Book Review: We Unleash the Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia

 

Review by Cris Rhodes:

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Being a part of the resistance group La Voz is an act of devotion and desperation. On the other side of Medio’s border wall, the oppressed class fights for freedom and liberty, sacrificing what little they have to become defenders of the cause.

Carmen Santos is one of La Voz’s best soldiers. She spent years undercover, but now, with her identity exposed and the island on the brink of a civil war, Carmen returns to the only real home she’s ever known: La Voz’s headquarters.

There she must reckon with her beloved leader, who is under the influence of an aggressive new recruit, and with the devastating news that her true love might be the target of an assassination plot. Will Carmen break with her community and save the girl who stole her heart—or fully embrace the ruthless rebel she was always meant to be?

MY TWO CENTS: In this action-packed follow-up to her debut novel We Set the Dark on Fire, Tehlor Kay Mejia continues her revolutionary queer romance with a bang. Picking up moments after We Set the Dark on Fire ends, We Unleash the Merciless Storm shifts vantage points from Dani, the Primera wife whose secret identity as an undocumented immigrant from beyond Medio’s rigid borders complicates her life and causes her to tenatively join the resistance, to Carmen, who seemed to embody the social mores of Medio’s stratified and exclusive world, but is actually an undercover operative for the revolutionary group La Voz.

Readers will need to be familiar with We Set the Dark on Fire to fully grasp the extent of We Unleash the Merciless Storm. I found myself returning to the previous book to remember the intricacies of Medio’s social codes and to remind myself of character names and traits. This is not a stand alone book, and, I would wager, it’s a sequel best enjoyed immediately following reading (or rereading) the first novel.

The switch to Carmen as the main character proves an interesting counterpoint to Dani’s narrative in the first novel. Whereas Dani is largely unaware of the mounting resistance to Medio’s restrictive government, Carmen is deeply involved in the resistance. Carmen seems superficial and catty in the first novel, but We Unleash the Merciless Storm unravels that narrative, posing Carmen as an astute and powerful member of La Voz. But, her relationship with Dani was an unforeseen complication to her mission to unravel Medio from the inside.

It would be a typical narrative maneuver to have Carmen torn between her love for Dani and her loyalty to La Voz, but Mejia resists that stale plot. Rather, Carmen sees her loyalties to both Dani and La Voz as intertwined. Mejia’s explorations of Carmen’s motives seem authentic and they reflect the complex and competing emotions of resistance and love. Those who are looking for nonstop action may be frustrated with Carmen’s frequent reflections on her relationship with Dani, but these thoughts don’t seem out of place for someone like Carmen who was undercover for the majority of her formative years. Not only is Carmen contending with the loss of her love, but she’s also relearning how to be a part of La Voz after years away. Carmen’s wondering also reveals important questions about revolution. Is a political uprising necessarily violent? Can change be made without pain? As Carmen grapples with these questions, her loyalties to La Voz are questioned and she must prove herself while also remaining true to her values.

As with my feelings toward We Set the Dark on Fire, I found We Unleash the Merciless Storm to be the kind of novel that I longed for as a teenager (and, frankly, enjoyed immensely as an adult). The romance is there, of course, but it’s not the entire focus–and it shouldn’t be! I love a good romance, especially a queer romance, but the complexities of Medio’s government and La Voz’s revolutionary ideals give contemporary teens an important counterpoint to our own global politics.

 

Photo & Styling: Tia Reagan Photo  Editing: Adrian King

Photo & Styling: Tia Reagan Photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her website): Tehlor Kay Mejia is the author of the critically acclaimed young adult fantasy novel We Set the Dark on Fire and its sequel, We Unleash the Merciless Storm, and the forthcoming Miss Meteor (co-written with National Book Award nominee Anna-Marie McLemore). Her middle grade debut, Paola Santiago and the River of Tears, releases from Rick Riordan Presents in 2020.

Her debut novel received six starred reviews, and was chosen as an Indie’s Next Pick and a Junior Library Guild selection, as well as being an Indiebound bestseller in the Pacific Northwest region. It has been featured in Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, and O by Oprah Magazine’s best books of 2019 lists.

Tehlor lives in Oregon with her daughter, a dog that matches her hair, and several rescued houseplants. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @tehlorkay.

 

 

 

Cris Rhodes is an assistant professor of English at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. She teaches courses of writing, culturally diverse literature, and ethnic literatures. In addition to teaching, Cris’s scholarship focuses on Latinx youth and their literature or related media. She also has a particular scholarly interest in activism and the ways that young Latinxs advocate for themselves and their communities.

Book Review: The Cholo Tree by Daniel Chacón

 

Review by Elena Foulis

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: “Do you know what a stereotype you are?” Jessica asks her son. “You’re the existential Chicano.” Fourteen-year-old Victor has just been released from the hospital; his chest is wrapped in bandages and his arm is in a sling. He has barely survived being shot, and his mother accuses him of being a cholo, something he denies.

She’s not the only adult who thinks he’s a gangbanger. His sociology teacher once sent him to a teach-in on gang violence. Victor’s philosophy is that everyone is racist. “They see a brown kid, they see a banger.” Even other kids think he’s in a gang, maybe because of the clothes he wears. The truth is, he loves death (metal, that is), reading books, drawing, the cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, and the Showtime series Weeds. He likes school and cooking. He knows what a double negative is!

But he can’t convince his mom that he’s not in a gang. And even with a genius girlfriend and an art teacher who mentors and encourages him to apply to art schools, Victor can’t seem to overcome society’s expectations for him.

MY TWO CENTS: Daniel Chacón’s novel, The Cholo Tree, is a story that confronts stereotypes within one’s own community and family. Told from the perspective of a young Chicano protagonist, this story exposes not only obstacles a young teen in a impoverished neighborhood might face, but also what contributes to perpetuating a cycle of violence, gang-culture, and drugs when young, Latino men repeatedly hear assumptions about who they might be or what they are destined to become. The protagonist, Victor, navigates hearing these messages from people like his own mother or teachers who assume he is a gangbanger, although he is not. Chacón tells the story of a young Chicano teen who is navigating school, a single parent household, and his gift as an artist.

After his near-death experience, Victor navigates high school life, confronting stereotypes on a daily basis. One thing that catches the reader’s attention is the school administrators’ and teachers’ insistence that Victor must belong in a gang because he is Chicano, plus the clothes he wears and his attitude. However, this does not stop at school. Often, his own mother, who he calls Jessica, accuses him of being a gangbanger, a cholo. While Victor is no angel, the reader can come to understand the impact of placing labels on Latino youth, and how, in particular, young artists risk being boxed into stereotypes that see them as dangerous or a menace to society.

Victor is often a spectator, an observer of his environment and surroundings, which he realizes contributes to many of the negative labels society puts on young brown men like him. Indeed, through his interactions with a group of young men, who are involved in drug using and selling, he tries to rescue two sisters getting caught in this lifestyle. He uses his drawings to engage with them and possibly persuade them to see themselves as young women who deserve better lives, and he remembers what his friend Freddy once said to him when Victor became interested in Iliana, a genius girl he had met at a party and Victor’s love interest,  “Every Chicanita is my sister.”

One of the things that saves Victor is his relationship with an art teacher, Mr. García, who is possibly the only person who sees his gift as an artist and helps him see himself as something different than what society expects of him. Mr. García not only lets Victor use his own studio, he encourages Victor to apply to prestigious art schools, which he has not considered as a possibility for himself. Chacón uses imagery and fantasy and the complexity of family dynamics to make this a story worth reading.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel Chacón is the author of Hotel Juárez: Stories, Rooms and Loops (Arte Público Press, 2013); Unending Rooms (Black Lawrence Press, 2008), winner of the Hudson Prize; and the shadows took him (Washington Square Press, 2005) and Chicano Chicanery (Arte Público Press, 2000). A professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, he is co-editor of The Last Supper of Chicano Heroes: The Selected Works of José Antonio Burciaga (University of Arizona Press, 2008).

 

 

 

headshot2016ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Elena Foulis has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Arkansas. Her research and teaching interests include U.S. Latina/o literature, and Digital Oral History. Dr. Foulis is currently working on a digital oral history project about Latin@s in Ohio, which is being archived at the Center for Folklore Studies’ internet collection. Some of these narratives can be found in her iBook titled, Latin@ Stories Across Ohio.

Book Review: Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

 

Review by Cris Rhodes

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg, France.  Women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia Blau and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves. 

Five centuries late:  A pair of red shoes seals to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.

MY TWO CENTS: As with any Anna-Marie McLemore book, Dark and Deepest Red is like watching a particularly colorful sunrise breach over a murky, ominous landscape. It’s illuminating, warming, but also bears with it a hint of darkness that makes the sunlight that much sweeter. Their distinctive prose, full of lush and elegant language, is immediately recognizable as is their attention to telling the stories of people history would try to forget. Dark and Deepest Red takes that task to a new level, pairing the historical narrative of Lala and Alifair in Strasbourg in 1518 with that of Rosella and Emil in a contemporary world. Their stories parallel, sharing common themes and motifs.

The Strasbourg narrative retells the dancing plague, in which roughly 400 people were struck by a shared affliction: dancing incessantly, sometimes to death. McLemore frames this historical moment as not just a time to examine socio-religious and early medicinal practices, but as a backdrop for xenophobic concerns about the Romani peoples. Lala, also called Lavinia to avoid being coded as Romani, flees her homeland to avoid persecution, but anti-Romani laws follow her. With the onset of the dancing plague also comes speculation that Lala or her aunt are the culprits. Her assumed involvement is further compounded by her relationship with the transgender Alifair. Lala is the focus character for the chapters recounting Strasbourg in 1518, making her a key character alongside Rosella and Emil.

Meanwhile, Rosella and Emil alternate chapters. Rosella’s told in the first person and Emil’s in the third. That we only get into Rosella’s mind is important, as she is afflicted with a similar plague: when she resews a pair of shoes originally made by her treasured grandparents and tries them on, she quickly learns that she cannot remove the shoes, and, to make matters worse, the shoes force Rosella to dance and, indeed, act independently of her body, often putting her in danger. The shoes also lead Rosella into Emil’s arms. Emil, who has rejected his own Romani heritage, must tap into his roots to help save Rosella.

The alternating chapters are a dance in and of themselves, leaping from Rosella to Strasbourg to Emil back to Strasbourg and resuming the sequence. This alternation, however, does possibly overemphasize the Strasbourg chapters, potentially at the risk of subordinating Rosella and Emil’s stories. When reading, I did find myself more invested in Lala and Alifair, rather than Rosella and Emil. (And, to be fair, this may just be a personal preference, but I do wonder if this is tied to the narrative structure, or my own personal interest in dance and the dancing plague…) While each story is deeply intertwined and McLemore does an artful job of drawing them together, the dual narratives may appear too divergent, at least initially. To be clear, they do come together. And they do so in the intricate, special, and supernatural ways typical of McLemore’s work.

