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Books kids should be reading now
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Books kids should be reading now

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Books kids should be reading now

Indoors or outdoors, make time to read.

Even if school has to take place at the dining room table this fall, good books inspire learning anywhere..

Making reading a part of a child’s daily routine and having them read about topics they enjoy are key to getting children involved in reading said Beverly Trezek the Tashia F. Morgridge Chair in Reading for the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at UW-Madison.

Madison Public Library Youth Collection Development Librarians Karen Lucas and Jody Mohrbacher offered advice to get reluctant readers excited about books and reading. They said choice is a strong motivator and kids who are encouraged to choose what they read are going to be more engaged readers. Also, don’t worry about reading level; it’s OK if they want to revisit an old favorite at a lower reading level as they often can gain new meanings and insights by re-reading.

Trezek suggests teaching your child the “five finger rule” to select books: have them open a book to a random page and read it; as they read, have them hold up a finger for each word they do not know.

“Five or more unknown words on a page means the book is probably too difficult and may be better for shared reading with an adult,” said Trezek.

Audiobooks are another option when a book’s material is too challenging. Have your child follow along in the book as they are listening to an audiobook or engaged in shared reading with an adult.

Don’t shy away from nonfiction books for your child advises Lucas and Mohrbacher. Some kids prefer reading about the real world. A bonus is that nonfiction reading is likely to add specialized vocabulary words to your child’s repertoire.

As Youth Collection Development Librarians, Lucas is an expert on materials for preschoolers and younger, as well as materials in Spanish and early literacy tips for parents; and Mohrbacher is an expert on materials for elementary, middle, and high schoolers. They shared their suggestions for books kids should be reading now by age and grade level, as did Kathleen T. Horning, Director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, UW-Madison.

Under 2 years old

“Baby’s First Words – Mis Primeras Palabras,” by Stella Blackstone

“Baby’s First Words – Mis Primeras Palabras,” by Stella Blackstone. (Barefoot Books) Learn the words for things you do and see as Baby spends the day with her two dads in this bilingual board book in English and Spanish. Lucas says, “Sharing books written in the language the adults speak most fluently helps babies and toddlers learn the rhythm and flow of language, an important first step toward literacy.”

"Baby Says," by John Steptoe

“Baby Says,” by John Steptoe. (Harper Collins Publisher) Horning says, “An ingenious story told completely using the first three words most babies learn (uh oh, no no, OK), in which a crib-bound baby engages an older brother with a game of ‘drop the block.’ Now back in print as a board book, this is a perfect choice for children from 6 months through 3 years old, and it’s also a great book for older siblings just learning to read who can read it aloud to a younger child.’

"Baby Talk," by Stella Blackstone

“Baby Talk,” by Stella Blackstone. (Barefoot Books) Diverse families love, talk, sing, play, snuggle and more with the new baby. Lucas says, “This book models ways for parents to help their babies develop language skills and strong family bonds.”

“City Critters,” by Antonia Banyard. (Annick Press) Ducks and chipmunks and squirrels, oh my! Toddlers observe urban wildlife in this photographic board book. Lucas says, “Sharing books that feature real-world experiences is a great way to help children make connections and deepen their understanding of what they have read.”

"Egg," by Amy Sky Koster, illustrated by Lisel Jane Ashlock

“Egg,” by Amy Sky Koster. (The Creative Company) Horning says, “The realistic illustrations in this striking board book show seven pairs of eggs, some in nests, some just the egg, as a rhyming text contrasts the pairs: ‘Blue egg./New egg./Dotted egg./Spotted egg…’ Both text and illustrations are designed to engage the youngest children, and there’s a visual index at the back for parents that indicates which species each of the 13 eggs belongs to, making this a perfect first science book.”

"The Old Truck," by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey

“The Old Truck,” by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey. (Norton Young Readers) Horning says, “For parents (and grandparents) who grew up loving ‘Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel’ and ‘Katy and the Big Snow,’ here’s a modern spin on sentient vehicles and the people who love them. Here an old truck slowly falls into disrepair on a small family farm until the family’s daughter grows to adulthood and restores the truck. This deeply satisfying book is one that young children will want to hear again and again — and parents won’t mind a bit.”

"Toot Toot, Beep Beep," by Emma Garcia

“Toot, Toot. Beep, Beep.” by Emma Garcia. (Boxer Books) Toot, beep and honk along with this book featuring all the noises cars can make. Lucas says, “This book is a fun way to introduce more rare words compared to day-to-day conversation and is a great way to grow your child’s vocabulary.”

