Justina Ireland explores the notion of unfairness in her novel for middle grade readers, Ophie’s Ghosts.  Readers will accompany Ireland on this justice-seeking journey as she asks important questions: How do we live, survive, and thrive in a system that is unjust? How do we remain strong and unbent, willing to do the right thing, even when it puts our own comfort and lives at risk? What are we willing to put on the line in the name of justice that is denied to us? How do we grieve when the ghosts of our loss appear in the everyday suffering of those around us? AsRead More →

Readers of Zara Hossain Is Here accompany driven, intelligent, community-minded social justice advocate, Zara Hossain on her mission to bring awareness to the sacrifices and struggles that immigrants face in the United States. In response, I vacillated between tears, anger at the injustice that brown, non-gender conforming individuals endure, and the occasional sense that some generalizing was taking place under the influence of Sabina Khan’s pen. Without wanting to minimize the challenges faced on a daily basis by someone who experiences otherness, I—a white, heterosexual, cisgender female—couldn’t help but say, “I don’t belong to that hate group, and I am always appalled that people’s coreRead More →

Betita is a nine-year-old girl with a loving family in modern-day America. She enjoys learning new words, spelling, drawing, and playing with other kids her age. What appears to be a rather normal life quickly begins to unravel into fear and uncertainty when her Papi doesn’t pick her up after school one day. After failing to reach her father, the principal drives Betita home. While her mother tries to hide her worry, Betita knows something is wrong, and she soon finds out that the almost-worst has happened. Her father has been deported, leaving her mother, who is newly pregnant, and Betita to fend for themselvesRead More →

Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam have teamed up to co-author Punching the Air, an important book about the cycle of racial injustice that continues to plague this country, especially in regards to the unfairness of our criminal justice system. Readers of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo will likely be fans of this book. Punching the Air features Amal, a sixteen-year-old art student who dreams, writes poetry, draws, paints, and rides his skateboard. On a fateful night, he finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, choices and circumstances that completely upend his life. A fallen angel, Amal—whose name coincidentally means hope—hasRead More →

Kim Johnson’s debut young adult novel is a stunning work of realistic fiction. It joins the ranks of stories written by Angie Thomas, Jason Reynolds, and Jesmyn Ward.  With This Is My America, Johnson uses art as a tool to inspire social action. Drawing on the idealism, perseverance, and passion of her protagonist Tracy Beaumont, Johnson encourages us to use our voices to demand justice and to become advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Rooted in United States history, where we have inherited a legacy of racial segregation and hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, this narrative reminds us that the past is alwaysRead More →

Like a tower built from Jenga blocks, eleven-year-old Piper Trudeau’s former life in Cypress Point, Texas, all comes crashing down after a series of unfortunate events: her parents’ job hours cut, lost jobs, unexpected medical bills, car trouble, bills piling up, and eventually an eviction.  Now, she and her family are homeless and living in a shelter in Idaho—experiencing new places and new people and learning that a rough patch can seem like a “football field full of briars” (39). But this is only one plot thread in Stay by Bobbie Pyron, a novel targeted for middle grade readers that alternates between the story ofRead More →

Jacqueline Woodson’s recent middle-grade novel, Harbor Me imparts how story holds the power to heal because it helps us make sense of the world.  Woodson tells a tale about rising from tragedy and how tragedy not only takes away but bestows gifts. Similar to other novels that use trees as metaphors for survival and interconnected relationships—novels like Hidden Roots by Joseph Bruchac, Wishtree by Katherine Applegate, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith—Woodson’s book alludes to Ailanthus trees with their extensive root systems that help not only to ground them but to lend endurance in harsh conditions. Set in Brooklyn, the native landRead More →

As its title conveys, Smoke in the Sun by Renée Ahdieh swirls with mystery and pulses with energy in equal measure.  A sequel to Flame in the Mist, this companion novel completes the stories of Yumi and Mariko, fiercely independent and competent women with formidable intelligence in a world that expects its females to be submissive, obedient, and coy. Set in Japan at a time when samurai, daiyo, and shōguns defended with honor, this fantasy-adventure focuses not only on the shifting allegiances and political intrigue of the Emperor’s court, but also on other social issues troubling the kingdom.   As a member of the BlackRead More →

For readers who appreciate topics like Arthurian Legend, museum artifacts, bravery, or World War II history, The Metropolitans by Carol Goodman will not disappoint.  Goodman blends these subjects in a time-bending mystery that features four thirteen-year-olds who themselves have endured persecution for their cultural heritage: Madge McGrory, an Irish Catholic; Walt Rosenberg, a Jewish boy; Kiku Akiyama, a Japanese American; and Sose Tehsakónhes, a Mohawk Indian, also known as Joe.  The four form the Brotherhood of the Lost, since they have all experienced the trauma of loss but have found one another, bonding in friendship and courage.  But with those positive traits come their opponents:Read More →