Importantly, as well, for an audience invested in Latinx children’s literature, this text does not centralize Latinidad or problematize it. It’s incidental but nevertheless present. I find this so significant. Rosella’s ethnicity and racialized body are certainly something that inform the plot, but she is not the one who largely experiences xenophobia, Lala does. Regardless, Latinx readers will find mirrors in Lala’s experiences. That McLemore poses this shift in representation offers a wider appeal to this text. Rather than being seen as a “Latinx text,” or a “Romani text,” or a “queer text,” it’s all three. At these intersections we find a lovely, challenging, and poignant read.

TEACHING TIPS: The historical narrative of this text would lend it well to a paired text with a lesson on history. It may also be an interesting discussion tool to aid in explorations of the treatment of queer peoples in history. 

It would also pair well with discussions of Andersen’s “The Red Shoes,” as McLemore notes thus tale as a major influence on their writing of the novel. Students may read both and write about the similar themes. Students may also consider other Andersenesque stories and write their own retelling wise diverse casts. 

 

Anna-Marie McLemoreABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anna-Marie McLemore (they/them) is the queer, Latinx, non-binary author of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist; 2017 Stonewall Honor Book WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature; WILD BEAUTY, a Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Booklist Best Book of 2017; BLANCA & ROJA, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice; DARK AND DEEPEST RED, a Winter 2020 Indie Next List title; and THE MIRROR SEASON, forthcoming in 2021. 

 

 

 

ABOUT THE REVIEWERCris Rhodes is an assistant professor of English at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. She teaches courses of writing, culturally diverse literature, and ethnic literatures. In addition to teaching, Cris’s scholarship focuses on Latinx youth and their literature or related media. She also has a particular scholarly interest in activism and the ways that young Latinxs advocate for themselves and their communities.

2020 Titles By/For/About Latinx!!

 

HERE IT IS! The 2020 list of books releasing by/for/about Latinxs. Here are the 100+ titles we know about that are releasing this year. We’re sure more will be more added, so please check the site often or follow the blog for updates.  The coming year brings new books from so many of our favorite creators along with exciting debuts. The books are listed by the publishing date. Please let us know in the comments if we are missing any!

 

SHADOWSHAPER LEGACY: Shadowshaper Cypher Book #3 by Daniel José Older (Arthur A. Levine Books, January 7, 2020). Young Adult. A house divided: Sierra and the shadowshapers have been split apart. Juan, Anthony, and Izzy are in jail, anxiously waiting to find out what will become of them. Back in Brooklyn, the other shadowshapers have been getting threatening messages from whisper wraiths, catching strangely shaped figures stalking them, and fending off random spirits. A war is brewing among the houses, and the very magic of the shadowshapers is at stake.

The fate of the worlds: Sierra is determined to protect her own in the coming conflict, even if that means keeping secrets from them. But a deal with Death by one of Sierra’s ancestors has far-reaching consequences in the battles of the present, and as old fates tangle with new powers, Sierra will have to harness the Deck of Worlds and confront her family’s past if she has any hope of saving the future and everyone she loves. Only doing so will mean following the magic to places the shadowshapers have never gone before and may never return from. The conclusion to the evocative and captivating Shadowshaper Cypher series.

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WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT by Isabel Ibañez (Page Street Kids, January 7, 2020). Young Adult. Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.

When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.

She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princesa, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.

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DARK AND DEEPEST RED by Anna-Marie McLemore (Feiwel & Friends, January 14, 2020). Young Adult. Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.

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STELLA DIAZ NEVER GIVES UP by Angela Dominguez (Roaring Brook Press, January 14, 2020). Middle Grade. Stella gets a big surprise when her mom plans a trip to visit their family in Mexico! Stella loves marine animals, and she can’t wait to see the ocean for the first time, until she arrives and learns that the sea and its life forms are in danger due to pollution.

Stella wants to save the ocean, but she knows she can’t do it alone. It’s going to take a lot of work and help from old and new friends to make a difference, but Stella Díaz never gives up!

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INFINITY SON by Adam Silvera (HarperTeen, January 14, 2020). Young Adult. Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.

Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.

Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.

Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.

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MAXIMILIAN: The Curse of the Fallen Angel by Xavier Garza (Cinco Puntos Press, January 17, 2020). Middle Grade. Maximilian’s been nuts about lucha libre his whole life. But he’s not just a nerdy middle schooler―three years ago, he discovered that he’s part of lucha libre royalty. His uncle is the most famous luchador, the Guardian Angel. But now, the masked hero is facing a wild new wrestler who might just topple him from his lucha libre throne. The Fallen Angel may be the most reckless and arrogant wrestler the Guardian Angel has ever had to face, and he’s no longer in his prime. Age affects everyone, even the man behind the celebrated mask. Max, being next in the royal line of luchadores, thinks he might have to take over as the Guardian Angel sooner than he’d ever dreamed.

 

DIAMOND CITY by Francesca Flores (Wednesday Books, January 28, 2020). Young Adult. Good things don’t happen to girls who come from nothing, unless they risk everything. Fierce and ambitious, Aina Solís as sharp as her blade and as mysterious as the blood magic she protects. After the murder of her parents, Aina takes a job as an assassin to survive and finds a new family in those like her: the unwanted and forgotten.

Her boss is brutal and cold, with a questionable sense of morality, but he provides a place for people with nowhere else to go. And makes sure they stay there.

DIAMOND CITY: built by magic, ruled by tyrants, and in desperate need of saving. It is a world full of dark forces and hidden agendas, old rivalries and lethal new enemies.

To claim a future for herself in a world that doesn’t want her to survive, Aina will have to win a game of murder and conspiracy—and risk losing everything.

 

HOW TO BUILD A HEART by Maria Padian (Algonquin Young Readers, January 28, 2020). Young Adult. All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, and Izzy’s moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school—even if Izzy is careful to keep her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates and her new athletic and popular boyfriend. And best of all: Izzy’s family has been selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house. Izzy is this close to the community and permanence she’s been searching for, until all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide.

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SEVEN DEADLY SHADOWS by Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani (HarperTeen, January 28, 2020). Young Adult. Seventeen-year-old Kira Fujikawa has never had it easy. She’s bullied by the popular girls in school. Her parents ignore her. And she’s also plagued with a secret: She can see yokai, the ghosts and demons that haunt the streets of Kyoto.

But things accelerate from bad to worse when she learns that Shuten-doji, the demon king, will rise at the next blood moon to hunt down an ancient relic and bring the world to a catastrophic end.

Not exactly skilled at fighting anything, much less the dead, Kira enlists the aid of seven powerful death gods to help her slay Shuten-doji. They include Shiro, a kitsune with boy-band looks who is more flirtatious than helpful, and O-bei, a regal demon courtier with reasons of her own for getting involved.

As the confrontation with Shuten-doji draws nearer, the fate of Japan hangs in the balance. Can Kira save humankind? Or will the demon king succeed in bringing eternal darkness upon the world?

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PACHO NACHO by Silvia López, illustrated by Pablo Pino (Capstone, February 1, 2020). Picture Book. Mam and Pap could not agree on a name for their first baby, and everyone in the family had an opinion. That’s how the name Pacho-Nacho-Nico-Tico-Melo-Felo-Kiko-Rico came to be, and Pacho’s parents insisted that everyone use his full name. But when Pacho finds himself in trouble, his younger brother, Juan, must quickly find help, which isn’t easy when you have to keep saying Pacho-Nacho-Nico-Tico-Melo-Felo-Kiko-Rico. Pacho Nacho is based on an old Japanese folktale and includes Spanish words and phrases and multicultural settings.

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LOVE, SUGAR, MAGIC: A Mixture of Mischief by Anna Meriano, illustrated by Mirelle Ortega (Walden Pond Press, February 4, 2020). Middle Grade. It’s spring break in Rose Hill, Texas, but Leo Logroño has a lot of work to do if she’s going to become a full-fledged bruja like the rest of her family.

She still hasn’t discovered the true nature of her magical abilities, and that isn’t the only bit of trouble in her life: Her family’s baking heirlooms have begun to go missing, and a new bakery called Honeybees has opened across town, threatening to run Amor y Azúcar right out of business.

What’s more, everyone around her seems to have secrets, and none of them want to tell Leo what’s going on.

But the biggest secret of all comes when Leo is paid a very surprising visit—by her long-lost Abuelo Logroño. Abuelo promises answers to her most pressing questions and tells Leo he can teach her about her power, about what it takes to survive in a world where threats lurk in the shadows. But can she trust him?

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NO MORE NAPS!: A Story for When You’re Wide-Awake and Definitely NOT Tired by Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Leo Espinosa (Random House, February 4, 2020). Picture Book. It’s time for a nap but, just like stubborn toddlers everywhere, Annalise Devin McFleece won’t have anything to do with bedtime. Dad tries to encourage sleepiness by pushing her around the park in her stroller. Along the way, they pass a man sitting on a bench, dog walkers walking dogs, a boy on a skateboard, kids playing ball, a girl practicing her juggling, and others. Each of them thinks that taking a nap is a great idea and if Annalise Devin McFleece doesn’t want hers, they’ll happily take it. And one by one, everyone falls asleep, except Annalise Devin McFleece. But when she’s finally ready for her nap, all the naps are taken! Is there anyone who has an extra nap to spare?

With every turn of the page, the busy city scene becomes more and more quiet, except for Annalise Devin McFleece.

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EUNICE AND KATE by Mariana Llanos, illustrated by Elena Napoli (Penny Candy Books, February 11, 2020). Picture Book. The girls live with their moms next door to each other in the heart of the city and have a lot in common–even though they have different dreams for the future: Kate wants to be an astronaut and Eunice wants to be a ballet dancer. But when they draw portraits of each other in art class, things get mixed up. Eunice draws Kate as a ballet dancer and Kate draws Eunice as an astronaut, and they both get more than a little annoyed. Can their friendship survive? With a little help from their moms, the girls come to learn the value of respecting each other’s different dreams.