"The Very Hungry Caterpillar," by Eric Carle

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” by Eric Carle. (Philomel Books) On a warm sunny day, a caterpillar hatches out of the egg, both very tiny, and very hungry. Read along as he eats and grows. Lucas says, “Books with lots of repetition allow toddlers to learn the words and say them with you as you read. This book also allows children to name colors and foods and to count along.”

"The Wheels on the Bus," illustrated by Annie Kubler

“The Wheels on the Bus” (ISBN: 1786281961), by Annie Kubler. (Child’s Play International) Sing the classic song as you see children depicted doing all the actions. Lucas says, “Sharing books that can be sung is a great way to help children hear the individual parts of language, an important pre-reading skill. And doing the motions that go with this song helps grow babies’ and toddlers’ brains.”

Preschool

“Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao,” by Kat Zhang, illustrated by Charlene Chua. (Aladdin) Amy is determined to make a perfect dumpling like her parents and grandmother do, but hers are always too empty, too full, or not pinched together properly. Lucas says, “Playfully illustrated, and written by Own Voices creators, this book is a great reminder that determination and practice are necessary to perfect a skill.” Bonus: the recipe is included.

"A Beach Tail," by Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

“A Beach Tail,” by Karen Williams, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. (Boyds Mills Press) When Gregory and his father enjoy a day at the beach, Dad tells Gregory not to stray from the lion he is drawing in the sand. So the lion’s tail grows longer and longer and longer. Lucas says, “Williams and Cooper explore the universal theme of preschoolers’ wish for independence coupled with their need for security from the parent they can always return to. Also, this is a family story which features a father’s relationship with his young child.”

"The Napping House," by Audrey and Don Wood

“The Napping House,” by Audrey and Don Wood. (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich) In this cumulative classic, a wakeful flea atop a number of sleeping creatures causes a commotion, with just one bite. Lucas says, “This silly take on an afternoon nap employs many words to describe sleeping, including dozing, snoozing, slumbering and more, helping children to grow their listening vocabularies even as they laugh along with the simple plot.”

"Our Friend Hedgehog," by Lauren Castillo

“Our Friend Hedgehog: The Story of Us,” by Lauren Castillo. (Penguin Random House) Horning says, “There’s a strong Winnie-the-Pooh vibe in this heavily illustrated, easy chapter book. A hedgehog searches for her lost stuffed dog and instead finds new friends (including a human girl as a Christopher Robin-type character) who join in her search. The cozy illustrations, gentle humor, episodic chapters make it perfect for reading aloud to 3 and 4 years olds.”

"Press Here," by Herve Tullet

“Press Here,” by Herve Tullet. (Chronicle Books) Children are invited to press, shake, and blow on a series of colored dots to make the dots change colors, get bigger, pop and more. Lucas says, “The interactive nature of this book encourages young children to actively participate in the reading process. This is one of those books that takes creative leaps which can be recreated by kids with some paper, a few crayons and kids’ own ideas.”

"Saturday," by Oge Mora

“Saturday,” by Oge Mora. (Little, Brown and Company) Ava always looks forward to Saturdays, when she and her mother do special things together. This particular Saturday, however, their plans seem to be thwarted again and again. Lucas says, “With stand-out illustrations, this story perfectly encapsulates the idea that even when things are going wrong, you can still enjoy spending time with someone you love.”

"Summer Song," by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek

“Summer Song,” by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek. (Harper Collins Publisher) Horning says, ”With their latest collaboration, Madisonians Henkes and Dronzek complete their picture-book quartet about two children playing outside in each of the four seasons. All the songs of summer are in this volume: the insects, the birds, the thunderstorms, the air conditioners and fans and sprinklers and lawn mowers. And beneath it all is the ever-present green of the grass, and leaves, and weeds, and trees. Henkes invites young children to use all of their senses to observe the natural world, and parents will appreciate that these are experiences that are easy to replicate in the real world, even in the midst of a pandemic.”

"Tuesday," by David Wiesner

“Tuesday,” by David Wiesner. (Clarion Books) Frogs take flight in this Caldecott Medal-winning fantasy adventure. Lucas says, “This masterfully illustrated, wordless book is funny and filled with visual details that encourage repeated readings. Wordless books encourage children to use their own words to tell the story, improving their narrative skills.”

