloggers:
LAYMON, Kiese. Long Division. Agate. pap. $15. ISBN 9781932841725.
High School/Adult—How about a book set in 2013 Mississippi that includes another book set in 1985 with time travel to 1964? It sure baffles 14-year-old City Coldson, an outspoken, slightly chubby, African American boy featured in each of the three stories, and he’ll be happy to tell you all about it.–Best Adult Books 4 Teens 2013
ZAMBRANO, Mario Alberto. Lotería. HarperCollins. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780062268549.
High School/Adult—After an unnamed incident leaves Luz’s father in jail, her sister in the hospital, and Luz herself in a care home, the young girl refuses to speak. But she agrees to write out her life story, which she does by cuing each chapter to a card from the Latin American game lotería. A thought-provoking coming-of-age tale.–Best Adult Books 4 Teens 2013
TARTTELIN, Abigail. Golden Boy. S & S/Atria. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781476705804.
High School/Adult—Attractive, charismatic Max is intersex, born with both male and female organs. He’s able to keep it a non-issue until he hits puberty. But after suffering a violent rape, the young man realizes that he must be the one to claim his own sexuality. Teens will love kindhearted Max, whose journey through adolescence is a nightmare few will experience.–Best Adult Books 4 Teens 2013
EXTENCE, Gavin. The Universe Versus Alex Woods. Orbit Bks./ Redhook. Tr $26. ISBN 9780316246576.
High School/Adult—Being struck by a meteorite when he was 10 has made Alex a celebrity as well as a target for bullies. When he befriends the curmudgeonly Mr. Peterson, who introduces him to the work of Kurt Vonnegut, Alex finds that life’s meaning is less about survival than how you live and love.-–Best Adult Books 4 Teens 2013
SOTOMAYOR, Sonia. My Beloved World. Knopf. Tr $27.95. ISBN 9780307594884.
High School/Adult—Sotomayor relates her rise from her beginnings in the South Bronx to become the first Hispanic Justice of the Supreme Court, emphasizing pride in her Puerto Rican heritage, prioritization of education, and belief in the law as a force for protecting community.–Best Adult Books 4 Teens 2013
Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal:
BURG, Ann E. Serafina’s Promise. Scholastic. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545535649; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545549943.
Gr 4-6– In this poignant novel in verse, Serafina, a girl living in poverty-stricken Haiti, wishes to become a doctor. Caught in the middle of the devastating 2010 earthquake, Serafina must overcome both physical and metaphorical obstacles in the pursuit of her dream.–Best Books 2013
LO, Ginnie. Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic. illus. by Beth Lo. 32p. Lee & Low. 2012. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781600604423.
Gr 1–4—Ginnie Lo draws on her own memories to share a sunny tale about the value of family and community. After coming to America in the 1940s for their education, Lo’s parents and Aunt and Uncle Yang were unable to return to China due to war. Isolated and far from home, the two families visited often. The children looked forward to Chinese games, cooking, and language lessons on these visits, along with universal childhood pasttimes like playing hide-and-seek. Out for a drive, the families are delighted to find an isolated soybean field—a food virtually unknown in the U.S. They ask to pick some of the vegetables and excitedly prepare a traditional Chinese feast. The following year they do the same, but invite a few more families. This annual picnic grows until it becomes an important cultural event for Chinese immigrant families in the Midwest.—Anna Haase Krueger, Antigo Public Library, WI
HUGHES, Langston. I, Too, Am America. illus. by Bryan Collier. S. & S. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442420083. LC 2011002879.
