Cumpiano, Ina; illustrated by José Ramírez. Quinito’s Neighborhood/El Vecindario de Quinito. Quinito knows and loves everyone in his vivid, busy neighborhood. From his carpenter mami to his dentist primo, Quinito learns about the sense of community in which everyone has an important role. (Children’s Book Press, 2009). Bilingual (English/Spanish).
de la Peña, Matt; illustrated by Christian Robinson. Last Stop on Market Street. CJ doesn’t understand why he and his grandmother have to take the bus in the rain to his neighborhood soup kitchen, until his grandmother shows him the beauty, richness, and spirit in his community and what it means to be part of it. (G.P. Putman’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2015). Newbery Winner, Caldecott Honor, Charlotte Zolotow Honor Books, Notable Books for a Global Society.
Engle, Margarita; illustrated by Rafael López. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music. Inspired by the childhood of Chinese Afro Cuban drummer Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, this is a poetic tale with enchanting illustrations of a girl who dared to dream and challenge sexism in music. A story that will allow every child to see themselves as dreamers. (Houghton Mifflin Books for Young Readers, 2015). Notable Books for a Global Society, Charlotte Zolotow Award Winner, Pura Belpré Award Winner.
Jiang, Emily; illustrated by April Chu. Summoning the Phoenix. As a group of children get ready for a concert, through short poems and contrasting historical background, readers learn about several Chinese traditional instruments still played today. (Shen’s Books, 2014).
Kurusa; illustrated by Monika Doppert. The Streets Are Free. A group of children in a poor barrio in Venezuela have no place to play except the streets. After asking the local politicians for help with no success, they join with their elders to create a wonderful space for the entire community. (Annick Press, 1995). Available in Spanish and Japanese.
Lo, Ginnie; illustrated by Beth Lo. Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic. It started with a small gathering to eat soybeans that the family discovered on a Sunday drive, but it grew into a community event. This is a true story of how traditions grow and why they’re important to us. (Lee and Low Books, 2012). Charlotte Zolotow Highly Commended Book.
Nolen, Jerdine; illustrated by Elise Primavera. Raising Dragons. What’s a girl to do when a dragon egg lands on her farm? Nurture the egg and raise the dragon, of course! (Silver Whistle/Harcourt Brace, 1998). Available in French.
Robertson, Robbie; illustrated by David Shannon. Hiawatha and the Peacemaker. We learn much about Hiawatha and Peacemaker in this true and fascinating story from the small fact that Peacemaker had a speech impediment to the large facts about how these important leaders allowed for healing in times of conflict. (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015). Parents Choice Award.
Skármeta, Antonio; illustrated by Alfonso Ruano. The Composition. After nine-year-old Pedro sees soldiers take away his best friend’s father, a military officer comes to his school to announce an essay contest describing what students and their parents do at night. Pedro’s creative response doesn’t win him the prize of a soccer ball, but it wins him something much more valuable. (Groundwood, 2000). Available in Spanish. Américas Award Winner.
Sulurayok, Matilda; illustrated by Qin Leng. Kamik’s First Sled. Who hasn’t cheered–and–groaned when training an exuberant puppy? Though some aspects of this story are universal to all kids, their families, and their puppies, this one imparts tribally specific details. (Inhabit Media, 2015). Series.
Tate, Don. Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton. Drawing on Horton’s extensive writings as well as biographies and histories, Tate portrays the enslaved poet who taught himself to read and to write poetry filled with metaphors for freedom. Despite his wide popularity, he never achieved his own freedom until the end of the Civil War. (Peachtree Publishers, 2015). Ezra Jack Keats Award Winner.
Tonatiuh, Duncan. Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin. A cousin in Mexico writes to his cousin in New York and each boy describes what he does every day. The letters create an appealing comparison of daily life with both cities seemingly appealing and inviting. (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2010). Pura Belpré Award Winner.
Tyner, Christy; illustrated by Ciaee. Zak’s Safari: A Story about Donor-Conceived Kids of Two-Mom Families. After his outdoor plans are cancelled by rain, Zak instead tells his stuffed animals (and readers) the story of how his moms met and how they became a family of three through the help of a sperm donor. (CreateSpace, 2015). Available in French and Spanish, and can be read free online at http://www.zaks-safari.com/.
Weatherford, Carole Boston; illustrated by Jamey Christoph. Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America. Gordon Parks worked behind the camera to achieve many firsts for African Americans. Much of his photography helped expose the racism in daily life on Chicago’s South Side and in Washington, D.C. (Albert Whitman & Company, 2015). NAACP Image Award.
Chapter Books/ Beginning Readers
Atinuke; illustrated by Johnson Cadwell Warwick. The No. 1 Car Spotter. In these short easy-to-read vignettes, readers learn about life in Oluwalase Babatunde Benson’s village where he’s better known as the No. 1 Car Spotter. This may be a seemingly unimportant past time, but it’s hard to imagine this village without him and all that he does. (Walker Books, 2010). Series.