"The Wall in the Middle of the Book," by Jon Agee

The Wall in the Middle of the Book,” by Jon Agee, Jon. (Penguin Random House) Horning says, “A small knight assures us that a brick wall running down the exact center of the book protects his ‘safe’ side of the page from the dangers on the facing page, but the pictures tell a different story. Only readers can see what’s on both sides of the wall to judge what’s safe and what isn’t. The clever design and funny storyline combine to serve as a parable about fear of the unknown, allowing rich opportunities for discussion.”

Kindergarten

"Hey, Water!" by Antoinette Portis

“Hey, Water!” by Antoinette Portis. (Penguin Random House) Horning says, “A young girl makes observations about the water she sees around her, in its many forms: ‘Water can be a lake, it can be steam, it can be a tear, or it can even be a snowman…’ The engaging text and illustrations are grounded in science, and there’s more information about the water cycle at the back of the book. The conversational tone is childlike and engaging, making this a good science book to read aloud.”

"Hike," by Pete Oswald

“Hike,” by Pete Oswald. (Penguin Random House) Horning says, “A wordless picture story follows a father and child who rise before dawn one morning to spend the day hiking on a trail that goes up a steep hillside. There’s some drama in their journey but, most of all, there is a strong camaraderie between father and child that comes through the expressive watercolor illustrations. Children can pore over the details and tell the story themselves by reading the pictures.”

"My Brother the Duck," by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman

My Brother the Duck,” by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman. (Chronicle Books) Horning says, “Stella suspects that her new baby brother is actually a duck but, as a fledgling scientist, she knows she needs to gather evidence to confirm her hypothesis. The Madison author draws plenty of humor from her character’s application of scientific methodology (including consulting a specialist) and misinterpretation to tell an original story about an older sibling accepting a new family member. The incongruity between text and illustrations will inspire plenty of interpretation – and sage correction – from young listeners.”

Early Elementary

"Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson’s Journal," by Jeff Kinney

“Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson’s Journal,” by Jeff Kinney. (Harry N. Abrams) It’s finally time for readers to hear directly from Rowley in a journal of his own. Rowley writes about his experiences and agrees to play the role of biographer for Greg but Rowley is a poor choice for the job. His “biography” of Greg is a hilarious mess. Mohrbacher says, “This extension of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series continues to offer readers humorous situations and more character-building of Greg’s best friend, Rowley.”

"Fox & Chick: The Party, and Other Stories," by Sergio Ruzzier

“Fox & Chick: The Party, and Other Stories,” by Sergio Ruzzier. (Chronicle Books) Horning says, “Three short chapters use easy vocabulary and sequential art to describe three events in the unlikely friendship of a fox and a chick. Each chapters is funny and character-driven, with satisfying storylines that will appeal to children just learning to read independently, and also to parents looking for a good read-aloud story for younger kids. The first in a new series about this engaging duo.”

"Honeybee," by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann

“Honeybee,” by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann. (Penguin Random House) Horning says, “Drawing on the innate drama of the natural world, Fleming and Rohmann recreate the life cycle of a single honeybee from the moment she emerges from the egg to her death 35 days later. Rohmann’s larger-than-life watercolor illustrations give a great sense of bee’s perspective and it feels as though you’re right in the hive or atop a flower with them. The back matter includes a clear diagram of a bee, information on how to help honeybees, and more about different kinds of bees, their dances, and additional resources.”

"Juana & Lucas," by Juana Medina

“Juana & Lucas,” by Juana Medina. (Candlewick Press) A spunky young girl from Colombia loves playing with her canine best friend and resists boring school activities, especially learning English, until her family tells her that a special trip is planned to an English-speaking place. Mohrbacher says, “This is a fun, award-winning series that has Spanish words sprinkled throughout the text and gives kids a glimpse of life in Columbia with Juana and her dog, Lucas.”

"Meet Yasmin!" by Saadia Faruqi

“Meet Yasmin!” by Saadia Faruqi. (Picture Window Books) Pakistani American second grader Yasmin learns to cope with the small problems of school and home, while gaining confidence in her own skills and creative abilities. Mohrbacher says, “This is a great early reader series with a strong girl character written and illustrated by an Own Voices team.”

"Miss Nelson is Missing," by Harry Allard

“Miss Nelson is Missing!” by Harry Allard. (Houghton Mifflin) The kids in Room 207 take advantage of their teacher’s good nature until she disappears and they are faced with a vile substitute. Mohrbacher says, “First published in 1977, it is still relevant today as a lighthearted reminder to show our appreciation to those we value.”