K-Gr 5—Hughes’s poem of burgeoning pride in one’s African American identity, written at the height of the Harlem Renaissance in 1925, is interpreted anew in this striking picture book. Collier has visualized the message of the sparely written poem through the lens of a Pullman porter. As the porter cleans up the club car and examines the detritus—newspapers, magazines, blues, and jazz albums left by the train’s well-heeled passengers—flings it all from the caboose. Wafting through time and space, these items fall into the hands of a young female field worker in the long-ago South as well as residents in a contemporary northern urban landscape. The poem’s powerful conclusion—”I, too, am America”—depicts a young boy on the subway with his mother, peering out the window through a readily visible flag toward his unknown but hopeful future. Collier’s signature mixed-media collages create bold, textured images that give tangible expression to the poet’s potent words.—Kathleen Finn, St. Francis Xavier School, Winooski, VT
ERDRICH, Louise. “The Birchbark House” series. Hyperion.
FEDERLE, Tim. Five, Six Seven, Nate! 304p. S. & S. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442446939; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442446960. LC 2012051239.
Gr 5-8– In this follow-up to the multiple award-winning Better Nate Than Ever (S. & S., 2013), Nate juggles being an understudy in a Broadway production of E.T.: The Musical, having a secret admirer, and trying to find a boyfriend for his aunt. Federle’s gentle and positive exploration of the preteen’s sexuality, combined with charming supporting characters and laugh-out-loud high jinks, makes this one of the best new middle-grade series.–Culturally Diverse Books, May 2014
JOHNSON, Varian. The Great Greene Heist. 240p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545525527; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545525541. LC 2013029145.
Gr 5-8– Jackson Greene, a middle-school troublemaker with a heart of gold, concocts an elaborate con in order to help the girl he likes. Johnson’s characters are charming and funny and represent a refreshing diversity of ethnic backgrounds.–Culturally Diverse Books, May 2014
Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal:
Andreu, Maria E. The Secret Side of Empty. 336p. ebook available. Running Pr./Teens. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780762451920. LC 2013950819.
Gr 9 Up–Monserrat Thalia, known as M. T., describes herself as pale white with blondish hair. It’s easy for her to hide the fact that she’s an undocumented immigrant whose family came from Argentina to New Jersey. Told over the course of her senior year, the story reveals a captivating look at the life of one young immigrant and the challenges so many like her face. Andreu deftly captures the protagonist’s desires, despair, and determination in this peek at a side of American life not often seen in YA literature.–Amanda MacGregor, formerly at Apollo High School Library, St. Cloud, MN
Giles, Gail. Girls Like Us. 224p. ebook available. Candlewick. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763662677. LC 2013944011.
Gr 8 Up–Quincy and Biddie are “speddies” (special education students). They have just graduated high school and must live out in the world on their own. After being matched together by their teacher, they are given adult responsibilities:Quincy works at a supermarket while Biddie cooks and cleans for the older woman who is boarding them. Giles has constructed a unique, hard-hitting yet refreshing story with well-developed characters free from expected clichés or caricatures. A fantastic novel that teens will enjoy wholeheartedly.–Christopher Lassen, Brooklyn Public Library
MCCALL, Guadalupe Garcia. Summer of the Mariposas. Lee & Low/Tu. RTE $17.95. ISBN 9781600609008.
Gr 7-9–A Mexican-American retelling of Homer’s Odyssey, this novel focuses on the bonds among five sisters who resolve to return a man’s corpse to his hometown. Odilia, the eldest, is guided by Malintzin–the mythical mother of Mexico–across the Texas border where the girls encounter legendary creatures, witches, and the stark truth of their father’s abandonment. Sprinkled with Spanish words and Aztec traditions, this lyrical tale of magical realism and adventure will resonate with readers.–Best Books 2012
Sedgwick, Marcus. She Is Not Invisible. 224p. ebook available. Roaring Brook. 2014. RTE $16.99. ISBN 9781596438019.
Gr 8 Up–Laureth Peak, 16, has just kidnapped her seven-year-old brother and negotiated her way through two major airports on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and is on her way to meet up with someone she’s only met via email. Her author father, who is supposed to be in Switzerland on a research assignment for his esoteric novel on coincidences, is not answering her phone calls and his precious notebook is currently in the possession of a stranger in Queens, NY. The teen sets out on this quest to find her missing father, with a niggling premonition that something sinister has befallen him. However, Laureth is blind, and she needs the aid of her little brother to maneuver through the streets of New York City, fancy hotels, taxis, and subways. This novel will have readers feeling a creepy sensation on the backs of their necks long after the last page.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal
SMITH-READY, Jeri. This Side of Salvation. 368p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442439481; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781442439504.