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RUTH OBJECTS: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (Disney-Hyperion, February 11, 2020). Picture Book. When Ruth was a young girl, her mother encouraged her to read, be independent, and stand up for what she thought was right. Ruth graduated first in her class at Cornell University and tied for top of her graduating class at Columbia Law School. But she faced prejudice as both a woman and a Jew, making it difficult to get a job. Ruth eventually found work as a law clerk, and her determination, diligence, and skill led to a distinguished career as a lawyer. In 1993, she became the second woman ever appointed to the United States Supreme Court. As a Supreme Court justice, Ruth has inspired fierce admiration and faced fervent opposition for her judgments in high-profile cases, many of which have involved discrimination. She has been lauded for her sharp wit and boldness, even when her opinions differ from that of the majority.

As a student, teacher, lawyer, and judge, Ruth often experienced unfair treatment. But she persisted, becoming a cultural icon, championing equality in pay and opportunity. Her brilliant mind, compelling arguments, and staunch commitment to truth and justice have convinced many to stand with her, and her fight continues to this day.

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STRONG VOICES: Fifteen American Speeches Worth Knowing by Tonya Bolden, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (HarperCollins, February 11, 2020. A collection of significant speeches, made both by those who held the reins of power and those who didn’t, at significant times in American history. Read the original words—sometimes abridged and sometimes in their entirety—that have shaped our cultural fabric.

 

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THE NEW DAVID ESPINOZA by Fred Aceves (HarperTeen, February 11, 2020). Young Adult. David Espinoza is tired of being messed with. When a video of him getting knocked down by a bully’s slap goes viral at the end of junior year, David vows to use the summer to bulk up— do what it takes to become a man—and wow everyone when school starts again in the fall.

Soon David is spending all his time and money at Iron Life, a nearby gym that’s full of bodybuilders. Frustrated with his slow progress, his life eventually becomes all about his muscle gains. As it says on the Iron Life wall, What does not kill me makes me stronger.

As David falls into the dark side of the bodybuilding world, pursuing his ideal body at all costs, he’ll have to grapple with the fact that it could actually cost him everything.

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THIS TRAIN IS BEING HELD by Ismée Williams (Amulet Books, February 11, 2020). Young Adult. Alex is a baseball player. A great one. His papi is pushing him to go pro, but Alex maybe wants to be a poet. Not that Papi would understand or allow that.

Isa is a dancer. She’d love to go pro, if only her Havana-born mom weren’t dead set against it, just like she’s dead set against her daughter falling for a Latino. And Isa’s privileged private-school life—with her dad losing his job and her older brother struggling with mental illness—is falling apart. Not that she’d ever tell that to Alex.

Fate—and the New York City subway—bring Alex and Isa together. Is it enough to keep them together when they need each other most?

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SELENA by Silvia López, illustrated by Paola Escobar (little bee books, February 18, 2020). Picture Book. Selena Quintanilla’s music career began at the age of nine when she started singing in her family’s band. She went from using a hairbrush as a microphone to traveling from town to town to play gigs. But Selena faced a challenge: People said that she would never make it in Tejano music, which was dominated by male performers. Selena was determined to prove them wrong.

Born and raised in Texas, Selena didn’t know how to speak Spanish, but with the help of her dad, she learned to sing it. With songs written and composed by her older brother and the fun dance steps Selena created, her band, Selena Y Los Dinos, rose to stardom! A true trailblazer, her success in Tejano music and her crossover into mainstream American music opened the door for other Latinx entertainers, and she became an inspiration for Latina girls everywhere.

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WITH A STAR IN MY HAND: Rubén Darío, Poetry Hero by Margarita Engle (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, February 18, 2020). Middle Grade. As a little boy, Rubén Darío loved to listen to his great uncle, a man who told tall tales in a booming, larger-than-life voice. Rubén quickly learned the magic of storytelling and discovered the rapture and beauty of verse.

A restless and romantic soul, Rubén traveled across Central and South America seeking adventure and connection. As he discovered new places and new loves, he wrote poems to express his wild storm of feelings. But the traditional forms felt too restrictive. He began to improvise his own poetic forms so he could capture the entire world in his words. At the age of twenty-one, he published his first book Azul, which heralded a vibrant new literary movement called Modernismo that blended poetry and prose into something magical.

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EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY ELLA by Amber Hendricks, illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell (Amicus Ink, February 25, 2020). Picture Book. Ella is extraordinary. Extraordinarily ordinary, that is. Not graceful like Carmen or musical like Kenji, Ella is determined to prove herself at the school talent show. But when every attempt to find a talent falls flat and her own ordinary acts of kindness steal the show, Ella discovers just how extraordinary ordinary can be!

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THE EVERYTHING I HAVE LOST by Sylvia Zéleny (Cinco Puntos Press, February 25, 2020). Middle Grade. 12-year-old Julia keeps a diary about her life growing up in Juarez, Mexico. Life in Juarez is strange. People say its the murder capital of the world. Dad’s gone a lot. They can’t play outside because it isn’t safe. Drug cartels rule the streets. Cars and people disappear, leaving behind pet cats. Then Dad disappears and Julia and her brother go live with her aunt in El Paso. What’s happened to her Dad? Julia wonders. Is he going to disappear forever? A coming-of-age story set in today’s Juarez.

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WE UNLEASH THE MERCILESS STORM by Tehlor Kay Mejia (Katherine Tegen Books, February 25, 2020). Young Adult. Being a part of the resistance group La Voz is an act of devotion and desperation. On the other side of Medio’s border wall, the oppressed class fights for freedom and liberty, sacrificing what little they have to become defenders of the cause.

Carmen Santos is one of La Voz’s best soldiers. She spent years undercover, but now, with her identity exposed and the island on the brink of a civil war, Carmen returns to the only real home she’s ever known: La Voz’s headquarters.

There she must reckon with her beloved leader, who is under the influence of an aggressive new recruit, and with the devastating news that her true love might be the target of an assassination plot. Will Carmen break with her community and save the girl who stole her heart—or fully embrace the ruthless rebel she was always meant to be?

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A WAY WITH WILD THINGS by Larissa Theule, illustrated by Sara Palacios (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, March 3, 2020). Picture Book. Meet Poppy–if you can spot her among the wildflowers! Poppy loves nature, and can be found carrying on conversations with ladybugs or singing with cicadas, but good luck spotting her indoors and around people! She’s a master of camouflage, always finding a way to blend into her surroundings. Some might call her a wallflower.

At a party, Poppy stays out of sight. But when a very special bug lands on the cake, Poppy can’t resist popping out to see it. Soon, the rest of the guests notice the beautiful dragonfly, and Poppy, too. Maybe she’s not a wallflower after all, but a wildflower.

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LET’S DANCE by Valerie Bolling, illustrated by Maine Diaz (Boyds Mill Press, March 3, 2020). Picture Book. Tap, twirl, twist, spin! With musical, rhyming text, author Valerie Bolling shines a spotlight on dances from across the globe, while energetic art from Maine Diaz shows off all the moves and the diverse people who do them. From the cha cha of Cuba to the stepping of Ireland, kids will want to leap, dip, and zip along with the dances on the page!

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MAÑANALAND by Pam Muñoz Ryan (Scholastic Press, March 3, 2020). Middle Grade. Maximiliano Córdoba loves stories, especially the legend Buelo tells him about a mythical gatekeeper who can guide brave travelers on a journey into tomorrow.

If Max could see tomorrow, he would know if he’d make Santa Maria’s celebrated fútbol team and whether he’d ever meet his mother, who disappeared when he was a baby. He longs to know more about her, but Papá won’t talk. So when Max uncovers a buried family secret–involving an underground network of guardians who lead people fleeing a neighboring country to safety–he decides to seek answers on his own.

With a treasured compass, a mysterious stone rubbing, and Buelo’s legend as his only guides, he sets out on a perilous quest to discover if he is true of heart and what the future holds.

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PictureSALTY, BITTER, SWEET by Mayra Cuevas (Blink, March 3, 2020). Young Adult. Aspiring chef Isa’s family life has fallen apart after the death of her Cuban abuela and the divorce of her parents. She moves in with her dad and her new stepmom, Margo, in Lyon, France, where Isa feels like an outsider in her father’s new life. Isa balances her time between avoiding the awkward, “why-did-you-cheat-on-Mom” conversation with figuring out how a perpetually single woman can at least be a perpetually single chef.

The upside of Isa’s world being turned upside-down?

Her father’s house is located only 30 minutes away from the restaurant of world-famous Chef Pascal Grattard, who runs a prestigiously competitive international kitchen apprenticeship. The prize job at Chef Grattard’s renowned restaurant also represents a transformative opportunity for Isa who is desperate to get her life back in order–and desperate to prove she has what it takes to work in an haute kitchen. But Isa’s stress and repressed grief begin to unravel when the attractive, enigmatic Diego shows up unannounced with his albino dog.

How can Isa expect to hold it together when she’s at the bottom of her class at the apprenticeship, her new stepmom is pregnant, she misses her abuela dearly, and things with the mysterious Diego reach a boiling point?

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THE FIRST SEVEN by Laura Pohl (Sourcebooks Fire, March 3, 2020). Young Adult. Clover Martinez and The Last Teenagers on Earth are busy exploring the galaxy after leaving earth behind, even if they can’t help but be a little homesick.

So when their ship receives a distress signal from their former planet, they hope against hope that it means other survivors. But as soon as they arrive, they realize something’s deeply wrong: strange crystal formations have popped up everywhere and there’s some sort of barrier keeping them from leaving.

Seeking the origin of the formations and the reason for the barrier, the group discovers a colony of survivors hidden in the mountains. But the survivors aren’t who they seem.

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KAIA AND THE BEES by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Angela Dominguez (Candlewick, March 10, 2020). Picture Book. Kaia is the brave type. Like hottest-hot-pepper brave. But there is one thing that scares her: BEES! And right now, thousands of bees live on her roof because Kaia’s dad is a beekeeper. Her dad says that the world needs bees and that’s why they are beekeepers. But only he goes on the roof, not Kaia — unless she can find a way to be the brave girl she always says she is.

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GOLDIE VANCE: THE HOTEL WHODUNIT by Lilliam Rivera, illustrated by Elle Power (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, March 17, 2020). Middle Grade. Marigold “Goldie” Vance lives and works at the Crossed Palms Resort Hotel in Florida with a whole slew of characters: her dad, Art, the manager of the joint; Cheryl Lebeaux, the concierge and Goldie’s best friend; and Walter Tooey, the hired hotel detective. Her mom, Sylvia, works nearby at the Mermaid Club.

While life at the Crossed Palms is always busy, the resort is currently overrun with Hollywood-types filming the hottest new creature feature, and tensions are at an all-time high. Even Goldie’s mom is in on the movie act, doing what she does best: playing a mermaid. Just when Goldie thinks the movie biz couldn’t get any more exciting, a diamond-encrusted swimming cap goes missing, and all fingers point to Goldie’s mom as the culprit. Can Goldie uncover the true thief before it’s too late? Based on Hope Larson and Brittney Williams’s critically acclaimed Goldie Vance comic.