"Rascal," by Sterling North

“Rascal,” by Sterling North. (Puffin Books) The author recalls his carefree life in a small Wisconsin town at the close of World War I, and his adventures with his pet raccoon, Rascal. Mohrbacher says, “This is a great family read-aloud for outdoor adventurers and animal lovers.”

"Thirteen Moons on a Turtle's Back: A Native American Year of Moons," by Joseph Buchac and Jonathan London

“Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back: A Native American Year of Moons,” by Joseph Bruchac and Jonathan London. (Puffin Books) In Native American legend, the thirteen scales on Old Turtle’s back hold the key to the thirteen cycles of the moon and the changing seasons. The poems celebrate the wonder of the seasons, from the Northern Cheyenne’s Moon of the Popping Trees to the Big Moon of the Abenaki. Mohrbacher says, “This is a beautifully written collection of poems accompanied by stunning paintings.”

"¡Vamos! Let's Go to the Market," by Raúl the Third

“¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market,” by Raúl the Third. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Horning says, “Little Lobo and his trusty dog Bernabé deliver goods to the Mercado, allowing young readers to explore an eclectic range of the places, characters, and products he sees along the way. The comics format of this delightful journey offers a visual feast for children as they follow a specific character through the busy streets of the Mercado. Mexican cultural details abound in the humorous illustrations, with many items labeled in Spanish (with a glossary at the back for the monolingual English speakers), and text throughout that naturally and pleasingly mixes Spanish and English.”

Upper Elementary

“Blubber,” by Judy Blume. (Bradbury Press) Jill goes along with the rest of the fifth-grade class in tormenting a classmate and then finds out what it’s like when she, too, becomes a target. Mohrbacher says, “This classic addresses the timeless topic of bullying.”

“The Gauntlet,” by Karuna Riazi. (Salaam Reads) Twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand, a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube. It is up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. Mohrbacher says, “This book has a storyline that is action packed and fun for readers into fantasy and steampunk.”

"Harbor Me," by Jacqueline Woodson

“Harbor Me,” by Jacqueline Woodson. (Nancy Paulsen Books) Six students are chosen to participate in a weekly talk with no adults allowed and they discover that when they’re together, it’s safe to share the hopes and fears they have to hide from the rest of the world. Mohrbacher says, “Kids will be able to relate with the wide cast of characters, their situations, and the emotions expressed. It may also make them wonder how they can be helpful to others in these times of uncertainty.”

"A Long Way From Chicago: A Novel in Stories," by Richard Peck

“A Long Way From Chicago: A Novel in Stories,” by Richard Peck. (Dial Books for Young Readers) Joey and Mary Alice make seven summer trips to Grandma’s — each one funnier than the year before — in self-contained chapters that readers can enjoy as short stories or take together for a rollicking good novel. Mohrbacher says, “Richard Peck is a skilled storyteller and this is also a great family read-aloud.”

“Out of My Mind,” by Sharon M. Draper. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers) A brilliant, impatient fifth-grader with cerebral palsy, considered by many to be intellectually disabled, discovers a technological device that will allow her to speak for the first time. Mohrbacher says, “The author wrote this as a tribute to all the parents of disabled kids who struggle, to all those children who are misunderstood, and to all those caregivers who help every step of the way. It’s also written for people who look away, who pretend they don’t see, or who don’t know what to say when they encounter someone who faces life with obvious differences.”

"Prairie Lotus," by Linda Sue Park

“Prairie Lotus,” by Linda Sue Park. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Horning says, “Hanna’s mama died when Hanna was 12. Now 15, she and Papa have left Los Angeles far behind to start over in the growing frontier town of LaForge, Dakota Territories, in 1880. Hanna’s papa is white but her mama was Chinese American, so the two of them face challenges when it comes to starting a business in town. There are numerous similarities to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books here, many of them captivating but there are also critical, intentional differences. Racism on the frontier is openly acknowledged and examined through Hanna’s experiences and observations.”

"Stargazing," by Jen Wang

“Stargazing,” by Jen Wang. (First Second) Moon is everything Christine isn’t. She’s confident, impulsive, artistic ... and though they both grew up in the same Chinese-American suburb, Moon is somehow unlike anyone Christine has ever known. These unlikely friends become best friends and eventually deal with secrets and changes in their relationship. Mohrbacher says, “Jen Wang draws on her childhood to paint a deeply personal -yet relatable—friendship story that’s at turns joyful, heart-wrenching, and full of hope.”