Gr 9 Up–An honest portrayal of a family dashed apart by grief and in much need of salvation. David’s family is still reeling from his military brother’s death three years ago, and all but older sister Mara have embraced God as a way to cope. A former alcoholic, David’s dad has abandoned his addiction to the bottle for an all-consuming and unhealthy relationship with religion, talking only through Bible verses and aligning himself with a fundamentalist preacher that promises the Rapture (or Rush) will occur in just a few months. The narrative frankly depicts a teen struggling with finding a balance between religion and his own desires. Smith-Ready respectfully gives voice to those who question their beliefs, while providing teens a fascinating look into Doomsday cults. The protagonist is multi-dimensional and finds fault with his church’s rejection of his gay best friend, but continuously prays to God for guidance. The ending will ring true for those rooting for this family’s redemption.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal
The Editors of The Horn Book:
MESHON, Aaron. Take Me Out to the Yakyu. illus. by author. 40p. glossary. S & S/Atheneum. 2013. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781442441774; ebook $12.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-4178-1. LC 2011050907.
PreS-Gr 3–A lucky boy gets to attend ball games in both the U.S. and in Japan (yakyu is Japanese for baseball). Spreads showcase differences between the two locales, setting up a quiet rhythm that’s thrillingly interrupted when both teams’ hitters get a home run.—Horn Book Summer Reading Recommendations 2013
MORALES, Yuyi. Niño Wrestles the World. illus. by author. 40p. glossary. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-604-6. LC 2012012989.
BUITRAGO, Jairo. Jimmy the Greatest! illus. by Rafael Yockteng. Groundwood. 2012. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554981786; ebook $18.95. ISBN 9781554982066.
Gr 1-3–In an isolated seaside village, a youngster finds direction and inspiration from a caring adult who shares his love of boxing and a carton of books and clippings about Muhammad Ali, which the boy devours and takes to heart. The energetic digital cartoon art packs a punch of its own, balancing humor, grace, and naïve charm.—Best Books 2012
WOODSON, Jacqueline. Each Kindness. illus. by E. B. Lewis. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399246524.
Gr 2-5–A child learns a painful lesson when she and her classmates purposefully exclude a new girl and ignore her overtures of friendship. Rich, impressionistic watercolor paintings and lyrical, understated text create a moving, bittersweet story that offers food for thought for youngsters still learning to navigate their social circles.—Best Books 2012
BEATY, Daniel. Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me. illus. by Bryan Collier. 40p. Little, Brown. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-316-20917-5. LC 2012043088.
K-Gr 3—Beaty tells this poignant, heart wrenching tale of love, loss, and hope. A boy narrates how every morning he and his father play the “Knock Knock” game. He feigns sleep while his father raps on the door until the boy jumps into his dad’s arms for a hug and an “I love you.” One day, there is no knock. Left with his mother, the child deeply misses his Papa and writes to him for advice, receiving a moving letter in return. Collier’s watercolor and collage illustrations enhance the nuanced sentiment of the text. Following his journey from a grief-stricken child to an accomplished strong adult, the lifelike images intermingle urban and domestic backgrounds with the symbolic innerscape of the narrator. Author and illustrator’s notes at the end of the book elaborate on the personal meaning of this eloquent story that speaks especially to children who are growing up in a single-parent home.—Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY
FLETT, Julie. Wild Berries. trans. by Earl N. Cook. illus. by author. 32p. Simply Read Bks. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781897476895.