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TIGERS, NOT DAUGHTERS by Samantha Mabry (Algonquin Young Readers, March 24, 2020). Young Adult. The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.

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¡VAMOS! LET’S GO EAT by Raúl the Third (Versify, March 24, 2020). Picture Book. In this new Vamos! title, Let’s Go Eat, Little Lobo is excited to take in a show with wrestling star El Toro in his bustling border town. After getting lunch orders from The Bull and his friends to help prepare for the event, Little Lobo takes readers on a tour of food trucks that sell his favorite foods, like quesadillas with red peppers and Mexican-Korean tacos. Peppered with easy-to-remember Latin-American Spanish vocabulary, this glorious celebration of food is sure to leave every reader hungry for lunch!

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EFRÉN DIVIDED by Ernesto Cisneros (HarperCollins, March 31, 2020). Middle Grade. Efrén Nava’s Amá is his Superwoman—or Soperwoman, named after the delicious Mexican sopes his mother often prepares. Both Amá and Apá work hard all day to provide for the family, making sure Efrén and his younger siblings Max and Mía feel safe and loved.

But Efrén worries about his parents; although he’s American-born, his parents are undocumented. His worst nightmare comes true one day when Amá doesn’t return from work and is deported across the border to Tijuana, México.

Now more than ever, Efrén must channel his inner Soperboy to help take care of and try to reunite his family.

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GHOST SQUAD by Claribel Ortega (Scholastic Press, April 7, 2020). Middle Grade. Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely’s firefly spirits before it’s too late.

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INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS by Loriel Ryon (Margaret K. McElderry Books,  April 7, 2020). Middle Grade. Yolanda Rodríguez-O’Connell has a secret. All the members of her family have a magical gift—all, that is, except for Yolanda. Still, it’s something she can never talk about, or the townsfolk will call her family brujas—witches. When her grandmother, Wela, falls into an unexplained sleep, Yolanda is scared. Her father is off fighting in a faraway war, her mother died long ago, and Yolanda has isolated herself from her best friend and twin sister. If she loses her grandmother, who will she have left?

When a strange grass emerges in the desert behind their house, Wela miraculously wakes, begging Yolanda to take her to the lone pecan tree left on their land. Determined not to lose her, Yolanda sets out on this journey with her sister, her ex-best friend, and a boy who has a crush on her. But what is the mysterious box that her grandmother needs to find? And how will going to the pecan tree make everything all right? Along the way, Yolanda discovers long-buried secrets that have made their family gift a family curse. But she also finds the healing power of the magic all around her, which just might promise a new beginning.

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WE DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS by Adi Alsaid (Inkyard Press, April 7, 2020). Young Adult. Central International School’s annual lock-in is legendary. Bonds are made. Contests are fought. Stories are forged that will be passed down from student to student for years to come. This year’s lock-in begins normally enough. Then a group of students led by Marisa Cuevas stage an ecoprotest and chain themselves to the doors, vowing to keep everyone trapped inside until their list of demands is met. Some students rally to their cause, but others are aggrieved to watch their own plans fall apart. Amira has trained all year to compete in the school decathlon on her own terms. Peejay intended to honor his brother by throwing the greatest party CIS has ever seen. Kenji was looking forward to making a splash at his improv showcase. Omar wanted to spend a little time with the boy he’s been crushing on. Celeste, adrift in a new country, was hoping to connect with someone–anyone. And Marisa, once so certain of her goals, must now decide how far she’ll go to attain them. Every year, lock-in night changes lives. This year, it might just change the world.

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THE MAGICAL YET by Angela DiTerlizzi, illustrated by Lorena Alvarez (Disney-Hyperion, April 14, 2020). Picture Book. Each of us, from the day we’re born, is accompanied by a special companion–the Yet. Can’t tie your shoes? Yet! Can’t ride a bike? Yet! Can’t play the bassoon? Don’t worry, Yet is there to help you out.

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WHAT LANE? by Torrey Maldonado (Nancy Paulsen Books, April 14, 2020). Middle Grade. Anything his friends can do, Stephen should be able to do too, right? So when they dare each other to sneak into an abandoned building, he doesn’t think it’s his lane, but he goes. Here’s the thing, though: Can he do everything his friends can? Lately, he’s not so sure. As a mixed kid, he feels like he’s living in two worlds with different rules–and he’s been noticing that strangers treat him differently than his white friends.

So what’ll he do? Hold on tight as Stephen swerves in and out of lanes to find out which are his–and who should be with him.

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A NEW KIND OF WILD by Zara Gonzalez Hoang (Dial Books, April 21, 2020). Picture Book. For Ren, home is his grandmother’s little house and the lush forest that surrounds it. Home is a place of magic and wonder, filled with all the fantastical friends that Ren dreams up. Home is where his imagination can run wild.

For Ava, home is a brick and cement city, where there’s always something to do or see or hear. Home is a place bursting with life, where people bustle in and out like a big parade. Home is where Ava is never lonely because there’s always someone to share in her adventures.

When Ren moves to Ava’s city, he feels lost without his wild. How will he ever feel at home in a place with no green and no magic, where everything is exactly what it seems? Of course, not everything in the city is what meets the eye, and as Ren discovers, nothing makes you feel at home quite like a friend.

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ON THESE MAGIC SHORES by Yamile Saied Mendez (Tu Books, April 21, 2020). Middle Grade. Twelve-year-old Minerva Soledad Miranda is determined to reach her goals, despite shouldering more responsibility than the other kids at school–like caring for her two sisters while her mom works two jobs. But one night, Minerva’s mom doesn’t come home, and Minerva has to figure out what to do. Was Mam snapped up by ICE? Will the girls be sent to foster homes or holding centers for migrant kids? Minerva and her sisters can’t let anyone know Mam has disappeared. They’ll just pretend everything is normal until she comes back.

Minerva’s plan falls apart the first afternoon, when her baby sister throws a tantrum during Minerva’s audition for Peter Pan. But as the days pass and Minerva grows ever more worried about her mother, something magical seems to be watching out for them: leaving them cupcakes, helping her find money, even steering them to friends and distant family who can help. Eventually, Minerva must make the hardest choice of her life. And when she does, she’ll be prepared to face life’s challenges–with friendship, hope, and a little bit of fairy magic.

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THE WATER BEARS by Kim Baker (Wendy Lamb Books, April 21, 2020). Middle Grade. Newt Gomez has a thing with bears. Last year he survived a bear attack. And this year, he finds an unusual bear statue that just might grant wishes. Newt’s best friend, Ethan, notices a wishbone on the statue and decides to make a wish. When it comes true, Newt thinks it’s a coincidence. Even as more people wish on the bear and their wishes come true, Newt is not convinced.

But Newt has a wish too: while he loves his home on eccentric Murphy Island, he wants to go to middle school on the mainland, where his warm extended family lives. There, he’s not the only Latinx kid, he won’t have to drive the former taco truck–a gift from his parents–and he won’t have to perform in the talent show. Most importantly, on the mainland, he never has bad dreams about the attack. Newt is almost ready to make a secret wish when everything changes.

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A BREATH TOO LATE by Rocky Callen (Henry Holt and Co. BYR, April 28, 2020). Young Adult. Seventeen-year-old Ellie had no hope left. Yet the day after she dies by suicide, she finds herself in the midst of an out-of-body experience. She is a spectator, swaying between past and present, retracing the events that unfolded prior to her death.

But there are gaps in her memory, fractured pieces Ellie is desperate to reassemble. There’s her mother, a songbird who wanted to break free from her oppressive cage. The boy made of brushstrokes and goofy smiles who brought color into a gray world. Her brooding father, with his sad puppy eyes and clenched fists.

Told in epistolary-like style, A Breath Too Late sensitively examines the beautiful and terrible moments that make up a life and the possibilities that live in even the darkest of places.

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INCENDIARY by Zoraida Córdova (Disney-Hyperion, April 28, 2020). Young Adult. Renata was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a memory thief, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata was used by the crown to carry out the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.

Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown. The Whispers may have rescued Renata years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred, or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she drained during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit–and the boy she’s grown to love–is taken captive by the notorious Principe Dorado, Renata must return to Andalucia and complete Dez’s top secret mission herself. Can she keep her cover, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the fate of the entire kingdom-and end the war that has cost her everything.

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CLAP WHEN YOU LAND by Elizabeth Acevedo (Harper Teen, May 5, 2020). Young Adult. Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people.

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

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G.O.A.T–SERENA WILLIAMS by Tami Charles (Sterling Children’s Books, May 5, 2020). G.O.A.T. is an acronym that stands for Greatest Of All Time–and it takes lifelong dedication, nonstop hard work, and undeniable, unbelievable talent even to be considered for that honor. Serena Williams is the most decorated female tennis player of all time. She’s been ranked #1 by the Women’s Tennis Association countless times since 2002, and no one holds more Grand Slam titles–not just as a single’s player, but also, with her sister Venus, in women’s doubles. Find out all about this powerhouse player and her dozens of amazing victories in this entertaining book that’s packed with stats, sidebars, and details about the athlete’s journey.

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LOBIZONA: Wolves of No World #1 by Romina Garber (Wednesday Books, May 5, 2020). Young Adult. Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past—a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal, it’s her entire existence.

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RUNNING by Natalia Sylvester (Clarion Books, May 5, 2020). Young Adult. Senator Anthony Ruiz is running for president. Throughout his successful political career, he has always had his daughter’s vote, but a presidential campaign brings a whole new level of scrutiny to sheltered fifteen-year-old Mariana and the rest of her Cuban American family, from a 60 Minutes–style tour of their house to tabloids doctoring photos and inventing scandals. As tensions rise within the Ruiz family, Mari begins to learn about the details of her father’s political positions, and she realizes that her father is not the man she thought he was.

But how do you find your voice when everyone’s watching? When it means disagreeing with your father—publicly? What do you do when your dad stops being your hero? Will Mari get a chance to confront her father? If she does, will she have the courage to seize it?

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SANTIAGO’S ROAD HOME by Alexandra Diaz (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, May 5, 2020). Middle Grade. The coins in Santiago’s hand are meant for the bus fare back to his abusive abuela’s house. Except he refuses to return; he won’t be missed. His future is uncertain until he meets the kind, maternal María Dolores and her young daughter, Alegría, who help Santiago decide what comes next: He will accompany them to el otro lado, the United States of America. They embark with little, just backpacks with water and a bit of food. To travel together will require trust from all parties, and Santiago is used to going it alone. None of the three travelers realizes that the journey through Mexico to the border is just the beginning of their story.