"The Undefeated," by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

“The Undefeated,” by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Horning says, “Many grown-ups will recognize Kadir Nelson’s art style here from frequent New Yorker covers, and they may know poet Kwame Alexander from his frequent NPR appearances. Their two talents have been combined in an exquisite volume that features an impassioned poem, brilliantly illustrated with realistic paintings. The poem and pictures honor African Americans, known and unknown, who have persevered through time up through the present day. The book won the 2020 Caldecott Medal for its art, as well as a 2020 Newbery Medal for its writing. A book for families to own, to share, and to return to again and again for renewal and deeper understanding.”

"We Dream of Space," by Erin Entrada Kelly

“We Dream of Space,” by Erin Entrada Kelly. (Harper Collins Publishing) Horning says, “Three siblings, all in seventh grade, have different classes, different social circles, and different interests, but they all share a dysfunctional home, warring parents, and a great science teacher, Mrs. Salonga, who is teaching a unit on the Challenger space shuttle in the weeks leading up to the January 28, 1986, disaster. An excellent character study told from three distinctive points of view of two brothers and a sister, all experiencing similar life experiences and school and at home, show children coping in challenging times, trying to find their own place in the world.”

Middle School

"The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge," by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin

“The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge,” by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin. (Penguin Random House) Horning says, “Werfel the Archivist gladly serves his goblin nation as a gracious host to a foreign elfin scholar, Brangwain Spurge, who has been is sent as his own government’s emissary. In spite of their mutual interests in history and culture, the two have vastly different world views shaped entirely by propaganda. The goblin point of view is presented in humorous narrative and the elf’s side of the story is told entirely through intricate line drawings. An imminently discussable and frequently surprising fantasy adventure.”

“Bone: Out of Boneville Vol. 1,” by Jeff Smith. (Graphix/Scholastic Books) In the first volume of a nine-book epic, the three Bone cousins — Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone — are separated and lost in an uncharted desert. Little do the Bones know, there are dark forces conspiring against them. Mohrbacher says, “This is an award-winning graphic novel series featuring an unlikely hero who must save an idyllic valley from the forces of evil.”

"Count Me In," by Varsha Bajaj

“Count Me In,” by Varsha Bajaj. (Nancy Paulsen Books) Told from two viewpoints, sixth-graders Karina and Chris use social media to stand up to racism in Houston, Texas, after an attack puts Karina’s Indian American grandfather in the hospital. Mohrbacher says, “This story shows that Americans come in all colors and explores immigrant identity, xenophobia and hate crimes.”

"The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural," by Patricia C. McKissack

“The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural,” by Patricia McKissack. (Knopf Books) In that special half-hour of twilight — the dark-thirty —there are stories to be told. Mesmerizing and breathtakingly original, these tales are inspired by African American history and range from the time of slavery to the civil rights era. Mohrbacher says, “Kids will get caught up in the suspense of each story and the black-and-white scratchboard illustrations will get imaginations running.”

"Echo Mountain," by Lauren Wolk

“Echo Mountain,” by Lauren Wolk. (Dutton Children’s Books) When 12-year-old Ellie and her family lose their livelihood and move to a mountain cabin in 1934, she quickly learns to be an outdoors woman and, when needed, a healer. Mohrbacher says, “It has the feel of a classic and the writing is excellent. Highly recommended as a read-alone or family read.”

"New Kid," by Jerry Craft

“New Kid,” by Jerry Craft. (Harper Kids/Harper Collins Publishing) Horning says, “A funny and thought-provoking graphic novel details Jordan Banks’ 7th grade year as one of the few African-American kids in an elite suburban school. The 2020 Newbery Medal winner uses pointed humor to portray what it’s like for a new Black student to enter the sea of whiteness and face daily micro-aggressions (and some outright racism). Regular discussions at home with his parents add depth and insight to Jordan’s developing survival skills, and may inspire parent-child discussions with the book’s readers as well.”

"Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You," by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

“Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You,” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. (Little, Brown and Company) Horning says, “This critical book for our time is labeled a ‘remix’ of Kendi’s 2016 National Book Award winner published for adults, ‘Stamped from the Beginning.’ Remix is an accurate description: Reynolds’ adaptation is intimate and conversational, a significant departure from the original compelling but academic tome. Frequently speaking directly to young readers in his distinctive and recognizable voice, Reynolds makes hard truths accessible in the tone of a trusted friend breaking it down with honesty, and even occasional humor.”