PreS-Gr 1—When Clarence was little, his grandma / carried him on her back through / the woods to the clearing to pick / wild berries / pikaci-mīnisa.” Now Clarence, around age five, follows Grandma on his own two feet. In Julie Flett’s Wild Berries / Pikaci-Mīnisa, each double-page spread introduces a single line of text describing the sights and sounds—dropping berries in a bucket (tup, tup), observing a fox (rustle, rustle). Each page also uses one word in a dialect of Cree (the “n” dialect, known as Swampy Cree), highlighted in red typeface (a glossary and pronunciation guide are appended). The muted earth tones of Flett’s watercolor and collage illustrations in browns, grays, and reds perfectly complement the quiet tone of the story.—Horn Book post, “All the world’s children,” January 2014
DOMINGUEZ, Angela. Santiago Stays. illus. by author. 32p. Abrams/Appleseed. 2013. RTE $12.95. ISBN 978-1-4197-0821-3. LC 2012041376.
PreS-A boy tries every trick in the book to get his adorable, big-eared, supremely stubborn pooch to move. Toys, a game of fetch, a walk, even a treat are offered to Santiago, who turns up his nose at every one. When the frustrated child screams, “Santiago!” readers finally learn why the pup stays put. A wail issues from the crib in the corner, and the dog and his boy run to comfort baby sister. The large, mixed-media illustrations set against white backgrounds pack much nuance and personality into the canine and human characters.-—Martha Link Yesowitch, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, NC
DOMINGUEZ, Angela. Maria Had a Little Llama/María tenía una llamita. Holt. 2013. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-805-09333-9.
PreS—Maria and her llama smile out at us from the cover of this bilingual picture book, a riff on “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Maria’s tale, told in English and Spanish, is set in the Peruvian Alps. The bold ink and gouache illustrations include plentiful cultural clues: the market, the village, the traditional headwear, and the musical instruments all help to place readers in the setting. The text mirrors the traditional tale (“He followed her to school one day. / Un dia le siguio a la escuela”), and the limited amount of text allows both languages to appear on the same page or spread. Maria and her llama, though, are the stars of this book. Their personalities and their affection for each other shine through. As if to confirm it, the last spread opens to a scene of children, llamas, and local Peruvian musicians playing and waving as they encircle our two stars dancing in the center. This is a scene young children will return to again and again.—excerpted from the Horn Book review by Jim St. Clair
KIM , Patti. Here I Am. illus. by Sonia Sánchez. 40p. Picture Window. 2013. lib. ed. $27.32. ISBN 9781404882997; pap. $7.95. ISBN 9781479519316. ebook available. LC 2012051009.
Gr 2-5—In this visually impactful wordless picture book, Kim tells the story of a young boy who immigrates with his family to a new country. Scared and uncomfortable, the child keeps a seed from his former homeland as solace in the midst of the unfamiliar surroundings, classmates, and language. When he loses it, the youngster goes out to explore and finds new wonders, from the neighborhood pretzel stand to making friends to discovering the rewards of planting old seeds in new soil.—Ted McCoy, Springfield City Library, MA
ISADORA, Rachel. Jake at Gymnastics. illus. by author. 32p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. June 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780399160486.
PreS-Gr 1–A diverse and adorable group of tots tumble, stretch, and perform impressive gymnastic moves in this is short and appealing companion to Isadora’s Bea at Ballet (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen, 2012). The only color in the pen-and-ink and pencil drawings is reserved for the chubby youngsters’ gym clothes and accessories. With an economy of strokes and without being busy, the artwork evokes movement appropriate to toddlers in motion.—Maralita L. Freeny, District of Columbia Public Library
JOHNSON, Angela. All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom. illus. by E. B. Lewis. 40p. S. & S. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780689873768.
Gr 2 Up– Johnson’s stirring prose and Lewis’s stunning paintings tell the story of a Juneteenth celebration through the eyes of a young girl on a plantation in the South. Both joyous and somber, this picture book offers children a glimpse into what life was like for slaves before and after emancipation.–Culturally Diverse Books, May 2014
WILLIAMS-GARCIA, Rita. P.S. Be Eleven. HarperCollins/Amistad. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780061938627; lib. ed. $17.89. ISBN 9780061938634; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062208507.
