Gr 7 Up–The legendary basketball player chronicles his youth and rise to stardom with candor and wit. Teens will relate to Abdul-Jabbar’s questioning of his parents, teachers, classmates, and coaches as he defines his self-image. Though the elite athlete grew up in the 1950s, much of the political and social climate of the United States remains the same, and Abdul-Jabbar’s encounters with racism in both micro and macro forms will resonate with students.
Gr 7 Up–This insightful and in-depth account of two self-made pioneers of photojournalism begins in medias res with Allied troops during the D-Day invasion. The sweeping text provides a clear time line of other complex and momentous events, especially of the Spanish Civil War. The subjects’ landmark black-and-white photos illuminate this intelligently written and vigorous biography.
Gr 5-8–This revelatory collection of concise and insightful minibiographies covers a range of figures, from Civil War spy Mary Bowser to magician Richard Potter to cartoonist Jackie Ormes. The exceptional sidebars present rich background on other notable figures, proving that the profiled men and women were not singular sensations.
Gr 4-7–By all accounts, Surtsey, born of a volcanic explosion off the coast of Iceland in 1963, was an unexpected arrival. Declared a national preserve by the Icelandic government, it offers scientists the exclusive right to visit—and a rare opportunity to study a uniquely sterile environment. A lucid text and spectacular color photos highlight the stark landscape and the emergence of life forms while presenting an intimate look at scientific teamwork.
Gr 9 Up–In a scrapbooklike anthology of essays, poems, and art, the collaborators once again shed light on the dangerous but also wondrous experience of being a young person of Native descent, this time with a focus on women. The selections tackle violence, sexism, and stereotypes within this diverse community with honesty, creativity, and heart.
Gr 3-5–A girl and her father embark on a trek through the Grand Canyon, observing the different rock layers and flora and fauna that make up the natural wonder. Brief flashbacks to prehistoric times effectively communicate just how vital this gorge is to the Southwestern biome. Chin’s precise, awe-inspiring artwork perfectly conjures the majesty of the national park while also rendering the smallest of details clearly—this is earth science at its most riveting.
Gr 3-6–Luminous watercolor art and evocative text elevate this biography in verse. Cline-Ransome offers a new perspective on a familiar subject, the life of abolitionist Harriet Tubman, through a meditation on the many names she had and roles she played, from General to Moses to Minty. Ransome’s images tenderly reveal both the fortitude and humility of this American hero.
Gr 3-5–Not all leaders are born; some are made—by children and public pressure—as this account of the events leading up to John F. Kennedy’s June 1963 address to the nation emphatically proves. It’s an absorbing account of a president who had written a book about courage but hesitated when it came to taking a stand on civil rights. Striking impressionistic paintings bathed in color and shadows illustrate the volume.
Gr 3 Up–Surprised to discover that the Statue of Liberty is in mid-stride, Eggers explores the monument’s history while musing about her stance, concluding that liberty and freedom are not achieved by standing about: “In welcoming the poor, [the] tired... She is not content to wait. She must meet them in the sea.” This is a moving reminder of a principle our country was built on, illustrated with stunning, symbolic collage art that reflects the nation’s heritage and its diversity.
Gr 4-7–From Tomás Rivera, Pura Belpré, and Tito Puente to Paulina Pedrosa, George Meléndez Wright, and Baruj Benacerraf, the Young People’s Poet Laureate celebrates the achievements of well-known and lesser-known Latinx historical figures in this collection of poetry. López’s joyous mixed-media art joins Engle’s energetic text to create a beacon of pride and history for all readers. Bravo!
Gr 6 Up–In an ingenious marriage of the old and the new, Grimes introduces today’s readers to the words and hard-won wisdom of the Harlem Renaissance poets and creates fresh verses through the form known as the “golden shovel.” Each pairing is matched with a splendid work of art by a prominent African American illustrator. A transcendent and inspiring collection.
Gr 3-8–With candor and sensitivity, Hale relives the highs and lows of her childhood friendships, from the joys of discovering a true pal to the agony of enduring barbs from vindictive queen bees. No nostalgia-tinged trip down memory lane, this immensely relatable graphic memoir is achingly real, with gentle, expressive artwork that infuses it with hope.
Gr 3-8–Harris, with a little help from his zany sidekick Smith, has created a veritable playground for exploring the ins and outs (and absurdities) of the English language via humorous verse, clever wordplay, nonsense, and oxymorons. Each selection is funnier than the one before, and every page turn contains a visual and verbal payoff or punch line in this spirited and highly readable compendium.