"The Westing Game," by Ellen Raskin

“The Westing Game,” by Ellen Raskin. (E.P. Dutton) The mysterious death of an eccentric millionaire brings together an unlikely assortment of heirs who must uncover the circumstances of his death before they can claim their inheritance. Mohrbacher says, “Ellen Raskin creates a remarkable cast of characters in a puzzle-knotted, word-twisting plot filled with humor, intrigue, and suspense.”

"When You Trap a Tiger," by Tae Keller

“When You Trap a Tiger,” by Tae Keller. (Random House) When Lily and her family move in with her sick grandmother, a magical tiger straight out of her halmoni’s Korean folktales arrives, prompting Lily to unravel a secret family history. Mohrbacher says, “This story focuses on making connections in a multigenerational biracial family with a blend of Korean folklore and magic.”

High School

"All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto," by George M. Johnson

“All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto,” by George M. Johnson. (Farrar Straus Giroux) Journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, college years, and the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys in this young-adult memoir. Mohrbacher says, “’All Boys Aren’t Blue’ covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. It can be a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color.”

"America is in the Heart," by Carlos Bulosan

“America is in the Heart,” by Carlos Bulosan (Penguin Books) Bulosan’s semi-autobiographical novel reexamines the ideals of the American dream through his life experiences and with other Filipino migrant laborers, who endured intense racial abuse in the fields, orchards, towns, cities and canneries of California and the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s. Mohrbacher says, “Bulosan was one of the first important literary voices for Filipinos in the US.”

"Dragon Hoops," by Gene Luen Yang

“Dragon Hoops,” by Gene Luen Yang. (Macmillan Publishers) Horning says, “Part memoir, part history, and part riveting sports story, Yang opens his witty graphic novel with a confession: as a self-proclaimed nerd, he’s always hated sports. That is, until the day he befriended a high school coach and decided to spend 2015 following and documenting the coach’s championship team: the Dragons. As he relates pivotal moments that spurred each team member forward, he weaves a narrative offering great depth in terms of story, plot, and characters, integrating historical context — about basketball and about society — throughout an account that is also an action-packed sports story.”

“The Hero of Numbani (Overwatch #1),” by Nicky Drayden. (Scholastic Inc.) In the technologically advanced African city of Numbani, in the not-so-distant future, humans live in harmony with humanoid robots known as omnics. But when a terrorist tries to shatter that unity, a hero named Efi Oladele rises! Mohrbacher says, “This action-packed novel features the fan-favorite characters Efi, Orisa, Doomfist, and Lúcio in an all-new, original story straight from the minds of the Overwatch game team.”

"Native Son," by Richard Wright

“Native Son,” by Richard Wright. (HarperCollins) Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright’s novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and what it means to be Black in America. Mohrbacher says, “This widely acclaimed and powerful novel reflects the forces of poverty, injustice, and hopelessness that continue to shape society.”

"Not So Pure and Simple," by Lamar Giles

“Not So Pure and Simple,” by Lamar Giles. (Harper Collins Publisher) Horning says, “Del volunteers to join a youth group at church in which his crush Kiera is involved as a way to impress her, only to discover that he’s unwittingly committed to a Purity Pledge: no sex until marriage. This fast-moving novel never loses its sense of humor as it asks essential questions about the sense of male entitlement that permeates Del’s perspective, and the damaging impact of toxic masculinity in our culture on boys and men, as well as girls and women.”

"Persepolis," by Marjane Satrapi

“Persépolis,” by Marjane Satrapi. (Pantheon Books) In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages 6 to 14, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. Mohrbacher says, “Persépolis provides a window for teens to experience and empathize with others outside of their immediate world.”

"The Poet X," by Elizabeth Acevedo

“The Poet X,” by Elizabeth Acevedo. (HarperTeen) This novel-in-verse is about Afro-Latina Xiomara Batista who discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Mohrbacher says, “Since debuting with ‘The Poet X,’ Acevedo has won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the Michael L. Printz Award, the Pura Belpré Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and the Walter Award. She has written two more books that are also very popular, ‘With the Fire On High’ and ‘Clap When You Land.’”

"The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh," by Candace Fleming

“Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh,” by Candace Fleming. (Penguin Random House) Horning says, “There’s a lot of amazing, well researched nonfiction being written for teens today, and one of the best examples is this biography of a flawed American hero. Fleming’s well documented account is written with grace and fluidity as she presents all the dimensions of Lindbergh — the quiet, courageous American hero, the romantic, the family man who suffered an unspeakable tragedy, the recluse, the Nazi sympathizer, the racist and the traitor. It’s a fascinating study of a complex man who was not the hero he has been portrayed to be.”

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