MCKAY, Hilary. “Lulu” series. illus. by Patricia Lamont. Albert Whitman.
Gr 1-3–Lulu isn’t allowed to bring pets to school or have pets at home. Yet, in each installment in this charming chapter book series, the big-hearted young girl winds up taking care of all sorts of interesting creatures in need, such as a duck, a dog, a hamster, a cat, and a hedgehog.–Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal
LIN, Grace. “Ling & Ting” series. illus. by author. Little, Brown. 2013.
PreS-Gr 1–Lin has created an engaging beginning chapter book about a pair of Chinese American twins. Ling and Ting are real kids with individual strengths and weakness and their own brand of problem solving. The gouache artwork extends the clever and amusing story line, which celebrates the fun and friendship aspects of twindom, while subtly reinforcing the cultural representation.–Culturally Diverse Books, May 2014
ATINUKE. “Anna Hibiscus” series. illus. by Lauren Tobia. Kane Miller.
Gr 1-3–How refreshing to encounter Atinuke’s Anna Hibiscus, a biracial child who lives in an urban “Africa. Amazing Africa.” In chapter books and picture books, the Nigerian-born Atinuke gently and lyrically presents life for a solidly middle-class family, highlighting experiences that help Anna (and the reader) to subtly appreciate differences.—excerpted from the Horn Book post, Books About Africa, January 2014
ENGLISH, Karen. Dog Days. (Carver Chronicles). illus. by Laura Freeman. 128p. Clarion. 2013. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780547970448.
Gr 1-3–It’s tough being the new kid at Carver Elementary. Gavin had lots of friends at his old school, but the kids here don’t even know that he’s pretty good at skateboarding, or how awesome he is at soccer. And when his classmate Richard comes over and the boys end up in trouble, not only does Gavin risk losing his one new friend, he has to take care of his great aunt Myrtle’s horrible little dog as punishment.—from the publisher
NYE, Naomi Shihab. The Turtle of Oman. 320p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Aug. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062019721.
Gr 3-6–In the last week before his family leaves Oman for a three-year stint in Michigan, Aref has a hard time saying good-bye to his beloved home, particularly his grandfather, Sidi. Episodic in nature, friends come to say goodbye; the suitcase must be packed; and Sidi takes Aref for an overnight camping trip, fishing on the Indian Ocean and memorably, to visit a nesting ground for many kinds of turtles. The language is both fresh and lyrical at times, with vivid descriptions of daily life and Aref’s obvious anxiety about leaving.—Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO
KADOHATA, Cynthia. The Thing About Luck. illus. by Julia Kuo. S. & S./Atheneum. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781416918820; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781442474673. LC 2012021287.
Gr 5-8–After a year of bad luck, Summer Miyamoto, her “intense” younger brother, Jaz, their strong-minded grandparents, and the family dog join a crew of itinerant wheat harvesters. Quarrelsome Obaachan does the cooking while gentle Jiichan drives a combine. Readers will root for plucky Summer as she comes into her own in this tenderhearted, multigenerational story.—Best Books 2013
TINGLE, Tim. How I Became a Ghost. RoadRunner Press. 2013. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781937054533.
GANSWORTH, Eric. If I Ever Get Out of Here. 368p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545417303. LC 201202030553.
MEDINA, Meg. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Candlewick. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763658595; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780763663544. LC 2012943645.
Gr 8 Up– Piddy Sanchez just wants to make it through high school, but Yaqui Delgado tries to make life miserable for Piddy. This realistic portrayal of teen bullying features two Latinas against the backdrop of an ethnically diverse Queens neighborhood.—Best Books 2013
PATRICK, Denise Lewis. A Matter of Souls. 192p. Carolrhoda Lab. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780761392804; ebk. $12.95. ISBN 9781467724029. LC 2013017597.