Gr 7 Up–Heiligman presents an exquisitely told, heartfelt portrayal of the deep emotional and intellectual bond between the painter and his younger brother, whose support and devotion never flagged, despite the artist’s fragile mental health and his obsessive relationship to his work. Sepia ink drawings and quality color reproductions radiating with energy illustrate this stunning tribute to van Gogh, his art, and brotherly love.
Gr 7 Up–Keenly aware that white heterosexual women have dominated the feminist movement, Jensen has issued a triumphant call to arms for inclusion. A diverse group of contributors address sexual violence, body image, gender identity, and more in this searingly intimate, scrapbook-style anthology of stimulating essays and artwork, whose reverberations will be felt beyond the YA realm.
Gr 6-8–In this thoughtful, conversational examination, the authors use historical and up-to-the-minute legal cases as jumping-off points to discuss U.S. laws, gerrymandering, voting rights, and more. They also take a deep dive into the thinking of the Founding Fathers. The result is a timely and no-holds-barred deconstruction of constitutional law and the systemic flaws of the U.S. Constitution.
Gr 6-8–Couched in fascinating personal and period detail, this is an absorbing portrait of the awkward genius’s childhood and achievements and the range of his curiosity, interests, and inventive abilities, which bridged the work of the medievalists and later scientists. Incorporating marvelous primary source material from Newton’s notebooks (written in code) and plentiful reproductions, Losure paints a picture of a man who pursued science for the sake of knowledge itself and ushered in the modern era.
Gr 2-6–As the author reminds readers, hands, feet, and voices were our first toys. What follows is a glorious celebration of rhythms, rhymes, chants, sayings, shouts, and tales that she remembers from her youth. Brief introductions to the entries provide context to the selections, which highlight the cultures and traditions that contributed to a rich American folklore, while the spot art and watercolor and ink illustrations mirror the text’s exuberance.
Gr 2-5–Otheguy fuses poetry with biography to re-create the life and work of seminal poet José Martí. The revolutionary bard tirelessly fought for Cuba’s independence and the freedom of all enslaved people on the island, despite imprisonment and exile. Vidal’s illustrations adroitly recall Martí’s determination and the landscapes and cityscapes of Cuba and New York. This bilingual text will be the go-to resource for young people learning about Martí for a very long time.
Gr 3-6–With this lucidly written, impeccably researched exploration of the physical and emotional development of young elephants, Roy cements her position as a master of the nonfiction picture book. She infuses her realistic, vivid images with a dose of whimsy through inspired visual metaphors to present a thoroughly engaging look at these complex social creatures.
Gr 6 Up–In an isolated community in southern Alabama, a group of female sharecroppers by day—fabric artists by evening—created dazzling bedcover patterns from scraps of worn cotton. Combining American, women’s, art, and oral history with an examination of how racism, geography, and poverty conspired to keep generations of Gee’s Bend from full citizenship, the author shines a light on the work of these women and what happened when the world discovered them. A superbly told, gorgeously illustrated volume.
Gr 4-7–An up-close look at the work of scientists: on the ground, seeking evidence of meteorite impacts; in the lab, testing specimens; and searching the night skies for Earth-bound asteroids. Maps, diagrams, charts, telescope images, photos, and artists’ re-creations add context and clarify concepts, while a chapter on the discovery of the site where a six-mile-wide asteroid skidded into Earth 65 million years ago will hold readers captivated.
Gr 6 Up–Sam Bellamy’s brazen plundering of Caribbean and Atlantic Coast vessels came to an abrupt end in 1717, when his treasure-laden ship went down off the coast of Massachusetts. The discovery of the Whydah in 1985 marked the first time a pirate ship was recovered, and its ongoing excavation continues to yield surprising information about the era and life on the sea. A spellbinding combination of early 18th-century history, legend, and archaeological riches.
Gr 6 Up–Slater carefully lays out the facts of a 2013 hate crime in Oakland. Sasha, a white, gender-nonconforming teen from a middle-class neighborhood, and Richard, a black teen from the much poorer flatlands area, cross paths nearly every day on the 57 bus. One afternoon Richard lit Sasha’s skirt on fire, causing severe burns. More than a simple true crime story, this compulsively readable work explores gender identity, racial and class divisions, the concept of restorative justice, and the failures of the juvenile criminal justice system.
Gr 3-7–As a boy in Puerto Rico, Arturo Schomburg was told by educators that people of African descent had no history worth noting. The Afro–Puerto Rican scholar spent his whole life proving them wrong. In this collection of poetry, Weatherford masterfully chronicles his life and work. Afro–Puerto Rican Velasquez’s art ingeniously highlights Schomburg’s discoveries and the subjects he studied in luminous oil-on-watercolor paintings.
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