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SWASHBY AND THE SEA by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal (HMH Books for Young Readers, May 5, 2020). Picture Book. Captain Swashby loves the sea, his oldest friend. And he loves his life by the sea just as it is: salty and sandy and serene. One day, much to Swashby’s chagrin, a young girl and her granny commandeer the empty house next door. All Swashby wants is for his new neighbors to GO AWAY and take their ruckus with them.

When Swashby begins to leave notes in the sand for his noisy neighbors, however, the beach interferes with the messages that are getting across. Could it be that the captain’s oldest friend, the sea, knows what Swashby needs even better than he knows himself?

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THE MADRE DE AGUAS OF CUBA: The Unicorn Rescue Society #5 by Adam Godwitz and Emma Otheguy, illus by Hatem Aly (Dutton Books for Young Readers, May 12, 2020). Middle Grade. In Cuba, it is believed that a mysterious water serpent–the Madre de aguas–is responsible for providing and protecting the fresh water of the island. But the serpent is missing, and a drought has gripped the island. Uchenna, Elliot, and Professor Fauna fly to Cuba and endeavor to rescue the Madre de aguas. Unfortunately, it tries to kill them. Meanwhile, the Schmoke Brothers’ goons are driving around Havana, dumping pink sludge into the sewers. What is going on? Can Elliot and Uchenna end the drought? Stop the Schmokes? Or will the creature they are trying to save just eat them instead?

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THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ by Adrianna Cuevas (Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR, May 12, 2020). Middle Grade. All Nestor Lopez wants is to live in one place for more than a few months and have dinner with his dad.

When he and his mother move to a new town to live with his grandmother after his dad’s latest deployment, Nestor plans to lay low. He definitely doesn’t want anyone to find out his deepest secret: that he can talk to animals.

But when the animals in his new town start disappearing, Nestor’s grandmother becomes the prime suspect after she is spotted in the woods where they were last seen. As Nestor investigates the source of the disappearances, he learns that they are being seized by a tule vieja—a witch who can absorb an animal’s powers by biting it during a solar eclipse. And the next eclipse is just around the corner.

Now it’s up to Nestor’s extraordinary ability and his new friends to catch the tule vieja—and save a place he might just call home.

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SHARUKO: Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello by Monica Brown, illustrated by Elisa Chavarri (Lee & Low, May 12, 2020). Picture Book. Growing up in the late 1800s, Julio Tello, an Indigenous boy, spent time exploring the caves and burial grounds in the foothills of the Peruvian Andes. Nothing scared Julio, not even the ancient human skulls he found. His bravery earned him the boyhood nickname Sharuko, which means brave in Quechua, the language of the Native people of Peru.

At the age of twelve, Julio moved to Lima to continue his education. While in medical school, he discovered an article about the skulls he had found. The skulls had long ago been sent to Lima to be studied by scientists. The article renewed Julio’s interest in his ancestry, and he decided to devote his medical skills to the study of Peru’s Indigenous history.

Over his lifetime, Julio Tello made many revolutionary discoveries at archaeological sites around Peru, and he worked to preserve the historical treasures he excavated. He showed that Peru’s Indigenous cultures had been established thousands of years ago, disproving the popular belief that Peruvian culture had been introduced more recently from other countries. He fostered pride in his country’s Indigenous ancestry, making him a hero to all Peruvians. Because of the brave man once known as Sharuko, people around the world today know of Peru’s long history and its living cultural legacy.

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WE ARE NOT FROM HERE by Jenny Torres Sanchez (Philomel Books, May 19, 2020). Young Adult. Pulga has his dreams. Chico has his grief. Pequeña has her pride. And these three teens have one another. But none of them have illusions about the town they’ve grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Even with the love of family, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the trio knows they have no choice but to run: from their country, from their families, from their beloved home.

Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico, they follow the route of La Bestia, the perilous train system that might deliver them to a better life–if they are lucky enough to survive the journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and desperation drumming through their hearts, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know there is no turning back, despite the unknown that awaits them. And the darkness that seems to follow wherever they go.

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FEDERICO AND THE WOLF by Rebecca J. Gomez, illustrated by Elisa Chavarri (Clarion Books, May 19, 2020). Picture Book. With his red hoodie on and his bicycle basket full of food, Federico is ready to visit Abuelo. But on the way, he meets a hungry wolf. And now his grandfather bears a striking resemblance to el lobo. Fortunately, Federico is quick and clever—and just happens to be carrying a spicy surprise! Federico drives the wolf away, and he and Abuelo celebrate with a special salsa. Recipe included.

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HERE COMES OCEAN by Meg Fleming, illustrated by Paola Zakimi (Beach Lane Books, May 19, 2020). Picture Book. Grab a big bucket, your best pup pal, and a whole lot of imagination, and get ready for a day at the beach! There’s endless fun to be had chasing the waves and countless treasures waiting to be discovered—first a sand dollar, then a sandpiper feather, even a sneaky little crab. What surprises will the ocean reveal next?

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HOME HOME by Lisa Allen-Agostini (Delacorte Press, May 26, 2020). Moving from Trinidad to Canada wasn’t her idea. But after being hospitalized for depression, her mother sees it as the only option. Now, living with an estranged aunt she barely remembers and dealing with her “troubles” in a foreign country, she feels more lost than ever.

Everything in Canada is cold and confusing. No one says hello, no one walks anywhere, and bus trips are never-ending and loud. She just wants to be home home, in Trinidad, where her only friend is going to school and Sunday church service like she used to do.

But this new home also brings unexpected surprises: the chance at a family that loves unconditionally, the possibility of new friends, and the promise of a hopeful future. Though she doesn’t see it yet, Canada is a place where she can feel at home–if she can only find the courage to be honest with herself.

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KINDERGARTEN HAT by Janet Lawler, illustrated by Geraldine Rodríguez (little bee books, May 26, 2020). Picture Book. Carlos Abredo loves building forts, playing soccer, vrooming cars, and gardening. But after moving to a new town, he’s nervous to start his first day of kindergarten. What if the bus gets lost? What if he can’t make friends? What if he can’t find his teacher?! Starting school can be intimidating for anyone, but when you’re also the new kid, it can be downright scary.

When Carlos gets a letter from his new teacher, he starts to feel a little better. He picks out a gift for her, and after a much-needed hug from Mom, he sets off for his first day. But when his present is accidentally ruined, will Carlos be able to salvage his first day of school?

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NACHO’S NACHOS: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack by Sandra Nickel, illustrated by Oliver Dominguez (Lee & Low, May 26, 2020). Picture Book. Ignacio Anaya was born in Mexico in 1895, and like a lot of Ignacios, he was nicknamed Nacho. Young Nacho loved to eat and cook, and when he grew up, he found a job in a restaurant. Eventually he became head waiter at the Victory Club, a popular restaurant in Piedras Negras, Mexico, right across the Rio Grande river from Eagle Pass, Texas.

One afternoon in 1940, during the Victory Club’s quiet hours between lunch and dinner, Mamie Finan, a regular customer from the US, walked in with three friends. They wanted a snack–something new, something different. Nacho rushed to the kitchen and improvised with what was on hand: corn tortillas, cheddar cheese, and jalapeño peppers. In that moment, Nacho’s Special, the dish that later became known simply as nachos, was born.

Word of this delicious new snack spread quickly. Soon restaurants all over Mexico, the United States, and later the world, were serving nachos. Little did Nacho know that his name would one day be a household word around the globe.

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THE DREAM WEAVER by Reina Luz Alegre (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, May 26, 2020). Middle Grade. Zoey comes from a family of dreamers. From start-up companies to selling motorcycles, her dad is constantly chasing jobs that never seem to work out. As for Zoey, she’s willing to go along with whatever grand plans her dad dreams up—even if it means never staying in one place long enough to make real friends. Her family being together is all that matters to her.

So Zoey’s world is turned upside down when Dad announces that he’s heading to a new job in New York City without her. Instead, Zoey and her older brother, José, will stay with their Poppy at the Jersey Shore. At first, Zoey feels as lost and alone as she did after her mami died. But soon she’s distracted by an even bigger problem: the bowling alley that Poppy has owned for decades is in danger of closing!

After befriending a group of kids practicing for a summer bowling tournament, Zoey hatches a grand plan of her own to save the bowling alley. It seems like she’s found the perfect way to weave everyone’s dreams together…until unexpected events turn Zoey’s plan into one giant nightmare. Now, with her new friends counting on her and her family’s happiness hanging in the balance, Zoey will have to decide what her dream is—and how hard she’s willing to fight for it.

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CATEGORY FIVE by Ann Dávila Cardinal (Tor Teen, June 2, 2020). Young Adult. After the hurricane, some see destruction and some smell blood. The tiny island of Vieques, located just off the northeastern coast of the main island of Puerto Rico, is trying to recover after hurricane Maria, but the already battered island is now half empty. To make matters worse, as on the main island, developers have come in to buy up the land at a fraction of its worth, taking advantage of the island when it is down.

Lupe, Javier, and Marisol are back to investigate a series of murders that follow in the wake of a hurricane and in the shadow of a new supernatural threat.

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THE WAY TO RIO LUNA by Zoraida Córdova (Scholastic, June 2, 2020). Middle Grade. Eleven-year-old Danny Monteverde believes in magic. He knows that pixie dust is real, that wardrobes act as portals, and that rabbit holes lead to Wonderland. Most of all, he believes that his older sister, Pili, is waiting for him somewhere in Rio Luna, the enchanted land in their favorite book of fairy tales.

Danny doesn’t care what the adults say. He knows that Pili isn’t another teen runaway. When the siblings were placed in separate foster homes, she promised that she’d come back for him, and they’d build a new life together in Rio Luna.

Yet as the years pass, Danny’s faith begins to dim. But just when he thinks it might be time to put foolish fairy tales behind him, he finds a mysterious book in the library. It’s a collection of stories that contain hints about how to reach another world. A map to Rio Luna and to Pili.

As his adventure takes him from New York to Ecuador to Brazil, Danny learns that meeting your favorite characters isn’t always a dream come true. But nothing will stop him from finding his sister, even if it means standing up to the greatest threat the magical realm has ever known.

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CEMETERY BOYS by Aiden Thomas (Swoon Reads, June 9, 2020). Young Adult. Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him. When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

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Image result for Eric VelasquezSHE WAS THE FIRST! The Trailblazing Life of Shirley Chisholm by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (Lee & Low, June 9, 2020). Picture Book. Even as a young child growing up in the 1920s, Shirley Chisholm was a leader. At the age of three, older children were already following her lead in their Brooklyn neighborhood.