Cunnane, Kelly; illustrated by Hoda Hadadi. Deep in the Sahara. Lalla is a young girl in Mauritania who wants to wear a malafa like the women she admires. As she shares her desire with the women in her community, she comes to realize that the malafa is a very special thing for girls and women to wear for many important reasons. (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2013). Available in Japanese. Kirkus Review Best Books, American Library Association Notable Book.
Dungy, Tony and Lauren Dungy; illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton. The Missing Cupcake Mystery. When a family goes grocery shopping, the young ones crave some cupcakes that are bought with the condition of eating them after supper. One of the cupcakes goes missing, prompting a mystery-solving series of events and a conversation about the importance of honesty. (Scholastic Books, 2013). Series.
English, Karen; illustrated by Amy June Bates. Speak To Me (And I Will Listen Between the Lines). Students in a third-grade class are given voice in poems that reflect the emotions they bring into the classroom: Tyrell, an angry child; Malcolm the dreamer; Brianna the rule follower. Their teacher learns their personalities and guides them on their way. (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2004).
Garza, Xavier. Lucha Libre: The Man in the Silver Mask: A Bilingual Cuento. Carlitos is excited to attend his first lucha libre match with his dad and his uncle–who doesn’t show up. In this action-packed story, Carlitos (and readers) becomes mesmerized by luchadores and the mysterious Man in the Silver Mask. (Cinco Puntos Press, 2005). Series. Bilingual (English/Spanish).
Grimes, Nikki; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Almost Zero: A Dyamonde Daniel Book. Wanting the sneakers that her friend has, Dyamonde follows her friend’s dangerous advice and orders her mom to get her the sneakers. Her mom uses this opportunity to teach Dyamonde valuable lessons, including the joy in doing for others. (G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2010). Series.
Lin, Grace. Ling & Ting: Together in all Weather. Ling & Ting experience the four seasons together, having fun as only twins will do. They sell lemonade, rake leaves, and pretend to be sick to avoid shoveling. The book is a collection of six very short and charming stories, accompanied by bright and fun illustrations. The series is great for beginning readers. (Hachette Book Group, 2015) Series.
Middle Grade (ages 8-12)
Elliott, Zetta; illustrated by Alex Portal. Dayshaun’s Gift. Working in the Weeksville community garden, Dayshaun is transported via his grandfather’s old hat to his Brooklyn, NY, neighborhood in 1863. Along with a brother and sister he meets, he helps dozens of frightened, wounded, and starving African-American refugees from the Draft Riots across the river in Manhattan. (Rosetta Press, 2015).
Lat. Kampung Boy. An graphic autobiography of Lat’s early life in a mining village in Malaysia. The story and images provide an intimate and honest feel to a story about what shaped Lat in his early years. (First Second Books, 1979). Series. USBBY Outstanding International Book, Booklist’s Editors Choice Award.
Magoon, Kekla. Camo Girl. Ella has been best friends with Z—the weirdest kid at school—forever. Now they’re in sixth grade with some brand new friends. Bailey (the only other Black kid at their school) can rocket her to popularity, if only she can leave Z behind. But Ella and Z have secrets that run deep…what choices will she make? (Aladdin Books, 2011).
Marshall, Joseph; illustrated by Jimmy Yellowhawk. In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse. A blue eyed Lakota kid? You bet! Readers of this road trip story set in the present day will gain insights to Native views of history and facts about lives of Native youths of today. Powerfully told, there are also moments to reflect on war and its impacts on all involved. (Harry N. Abrams, 2015). American Indian Youth Literature Award, Notable Books for a Global Society.
Neri, Greg; illustrated by Randy Duburke. Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty. A graphic novel on the short life of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer as seen through the eyes of his peer, eleven-year-old Roger, who is trying to make sense of Yummy’s life and his death. (Lee and Low Books, 2010). Coretta Scott King Honor Book, Kirkus Review Best Books, American Library Association Notable Book, Notable Books for a Global Society, Cybils Award.
Rosado, Rafael; illustrated by Jorge Aguirre. Giants Beware! Claudette wants to be a dragonslayer, Gaston really wants to be a chef, and Maria wants to be a princess. But when there’s a dragon to slay, they’re all willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. In their quest, all the children find strengths (and weaknesses) they never knew they had. (First Second Books, 2012). Series.