Gr 7 Up–This collection of short stories examines the African American experience from the years just after the Civil War through the Civil Rights era. All of the work is threaded through with spirituality and romance as part of the everyday experience of people, helping to personalize and humanize stories of violence.L. Lee Butler, Stoughton High School, MA
REYNOLDS, Jason. When I Was the Greatest. 240p. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442459472; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442459496. LC 2012045734.
Gr 7-10 –Ali lives with his mother, Doris, and kid sister, Jazz, in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn and spends all of his free time with best friends Noodles and Needles, brothers who live in a run-down brownstone next door. Needles was born with Tourette’s syndrome, and after a particularly bad episode of tics, Doris gave him some knitting needles to focus his attention. The three teens hang out on the stoop and streets, living life and getting into just a touch of mischief. When their friend Tasha gets them into a party–and not just any party, an exclusive, adults-only party–trouble escalates.—Emily Moore, Camden County Library System, NJ
PERKINS, Mitali, ed. Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices. 144p. Candlewick. 2013. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5866-3. ebook available. LC 2012955218.
Gr 6–10—This collection of short tales explores the experiences of young people bridging cultures. Perkins’s contribution is a memoir about the Guy Game she and her two older sisters played. Other highlights include Gene Luen Yang’s comic about boycotting a Hollywood film that appropriates Asian culture. Francisco X. Stork relates unexpected acceptance and support for a gay Latino teen, while in other selections, characters proudly wave a Black Geek flag or grieve the loss of an Arab father who overcame prejudices.—Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Sugar Hill, GA
POWELL, Patricia Hruby. Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. illus. by Christian Robinson. 104p. bibliog. further reading. Chronicle. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452103143. LC 2012030440.
PINKNEY, Andrea Davis. Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America. illus. by Brian Pinkney. 244p. bibliog. chron. further reading. index. CIP. Disney/Jump at the Sun. 2012. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-1-4231-4257-7. LC 2011051348.
Gr 4 Up–Presenting ten biographical vignettes in chronological order — Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack H. Obama II—the Pinkneys create a testament to African American males that, taken together, tells one big story of triumph (a story that, incidentally, spans American history).—excerpted from the Horn Book review by Jonathan Hunt
NELSON, Kadir. Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans. illus. by author. HarperCollins. 2011. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-0-06-173074-0.
Gr 5 Up–An unnamed narrator of a collection of family stories relates stirring accounts of relatives who fought by George Washington’s side, worked in fields and factories, and marched with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Electrifying portraits shed light on the triumphs and tragedies of our nation’s history as reflected in the faces of its people.—Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
NELSON, Marilyn. How I Discovered Poetry. illus. by Hadley Hooper. 112p. Dial. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803733046.
Gr 6 Up—Nelson traces her childhood and developing awareness of civil rights issues in this eloquent collection of 50 unrhymed sonnets. In 1950, her father, one of the first African American Air Force officers, is recalled to duty, launching the family on the first of several cross-country moves. Through snatches of grown-up conversation, she learns of Rosa Parks, Emmett Till, and Little Rock. She overcomes school-yard bullies, wonders about boys, and is humiliated by a teacher who makes her read aloud a racist poem: “She smiled harder and harder until I stood and opened my mouth to banjo-playing darkies….” This hurtful episode only underscores the awesome power of words and leads Nelson to wonder whether “there’s a poet behind my face.”—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
SHEINKIN, Steve. The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights. 208p. bibliog. index. notes. photos. reprods. Roaring Brook. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781596437968.
Gr 7 Up –In the summer of 1944, 50 sailors, all of them African American, were tried and convicted of mutiny by the U.S. Navy. They had refused to follow a direct order of loading dangerous rockets and munitions on ships bound for battle in the Pacific after an enormous explosion had killed more than 300 of their fellow sailors and other civilians working on the dock. At the heart of this story is the rampant racism that permeated the military at all levels, leaving minority sailors and soldiers to do the drudge work almost exclusively while their white counterparts served on the front lines. Through extensive research, Sheinkin effectively re-creates both the tense atmosphere at Port Chicago before and after the disaster as well as the events that led to the men’s refusal of this one particular order that they felt put them directly in harm’s way.–Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA
LEWIS, John & Andrew Aydin. March. Bk. 1. illus. by Nate Powell. 128p. (March Series). Top Shelf. 2013. pap. $14.95. ISBN 978-1-60309-300-2.