As a student at Brooklyn College, Shirley could outtalk anyone who opposed her on the debate team. After graduating, she used her voice and leadership to fight for educational change. In community groups, she stood up for the rights of women and minorities. Her small stature and fiery determination often took people by surprise. But they listened.

In 1964, Shirley took her voice and leadership to politics, becoming the first Black woman elected to the New York State Assembly, and in 1968, the first Black woman elected to Congress. Then in 1972, she became the first Black woman to seek the presidency of the United States. She pushed for laws that helped women, children, students, poor people, farm workers, Native people, and others who were often ignored. She fought for healthcare. She spoke up for military veterans. She spoke out against war.

Shirley Chisholm, a woman of many firsts, was an unforgettable political trailblazer, a candidate of the people and catalyst of change who opened the door for women in the political arena and for the first Black president of the United States.

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FRAGILE REMEDY by Maria Ingrande Mora (Flux, June 16, 2020). Young Adult. Sixteen-year-old Nate is a GEM — a Genetically Engineered Medical Surrogate — created by Gathos City scientists as a cure for the elite from the fatal lung rot ravaging the population. As a child, Nate was smuggled out of the laboratory where he was held captive and into the Withers — a quarantined, lawless region. He manages to survive as a Tinker, fixing broken tech in exchange for food or a safe place to sleep. When he meets Reed, a kind and fiercely protective boy that makes his heart race, and his misfit gang of scavengers, Nate finds the family he’s always longed for even if he can’t risk telling them what he is.

But Gathos created a genetic failsafe in their Gemsa flaw in their DNA that causes their health to rapidly deteriorate as they age unless they are regularly dosed with medication controlled by Gathos City. When violence erupts across the Withers, Nates illegal supply of medicine is cut off, and a vicious attack on Reed threatens to expose his secret. With time running out, Nate is left with only two options: work for a shadowy terrorist organization that has the means to keep him alive, or stay — and die — with the boy he loves.

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FUSSY FLAMINGO by Shelly Vaughan James, illustrated by Matthew Rivera (Sourcebooks, July 1, 2020). Picture Book. Meet Lola, the “no, no” flamingo. Lola will NOT eat shrimp, thank you very much. She does NOT care that it will turn her feathers pink. It is just plain yucky. But when Lola sneaks other snacks, she discovers that you really are what you eat. This very silly story will delight even the pickiest of young readers and resonate with parents eager to see just one bite. Don’t miss the fun flamingo facts in the back!

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13th STREET #1: BATTLE OF THE BAD-BREATH BATS by David Bowles, illustrated by Shane Clester (HarperCollins, July 7, 2020). Chapter Book. Cousins Malia, Ivan, and Dante are visiting their aunt Lucy for the summer. But on their way to Gulf City’s water park, they get lost on 13th Street. Only it’s not a street at all. It’s a strange world filled with dangerous beasts! Will the cousins find their way back to Aunt Lucy’s?

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13th STREET #2: THE FIRE-BREATHING FERRET FIASCO by David Bowles, illustrated by Shane Clester (HarperCollins, July 7, 2020). Chapter Book. Cousins Dante, Malia, and Ivan are happy to be back in their home town. But then their school bus takes a wrong turn and they end up on 13th Street! There are new monsters to fight, but at least they have their friend Susana and their bus driver to help them. Will the gang ever make it to their first day of class?

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13th STREET #3: CLASH OF THE CACKLING COUGARS by David Bowles, illustrated by Shane Clester (HarperCollins, July 7, 2020). Chapter Book. Ivan, Malia, and Dante are excited about their ski trip. There’s no chance they’ll stumble onto 13th Street in the mountains, right? WRONG! After being sucked through a portal, the cousins come face-to-face with joke-telling cougars that are more dangerous than they seem. How will the kids get out of trouble this time?

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PictureMUSE SQUAD: THE CASSANDRA CURSE by Chantel Acevedo (Balzer + Bray, July 7, 2020). Middle Grade. When a young Cuban American girl discovers that she’s one of the nine muses of Greek mythology, she must use her newfound powers to help a brilliant classmate who is destined to save humanity.

 

 

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YOUR NAME IS A SONG by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Luisa Uribe (Innovation Press, July 7, 2020). Picture Book. Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, a little girl tells her mother she never wants to come back to school. In response, the girl’s mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city. Empowered by this newfound understanding, the young girl is ready to return the next day to share her knowledge with her class.

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WAYWARD WITCH: BROOKLYN BRUJAS #3 by Zoraida Córdova (Sourcebooks Fire, August 1, 2020). Young Adult. Rose Mortiz has always been a fixer, but lately she’s been feeling lost. She has brand new powers that she doesn’t understand, and her family is still trying to figure out how to function in the wake of her amnesiac father’s return home. Then, on the night of her Death Day party, Rose discovers her father’s memory loss has been a lie.

As she rushes to his side, the two are ambushed and pulled through a portal to the land of Adas, the fairy realm. There, Rose is forced to work with a group of other powerful teens to save Adas. Soon, she begins to discover the scope of her powers, the troubling truth about her father’s past, and the sacrifices he made to save her sisters. But if Rose wants to return home so that she can repair her broken family, she must figure out how to heal Adas first.

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ILLEGAL: A Disappeared Novel by Francisco X. Stork (Scholastic Press, August 4, 2020). Young Adult. Life in Mexico is a death sentence for Emiliano and his sister Sara. To escape the violent cartel that is after them, they flee across the border, seeking a better life in the United States and hoping that they can find a way to bring their pursuers to justice.

Sara turns herself over to the authorities to apply for asylum. Emiliano enters the country illegally, planning to live with their father.

But now Sara is being held indefinitely in a detention facility, awaiting an asylum hearing that may never come, finding it harder every day to hold on to her faith and hope. Life for Emiliano is not easy either. Everywhere he goes, it’s clear that he doesn’t belong. And all the while, the cartel is closing in on them.

Emiliano sets off on a tense and dangerous race to find justice, but can he expose the web of crimes from his place in the shadows?

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LUCI SOARS by Lulu Delacre (Philomel Books, August 4, 2020). Picture Book. Luci was born without a shadow. Mama says no one notices. But Luci does. And sometimes others do too. Sometimes they stare, sometimes they tease Luci, and sometimes they make her cry. But when Luci learns to look at what makes her different as a strength, she realizes she has more power than she ever thought. And that her differences can even be a superpower.

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PAOLA SANTIAGO AND THE RIVER OF TEARS by Tehlor Kay Mejia (Rick Riordan Presents, August 4, 2020). Middle Grade. Space-obsessed 12-year-old Paola Santiago and her two best friends, Emma and Dante, know the rule: Stay away from the river. It’s all they’ve heard since a schoolmate of theirs drowned a year ago. Pao is embarrassed to admit that she has been told to stay away for even longer than that, because her mother is constantly warning her about La Llorona, the wailing ghost woman who wanders the banks of the Gila at night, looking for young people to drag into its murky depths.

Hating her mother’s humiliating superstitions and knowing that she and her friends would never venture into the water, Pao organizes a meet-up to test out her new telescope near the Gila, since it’s the best stargazing spot. But when Emma never arrives and Pao sees a shadowy figure in the reeds, it seems like maybe her mom was right.

Pao has always relied on hard science to make sense of the world, but to find her friend she will have to enter the world of her nightmares, which includes unnatural mist, mind-bending monsters, and relentless spirits controlled by a terrifying force that defies both logic and legend.

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SIA MARTINEZ AND THE MOONLIT BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland (Simon Pulse, August 4, 2020). Young Adult. It’s been three years since ICE raids and phone calls from Mexico and an ill-fated walk across the Sonoran. Three years since Sia Martinez’s mom disappeared. Sia wants to move on, but it’s hard in her tiny Arizona town where people refer to her mom’s deportation as “an unfortunate incident.”

Sia knows that her mom must be dead, but every new moon Sia drives into the desert and lights San Anthony and la Guadalupe candles to guide her mom home.

Then one night, under a million stars, Sia’s life and the world as we know it cracks wide open. Because a blue-lit spacecraft crashes in front of Sia’s car, and it’s carrying her mom, who’s very much alive.

As Sia races to save her mom from armed-quite-possibly-alien soldiers, she uncovers secrets as profound as they are dangerous in this stunning and inventive exploration of first love, family, immigration, and our vast, limitless universe.

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WHAT IF A FISH by Anika Fajardo (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, August 4, 2020). Middle Grade. Half-Colombian Eddie Aguado has never really felt Colombian. Especially after Papa died. And since Mama keeps her memories of Papa locked up where Eddie can’t get to them, he only has Papa’s third-place fishing tournament medal to remember him by. He’ll have to figure out how to be more Colombian on his own.

As if by magic, the perfect opportunity arises. Eddie—who’s never left Minnesota—is invited to spend the summer in Colombia with his older half-brother. But as his adventure unfolds, he feels more and more like a fish out of water. Figuring out how to be a true colombiano might be more difficult than he thought.

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Hi-res photo by Vanessa AcostaNEVER LOOK BACK  by Lilliam Rivera (Bloomsbury, September 1, 2020). Young Adult. a YA retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice set in the Bronx. Pheus is a bachata-singing dreamer who falls in love with Eury, a girl who lost everything in Hurricane Maria and is haunted by the trauma—and by an evil spirit.

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SECRETS OF THE SILVER LION: CARMEN SANDIEGO by Emma Otheguy (HMH Books for Young Readers, September 8, 2020). From the bustling streets of New York City, to the cobblestones of Seville and the silver mines high in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, Carmen is off on another quest to stop VILE in this heart-pounding caper full of twists and turns!

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DIGGING FOR WORDS: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built by Angela Burke Kunkel, illustrated by Paola Escobar (Random House/Schwartz & Wade, September 8, 2020). Picture Book. The book tells the story of a garbage collector in Bogotá, known as the “Lord of the Books,” whose library project began with a single discarded book found on his garbage route, and has expanded to provide reading material to more than 200 schools, organizations, and libraries across Colombia.

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A THOUSAND WHITE BUTTERFLIES by Jessica Betancourt-Perez and Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Gina Maldonado (Charlesbridge, September 15, 2020). Picture Book. As if being new to the United States wasn’t hard enough, Isabella’s first day of school is canceled due to snow! Isabella has recently arrived from Colombia with her mother and abuela. She misses Papa, who is still in South America. It’s her first day of school, her make-new-friends day, but when classes are canceled because of too much snow, Isabella misses warm, green, Colombia more than ever. Then Isabella meets Katie and finds out that making friends in the cold is easier than she thought!