Young Adult (ages 12-18)
Gibney, Shannon. See No Color. Alex is a transracially adopted biracial teen whose life – mostly centered on baseball – is turned upside down when she discovers letters from her birth father. Never comfortable with her white family’s claim that they “see no color,” Alex begins questioning who she is in relation to both her adoptive family and her birth father. Dating Reggie, her first black male boyfriend, also complicates her increasing racial consciousness. (Carolrhoda Lab, 2015)
Hidier, Tanuja Desai. Bombay Blues. Dimple is about to leave on a journey with her family to Bombay for a cousin’s wedding. It’s exactly what she’s hoping for—a change of perspective and a chance to understand her diasporic identity. Dimple discovers that Bombay is a bit more of a complicated place than she expected, though, and she’ll have to face break-ups, family comings-out, and career crises before arriving back home. (Push/Scholastic Books, 2014). South Asia Book Award Winner.
Kuehn, Stephanie. Charm and Strange. Kuehn is a master of dark suspense. In this, her debut book, she takes us into the mind of Andrew Winston Winters, a troubled kid far from home at a boarding school. She gives him this one night to fight his internal demons and emerge in the morning either on the side of darkness or on the side of light. (St. Martin’s Griffin Press, 2014). William C. Morris Award.
Quintero, Sofia. Show and Prove. In the South Bronx in summer 1983, seventeen-year-old friends Nike, who is Jamaican-American, and Smiles, who is Black and Puerto Rican, experience circumstances that threaten to pull them apart, including different academic and career trajectories, political views, ethnic and cultural conflicts, and conflicts with and about girlfriends. (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015). Bank Street College’s Best Children’s Books of the Year.
Shraya, Vivek. God Loves Hair. Through twenty-one short stories, Shraya takes readers on an emotional journey with a boy who is discovering and developing a gender identity. The tales recount the narrator’s life growing up in a Hindu family in Canada, and how his religion, ethnicity, brown skin, hair, and family’s expectations intersect. Each story is accompanied by mixed-media illustrations with comic-book appeal. (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2014). South Asian Book Award Honor Book, Lambda Literary Award.
Silvera, Adam. More Happy Than Not. Living in the Bronx projects, Aaron Soto pursues the Leteo Project to erase bad memories like the suicide of his father, but there are difficult and dangerous secrets that no miracle cure can hide. This speculative novel presents a Puerto Rican teenager grappling with his gay identity and the homophobic world around him, as well as trying to figure out who is truly his friend. (Soho Press, 2015).
Venkatraman, Padma. A Time to Dance. After a bus accident, Veda, a promising classical dancer in India, loses part of her leg. Refusing to accept the fact that her career is over before it has even started, she journeys to a traditional dance teacher, the only one who will accept her as a student. This verse novel explores classical and popular Indian dance forms and their connection to Hindu spirituality. (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, 2014). Notable Books for a Global Society, South Asian Book Award Honor Book.
Woodson, Jacqueline. The House You Pass on the Way. Staggerlee is a quiet girl, a loner in a close knit family steeped in history. In this coming-of-age novel, she struggles to understand the feelings she has for her friend Hazel. She’s chosen her own name, and when Trout comes to visit, she finds a name for these feelings. (Puffin Books, 2010). Lambda Literary Award.
Adichie, Chimananda Ngozi. Americanah. Americanah tells the complicated stories of Ifemelu, a “non-American Black,” and her boyfriend Obinze (who moved to England after losing contact with Ifem) as they navigate their college years and beyond, separated by immigration, racism, and opportunity. (Anchor Books, 2014). Available in German, Spanish, French, Danish and Hebrew. New York Times Book Review Top Ten Book of the Year.
Alvarez, Julia. In the Time of the Butterflies. The fictionalized story of the martyred Mirabal sisters in the Dominican Republic, who challenged both the dictatorship and patriarchy in the 1950s, has become a classic. (Algonquin Books, 1994).
Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. Part poem, part letter to his son, part memoir, part history, part sociology, and so much more. Coates has penned a book that explores the structural nature of racism in the United States in a way that students of all ages will be able to understand. (Spiegel & Grau, 2015). NAACP Image Award, National Book Award Winner.
Danticat, Edwidge. Brother, I’m Dying. Danticat weaves a memoir of growing up in Haiti in the 1970s, raised by her aunt and uncle after her parents left for the United States. The story continues with her uncle and cousin’s desperate escape from that country’s violence thirty years later and her uncle’s death at the hands of Homeland Security. An especially timely read with the refugee crisis in the Middle East today. (Random House, 2004). Available in French, Japanese and Portuguese. National Book Critics Circle Award.
McGruder, Aaron. A Right to be Hostile: A Boondocks Treasury. Riley and Huey Freeman are McGruder’s vehicles for building a political and social awareness particularly in young African Americans in this collection of the Boondocks comic strip. (Three Rivers Press, 2003).
Tingle, Tim. House of Purple Cedar. Tragedy, conflict, and the humanity in all peoples is at the heart of this novel, set in the early 1900s. Eccentric and endearing characters are woven together throughout this novel, hailed as masterful by Native scholars and readers. (Cinco Puntos Press, 2014). American Indian Youth Literature Award, Notable Books for a Global Society.