BRUCHAC, Joseph. Killer of Enemies. 400p. Lee & Low/Tu Books. 2013. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9781620141434.
Gr 7 Up—Following the coming of the Cloud, which destroyed all technology and plunged the world back into the preindustrial age, 17-year-old Lozen, of Abenaki and Apache ancestry, is one of the few people left with the ancient skills and courage necessary to survive outside the walls of their city, a former prison. Holding her family hostage has given the rulers leverage over Lozen, forcing her to fight the genetically altered monsters that threaten the city and its inhabitants.—Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK
CHAN, Crystal. Bird. 304p. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442450899; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442450905.
Gr 4–6—Jewel never met her brother; on the day she was born, he tried to fly off a cliff and died. Her parents believe that Grandpa’s nickname for his grandson, Bird, caused a bad spirit, a duppy, to trick the boy into believing he could fly. Twelve years later, Grandpa has still not spoken a word and Jewel is fed up with her moody parents and unloving household. She meets a boy who calls himself John, her brother’s real name. They share their hopes and dreams and Jewel opens up about visiting the cliff to bury her worries as small stones.—Clare A. Dombrowski, Amesbury Public Library, MA
DEMPSEY, Kristy. A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream. illus. by Floyd Cooper. 32p. Philomel. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399252846. LC 2013009520.
Gr 1-4—An African American girl from Harlem dreams of becoming a prima ballerina in this beautifully written narrative, which is also a tribute to Janet Collins, who, in 1951, was the “first colored prima ballerina” to perform at the Metropolitan Opera.—Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools
ENGLE, Margarita. Mountain Dog. illus. by Olga Ivanov. 224p. Holt. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780805095166.
When his mother is sent to prison for cruelty to animals, Tony moves in with his great uncle Leo, whom he’s never met. Life in the Sierra Mountains is completely different from his Los Angeles world. He has his own room, a friendly dog who loves him at first sight, and a patient foster father who has much to teach him. Leo is a search-and-rescue volunteer, and his dog Gabe has also been trained to find people lost deep in the mountains. Tony alternates between his curiosity of the nature around him and his fear of loving things he could lose. Engle uses free verse and the voices of Tony, Leo, and Gabe to strengthen the reader’s empathy for the boy, allowing them to feel the struggles that the mountain dog sees.—JLG’s On the Radar, Tough Stuff: Middle Grade Novels Tackle Heavy Topics, September 2013
FLOOD, Nancy Bo. Cowboy Up!: Ride the Navajo Rodeo. 48p. bibliog. photos. websites. Boyds Mills/Wordsong. 2013. RTE $17.95. ISBN 978-1-59078-893-6. LC 2012949009.
Gr 1-5–The history and tradition of the Navajo rodeo are made lively and accessible in this “day-in-the-life” account. Short narrative poems accompany each spread, recounting the anticipation, determination, danger, and excitement of the day. “Big Brahma bull/stands square,/glares./ Big Brahma bull/head down/ horns able/to rip a rider wide apart./Big Brahma bull…/My turn to ride.”—Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library
HIGHWAY, Tomson. Caribou Song. illus. by John Rombough. 32p. Fifth House. 2012. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781897252611.
Gr 1-3—Bilingual in English and Cree, this story of the far north follows a family of four that has a spiritual connection to the caribou of the land. One brother, Joe, plays the accordion (a kitoochigan) and sings while the other, Cody, dances. On a magical day, all of nature aligns and ten thousand caribou come when the boys call. Though the stampede is ocean-storm st