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LAND OF THE CRANES by Aida Salazar (Scholastic, September 15, 2020). Middle Grade. Nine-year-old Betita knows she is a crane. Papi has told her the story, even before her family fled to Los Angeles to seek refuge from cartel wars in Mexico. The Aztecs came from a place called Aztlan, what is now the Southwest US, called the land of the cranes. They left Aztlan to establish their great city in the center of the universe-Tenochtitlan, modern-day Mexico City. It was prophesized that their people would one day return to live among the cranes in their promised land. Papi tells Betita that they are cranes that have come home.

Then one day, Betita’s beloved father is arrested by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deported to Mexico. Betita and her pregnant mother are left behind on their own, but soon they too are detained and must learn to survive in a family detention camp outside of Los Angeles. Even in cruel and inhumane conditions, Betita finds heart in her own poetry and in the community she and her mother find in the camp. The voices of her fellow asylum seekers fly above the hatred keeping them caged, but each day threatens to tear them down lower than they ever thought they could be. Will Betita and her family ever be whole again?

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OUR SUBWAY BABY by Peter Mercurio, illustrated by Leo Espinosa (Dial Books, September 15, 2020). Picture Book. “Some babies are born into their families. Some are adopted. This is the story of how one baby found his family in the New York City subway.”

So begins the true story of Kevin and how he found his Daddy Danny and Papa Pete. Written in a direct address to his son, Pete’s moving and emotional text tells how his partner, Danny, found a baby tucked away in the corner of a subway station on his way home from work one day. Pete and Danny ended up adopting the baby together. Although neither of them had prepared for the prospect of parenthood, they are reminded, “Where there is love, anything is possible.”

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Image result for EACH OF US A DESERT MARK OSHIRO BOOK COVEREACH OF US A DESERT by Mark Oshiro (Tor Teen, September 15, 2020). Young Adult. Xochital is destined to wander the desert alone, speaking her troubled village’s stories into its arid winds. Her only companions are the blessed stars above and enimagic lines of poetry magically strewn across dusty dunes.

Her one desire: to share her heart with a kindred spirit.

One night, Xo’s wish is granted—in the form of Emilia, the cold and beautiful daughter of the town’s murderous mayor. But when the two set out on a magical journey across the desert, they find their hearts could be a match… if only they can survive the nightmare-like terrors that arise when the sun goes down.

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Image result for MISS METEOR BOOK COVERMISS METEOR by Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna-Marie McLemore (HarperCollins, September 22, 2020). Young Adult. Two friends, one made of stardust and one fighting to save her family’s diner, take on their small town’s 50th annual pageant and talent competition in the hopes that they can change their town’s destiny, and their own.

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Zoraida Córdova - credit Sarah YoungerImage result for natalie c parkerVAMPIRES NEVER GET OLD: Ten Tales with Fresh Bite edited by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker (Imprint, September 22, 2020). A YA fantasy anthology featuring fresh takes on old souls with vampire stories.

 

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FURIA by Yamile Saied Méndez (Algonquin Young Readers, September 29, 2020). In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life. At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.

On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.

But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol–and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.

Filled with authentic details and the textures of day-to-day life in Argentina, heart-soaring romance, and breathless action on the pitch, Furia is the story of a girl’s journey to make her life her own.

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A SLED FOR GABO/UN TRINEO PARA GABO by Emma Otheguy, illustrated by Ana Ramírez González (Atheneum, October 1, 2020). Picture Book. About a boy and his family’s adjustment to snowy weather and their creative solutions for enjoying a wintry day.

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ALL BECAUSE YOU MATTER by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Orchard Books, October 6, 2020). Picture Book. This powerful, rhythmic lullaby reassures readers that their matter and their worth is never diminished, no matter the circumstance: through the joy and wonder of their first steps and first laughter, through the hardship of adolescent struggles and the pain and heartbreak of current events, they always have, and always will, matter.

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A CUBAN GIRL’S GUIDE TO TEA AND TOMORROW by Laura Taylor Namey (Atheneum, Fall 2020). Young Adult. After her post-graduation plans fall apart, Lila Flores is sent away to spend the summer with family friends in England. But what Lila expects to be a summer devoid of proper Cuban food and sun turns into one of the unexpected love when she falls for teashop clerk Orion Maxwell and, most surprising, England itself.

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BEDTIME FOR SUPERHEROES by Katherine Locke, illustrated by Rayanne Vieira (Running Press Kids, November 2020). Picture Book. About how even superheroes must wind down, eat a good dinner, take a bath, and read a book before turning out the light.

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BLACKWATER by Jeannette Arroyo, Ren Graham (Henry Holt, 2020). YA Graphic Novel. When Tony, a restless star athlete, and Eli, a quiet outsider, form an unlikely friendship in their small Maine town, they find themselves tracking down the source of a werewolf curse and heeding the warnings of ghosts, all while exploring their budding feelings for each other and dealing with typical high school drama.

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PictureBLAZEWRATH by Amparo Ortiz (Page Street, Fall 2020). Young Adult. A contemporary fantasy about 17-year-old Lana Torres, who after rescuing a prized dragon from an attacker is awarded a spot on her native Puerto Rico’s Blazewrath World Cup team. But the return of the Sire, an ancient dragon who’s cursed to remain in human form, threatens to compromise this year’s tournament.

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COME ON IN edited by Adi Alsaid (Inkyard Press, Fall 2020). a YA anthology covering the experience of immigration, curated and edited by Adi Alsaid. The book features short stories by YA authors who are either immigrants or the children of immigrants, including Samira Ahmed, Zoraida Córdova, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Maurene Goo, Justine Larbalestier, Sona Charaipotra, and many others.

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DOODLES FROM THE BOOGIE DOWN by Stephanie Rodriguez (Kokila, Spring 2020). A middle grade graphic novel by debut author-illustrator Stephanie Rodriguez. The book, which is autobiographically inspired, follows a young Latina in the Bronx, who navigates friendships and a strict mother as she carves out a place for herself in the world as a budding artist.

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Image result for evelyn delray is moving away"EVELYN DELREY IS MOVING AWAY by Meg Medina, illustrated by Sonia Sánchez (Candlewick, Fall 2020). Picture Book. Two best friends must say goodbye to each other when one of them moves away.

 

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PictureFELIZ NEW YEAR, AVA GABRIELA by Alexandra Alessandri (Albert Whitman, Fall 2020). Picture Book. A girl is excited to visit her extended family in Colombia, but being around unfamiliar relatives has her shy and quiet, until she finds a way to speak up and join in the family celebration.

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Image result for daniel aleman"INDIVISIBLE by Daniel Alemán (Disney-Hyperion, Fall 2020). There is a word Mateo Garcia and his younger sister Sophie have been taught to fear for as long as they can remember: deportation. Over the past few years, however, the fear that their undocumented immigrant parents could be sent back to Mexico has started to fade to the back of their minds. And why wouldn’t it, when their Ma and Pa have been in the United States for so long, they have American-born children, and they’re hard workers and good neighbors?

When two ICE agents come asking for Pa, the Garcia family realizes that the lives they’ve built are about to come crumbling down. And when Mateo returns from school one day to find that his parents have been taken, he’ll have to come to terms with the fact that his family’s worst nightmare has become a reality.

With his Ma and Pa being held in separate detention centers, Mateo must learn how to look after his sister and himself. The choices Mateo makes, and the people he turns to for help, might reunite his family… or tear them apart for good. With his parents’ fate and his own future hanging in the balance, Mateo must figure out who he is and what he is capable of, even as he’s forced to question what it means to be an American teenager in a country that rejects his own mom and dad.

 

PictureLILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS by Joana Pastro (Kane Press, 2020). Picture Book. At the School for Damsels, LillyBelle enjoyed many of the damsel-in-training classes, like cake baking and vocal training, but the rule that a damsel must be in distress…not so much. But when she’s captured by a villain or two, LillyBelle will need to use all of her charm and her wit to save herself. And maybe, prove once and for all she’s a damsel not in distress!

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Image result for LUPE WONG WON'T DANCE BOOK COVERLUPE WONG WON’T DANCE by Donna Barba Higuera (Levine Querido, September 2020). Middle Grade. Twelve year old Lupe Wong WILL be the 1st female pitcher in major league baseball. But the American past time of Square Dancing is P.E. curriculum is something a kid like Lupe can’t relate to culturally or otherwise. She vows to get the archaic tradition banned, and a comedy of disasters ensues.

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Image result for hilda eunice burgosMIOSOTIS FLORES NEVER FORGETS by Hilda Eunice Burgos (Lee & Low, 2020). Middle Grade. Miosotis struggles with her growing distance from her college-aged sister, until her work with an abandoned dog at a local animal rescue leads her to realize her sister may be experiencing similar abuse.

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PictureMISS QUINCES by Kat Fajardo (Scholastic/Graphix, 2020). Miss Quinces features Sue, a Honduran-American girl who, instead of going to sleepaway camp with her friends, gets stuck visiting family in Honduras and having a surprise quinceañera, which is the last thing Sue wants—until she grows to appreciate both her family and their traditions. Simultaneous publication in both English and Spanish.

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PictureQUIET NO MORE by Nikki Barthelmess (Flux, Fall 2020). Young Adult.

 

 

 

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Image result for carlos hernandez author"SAL AND GABI FIX THE UNIVERSE by Carlos Hernandez (Rick Riordan Presents, May 5, 2020). Middle Grade. The sequel to the critically acclaimed Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, a brilliant sci-fi romp with Cuban influence. Among many other challenges, Sal and Gabi have to try to make everything right with our world when there is a rogue Gabi from another universe running loose.

Sal Vidon doesn’t want to live a Mami-free life. Pulling different versions of his mother from other universes is how he copes with missing his own, who died years ago. But Sal’s father, a calamity physicist, is trying to shut down all the wormholes Sal creates, because Papi thinks they are eroding the very fabric of our world. All of Papi’s efforts are in vain, however, because a Gabi from another universe has gone rogue and is popping up all over the place, seeking revenge for the fact that her world has been destroyed. While Sal and Gabi work together to keep both Papi and Rogue Gabi under control, they also have to solve the mystery of Yasmany, who has gone missing from school. Could it have something to do with the wormhole in the back of his locker?

 

Image result for SHADOW CROSSER BOOK COVERTHE SHADOW CROSSER by J.C. Cervantes (Rick Riordan Presents, 2020). Zane Obispo has been looking forward to his training at the Shaman Institute for Higher Order Magic, and not only because it means he’ll be reunited with his best friend, Brooks. Anything would be better than how he has spent the last three months: searching for the remaining godborns with a nasty demon who can sniff them out (literally). But when Zane tracks down the last kid on his list, he’s in for a surprise: the “one” is actually a pair of twins, and they’re trying to prevent a mysterious object from falling into the wrong hands.

After a shocking betrayal, Zane finds himself at SHIHOM sooner than expected. Even more shocking is the news that the Maya gods have gone missing. The bat god, Camazotz, and Ixkik’ (aka Blood Moon) have taken them out of commission . . . and the godborns are their next target. The only thing the villains need now? The object that the twins possess.

Zane knows the godborns aren’t strong enough yet to stand up to Zotz, Ixkik’, and their army. There might be a way to save the gods, but it involves locating a magical calendar that can see across time and space . . . not to mention traveling more than thirty years into the past.

In The Shadow Crosser, Zane and his friends embark on their most treacherous mission yet–a mission that, with one blunder, could change history as we know it, and worse, destroy the universe.

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Stacks Image 58PictureXO, EXOPLANET by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Jorge Lacera (Disney-Hyperion, 2020). Picture Book. XO, EXOPLANET is about the planets of our solar system spotting another planet outside the system—an exoplanet—and reaching out to it, via letter, to express their happiness that it is in the galaxy. But feelings get stepped on as the correspondence continues. Who is really the exoplanet here?

Book Review: Barely Missing Everything by Matt Mendez

 

Review by Katrina Ortega

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK (from Simon & Schuster): Juan has plans. He’s going to get out of El Paso, Texas, on a basketball scholarship and make something of himself—or at least find something better than his mom Fabi’s cruddy apartment, her string of loser boyfriends, and a dead dad. Basketball is going to be his ticket out, his ticket up. He just needs to make it happen.

His best friend JD has plans, too. He’s going to be a filmmaker one day, like Quinten Tarantino or Guillermo del Toro (NOT Steven Spielberg). He’s got a camera and he’s got passion—what else could he need?

Fabi doesn’t have a plan anymore. When you get pregnant at sixteen and have been stuck bartending to make ends meet for the past seventeen years, you realize plans don’t always pan out, and that there some things you just can’t plan for…

Like Juan’s run-in with the police, like a sprained ankle, and a tanking math grade that will likely ruin his chance at a scholarship. Like JD causing the implosion of his family. Like letters from a man named Mando on death row. Like finding out this man could be the father your mother said was dead.

Soon Juan and JD are embarking on a Thelma and Louise­–like road trip to visit Mando. Juan will finally meet his dad, JD has a perfect subject for his documentary, and Fabi is desperate to stop them. But, as we already know, there are some things you just can’t plan for…

MY TWO CENTS: This book felt so real to me for a number of different reasons. First, as a native El Pasoan, it’s hard to not immediately feel pulled to any novel which takes place there. Though likely not recognizable by the average reader, Mendez does an incredible job of capturing the city’s personality, and displays the city’s many characteristics through descriptions of the neighborhoods and characters.

I appreciated that Mendez wrote with such authenticity. He explains that the experiences in the book are similar to those that he went through as a youth in El Paso, which makes the authenticity reasonable, but it’s more than that. Mendez writes Juan’s and JD’s characters in an incredibly life-like manner. They have genuine teen personas and voices. They make realistic teen decisions: they’re emotional, impulsive, and reactionary, but the reader can also see the calculated thought processes that happen in their heads. The characters develop in nuanced and genuine ways, becoming deeper, more advanced versions of themselves as the plot advances and they confront new situations.

Like many youth who grow up in the city, Juan wants to leave as soon as possible to achieve lofty goals elsewhere; whether his goals are in any way realistic or attainable is a conversation that adults often have with teens (again, authenticity!). JD is coming from a household in the midst of tumult, and, as expected, his easygoing persona is his crutch. He tries to be the best person that he can be, even in the midst of cynicism and negativity from his family. But even though both JD and Juan struggle to keep their heads straight while their family lives become chaotic and challenging, their ability to pursue their dreams despite the chaos is so genuine and, to me, exemplifies exactly what teens everywhere struggle to do every day.

The icing on the cake of this book was Fabi’s character. It was so refreshing for a YA novel to portray an adult who was trying as best they could to help their family succeed, but who was very much struggling in the process. Fabi’s character was, to me, very unlikable initially. I assumed she was going to be the sort of parent who had checked out of their teenage child’s life and never looked back. As the book continues, though, the reader can see her hidden depths, much in the same way that we see Juan’s and JD’s multiple layers shine through as we get to know them. Mendez does a phenomenal job of creating characters that are complex, intricate, and very well-developed.

The plot of this book, particularly the ending, is a fast-paced, interesting, and very realistic portrayal of the lives and experiences of a couple of families living in an area of the country that is currently a political, social, and humanitarian hotbed.

TEACHING TIPS: The point of view: Mendez’s use of three narrators makes the storyline feel varied and interesting throughout the book. This novel offers a great opportunity to speak about how using these varied points of view make the story feel fuller and more complete, as well as helping to give further perspective about the characters themselves.

Representation: The book also offers an opportunity to speak on a number of issues involving representation. First, these characters come from low socioeconomic communities, and their experiences are contrasted a number of times with those of people in higher socioeconomic groups. Readers can see how belonging to the group that Juan, JD, and Fabi do often have to navigate around the world, how their class can affect the decisions that they make, and how they interact with people in other classes.

image20ABOUT THE AUTHOR (From Simon & Schuster): Like his characters, Matt Mendez grew up in central El Paso, Texas. He received an MFA from the University of Arizona and is the author of the short story collection Twitching Heart. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Tucson, Arizona. Barely Missing Everything is his debut young adult novel. You can visit him at MattMendez.com.

 

 

 

 

FullSizeRenderABOUT THE REVIEWER: Katrina Ortega (M.L.I.S.) is the manager of the New York Public Library’s College and Career Pathways program. Originally from El Paso, Texas, she has lived in New York City for six years. She is a strong advocate of continuing education (in all of its forms) and is very interested in learning new ways that public libraries can provide higher education to all. She is also very interested in working with non-traditional communities in the library, particularly incarcerated and homeless populations. While pursuing her own higher education, she received two Bachelors of Arts degrees (in English and in History), a Masters of Arts in English, and a Masters of Library and Information Sciences. Katrina loves reading most anything, but particularly loves literary fiction, YA novels, and any type of graphic novel or comic. In her free time, if she’s not reading, Katrina loves to walk around New York, looking for good places to eat.

Review: Color Me In by Natasha Díaz

 

Review by Maria Ramos-Chertok

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time.

Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but because she inadvertently passes as white, her cousin thinks she’s too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices African Americans face on a daily basis. In the meantime, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. But rather than take a stand, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent.

Only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has her own voice. And choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she decide once for all who and where she is meant to be?

MY TWO CENTS: In Color Me In, Nevaeh Levitz shares her adolescent journey as a bi-racial girl trying to find herself in the races and cultures that make up her ancestry.  Daughter of a Jewish father and a Black mother, Nevaeh is caught between two worlds when her parents get divorced. I was very excited to read this book because I identified with many of the themes:  parents getting divorced, Jewish heritage, multicultural family, and trying to find myself in the two distinct cultures that make up my background. What I was reminded by reading this book is that despite the many levels on which I could relate to the themes, every journey is unique. This is particularly the case when dealing with the reality of what it means to have black skin in a country founded on racism and white supremacy.

The book exposes how skin color plays out not only in Nevaeh’s family, but when she’s out in her community trying to live life. It also exposes the implications of how the class divide operates to create different realities in education and access to material goods.

The book does a wonderful job of grappling with the challenges and gifts of a dual identity (and in some instances dueling identities). Nevaeh is looking to find herself in places that don’t have a blueprint for her existence. I wish this book had been available for me forty years ago.

One of my favorite parts of the book was the letter from the author at the end where she talks about what this book means to her and why she wrote it. That is where the entire book came together for me at a deeper level.

TEACHING TIPS: While the primary audience for this book is adolescents, I think anyone of any age with a bi-racial identity could relate to the themes.

Nevaeh’s grandmother is portrayed as overbearing, controlling, and unloving, so if this is a class’s first introduction or discussion of Jewish people, it might leave a negative impression, especially given that the Jewish father is a philanderer and not a very sympathetic character either. Nevaeh is able to find a foothold in Judaism despite them, but not because of their full support or acceptance. I’d encourage teachers to provide a larger context for understanding Jewish people.

The theme of bullying and racist language used against Nevaeh by her classmate and former friend Ally allows for an opportunity to discuss how words hurt and can be used as weapons. This could lead to an interesting discussion about hate speech, how the Supreme Court defines and classifies hate speech, and how the legal standard doesn’t necessarily help someone being bullied at school. Identifying strategies to respond to bullies and bystander intervention role plays could be fruitful.

There is an opportunity to discuss the role of ritual in developing and maintaining cultural identity. Students could be asked to examine the rituals in their life and how they offer (or don’t offer) them a way to deepen their understanding of who they are.

Given Nevaeh’s friendship with Stevie, I could imagine a meaningful discussion about what it means to be a good friend, how friendship makes a difference in one’s life, and what Nevaeh learned about friendship over the course of the story.

The topic of police brutality and misuse of power also stands out in two scenes where racial profiling occurs. Both of these situations help open Nevaeh’s eyes to the reality of racism and could lead to a discussion of how folks walk in the world with or without white skin privilege.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Natasha Díaz is a born and raised New Yorker, currently residing in Brooklyn, NY with her tall husband. She spends most of her days writing with no pants on and alternating between E.R. and Grey’s Anatomy binges. Natasha is both an author and screenwriter. Her scripts have placed as a quarterfinalist in the Austin Film Festival and a finalist for both the NALIP Diverse Women in Media Fellowship and the Sundance Episodic Story Lab. Her essays can be found in The Establishment and Huffington Post. Her first novel, Color Me In, was published by Delacorte Press/Random House August, 20 2019.

 

 

 

ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Maria Ramos-Chertok is a writer, workshop leader and coach who facilitates The Butterfly Series, a writing and creative arts workshop for women who want to explore what’s next in their life journey.  In December 2016, she won 1st place in the 2016 Intergenerational Story Contest for her piece, Family Recipes Should Never be Lost.  Her work has appeared in the Apogee Journal, Entropy Magazine, and A Quiet Courage.   Her piece Meet me by the River will be published in Deborah Santana’s forthcoming anthology All the Women in my Family Sing (Jan 2018) http://nothingbutthetruth.com/all-the-women-in-my-family-sing/. She is a trainer with Rockwood Leadership Institute www.rockwoodleadership.organd a member of the Bay Area chapter of Write on Mamas. For more information, visit her website at www.mariaramoschertok.com