NCTE’s 2020 Notable Poetry List

This year, members of the NCTE Excellence in Children's Poetry Award Committee are pleased to recognize 28 outstanding books of poetry and 11 novels in verse. These titles were deemed notable for their use of language and poetic devices and their appropriateness for children ages three to 13.

Image from How To Read a Book by Kwame Alexander
Illustrations ©2019 by Melissa Sweet. Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins.

For a list of past recipients and other notable poetry resources, visit the NCTE website (ncte.org/awards/ncte-childrens-book-awards).

Starting in 1977, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Excellence in Children’s Poetry Award was created to recognize the work of outstanding poets who write for children. The award has evolved, and now, in addition to naming an outstanding poet every two years, the committee selects an annual notable poetry and novels in verse list.

This year, members of the committee are pleased to recognize 28 outstanding books of poetry and 11 novels in verse. Each of the books selected was published in 2019. Read and evaluated by every committee member, these titles were deemed notable for their use of language and poetic devices and their appropriateness for children ages three to 13. The form or structure of the poems was evaluated to ensure that the mood or subject matter was well represented. The selections include a biography in lyrical verse, hybrid works of poetry and informational text, and innovative collections. In some cases, these are newly published poems, while other titles include works of classic or contemporary children’s poets that are newly illustrated or edited into a fresh collection.

Notable Poetry

AHMADI, Ahmadreza. When I Colored in the World. illus. by Ehsan Abollahi. tr. by Azita Rassi from Arabic. Tiny Owl. ISBN 9781910328491.
PreS-Gr 2 –This poem takes a philosophical look at the world through the eyes of a young child. It explores reality through color as symbols of hope, joy, positivity, and peace. In a quasi-metafictional turn, the young narrator is empowered to use crayons to rub out negative words like hunger and crying and color in happy things, such as blue skies, silver rain, and green wheat.

ALEXANDER, Kwame. How To Read a Book. illus. by Melissa Sweet. Harper Collins/Harper. ISBN 9780062307811.
K-Gr 3 –In this stunning combination of word and collage, Alexander invites the reader to “plant yourself” and give your soul “room to bloom.” His poetry illustrates the magic bestowed by story, and Sweet’s art is a feast for the eyes. Young readers will want to peruse this book again and again, finding glorious gems of word and image with each study.

ALEXANDER, Kwame. The Undefeated. illus. by Kadir Nelson. HMH/Versify. ISBN 9781328780966.
Gr 3-6 –A celebration of the perseverance, pain, contributions, glory, and triumphs of African Americans throughout U.S. history. Each page features Nelson’s astounding portraiture and still life paintings. Words and images together create opportunities for inquiry and further discussion. On the final spread, Alexander’s poem sings of hope and possibility, matched by the beaming faces of young African Americans. Back matter and an afterword by Alexander extend the learning opportunities.

BRAMER, Shannon. Climbing Shadows: Poems for Children. illus. by Cindy Derby. Groundwood. ISBN 9781773060958.
K-Gr 2 –In her author’s note, Bramer shares that the poems in this collection grew out of an experience as a lunchroom supervisor in a kindergarten classroom, where she wrote poems for the children on topics of their choosing. In poems on everything from skeletons and birthdays to owls and mothers, Bramer expresses the particular and the universal landscape of children’s worlds. Derby’s watercolor, India ink, and digital collage illustrations evoke a range of emotions.

BULION, Leslie. Superlative Birds. illus. by Robert Meganck. Peachtree. ISBN 9781561459513.
Gr 3-6 –This hybrid work includes poems accompanied by detailed information about a different bird, including the bee hummingbird, the red-billed quelea, the emperor penguin, the Jacana spinosa, and the peregrine falcon. Between each poem and the supportive expository text, the featured bird offers a narrative in a speech bubble. The book’s design cleverly integrates information on which bird is the fastest or has the longest toes, the widest wingspan, or the widest field of vision.

COOPER, Susan. The Shortest Day. illus. by Carson Ellis. Candlewick. ISBN 9780763686987.
Gr 2-4 –Newbery Medal–winner Cooper and Caldecott Honor recipient Ellis team up to translate Cooper’s iconic poem into picture book form. Originally written to be performed on stage, Cooper’s poem pays homage to the winter solstice. In an author’s note at the end of the book, Cooper shares, “It’s a universal impulse, this celebration of the light as a symbol of continuing life.” Ellis’s muted, full-spread gouache illustrations portray light in a variety of forms, from candles to hearth fires to the weak winter sun, all working to bring hope on the darkest day of the year. The pictures portray long-ago revelers from Northern Europe, as well as modern-day Yule celebrations. A festive opportunity to welcome the Yuletide season.

FOGLIANO, Julie. If I Was the Sunshine. illus. by Loren Long. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781481472432.
PreS-Gr 2 –Fogliano begins, “if i was the sunshine/and you were the day/i’d call you hello!/and you’d call me stay.” Her poem continues in this manner, exploring the relationships among seasons, animals, the landscape, and other natural phenomena. The large trim-size and Long’s vibrant, full-bleed acrylic paintings invite the reader into each setting to consider the relationship described. Rhyme, rhythm, and repetition allow even the youngest listener to predict the final line of each stanza before executing a perfectly placed page turn. Lullaby-like, the poem concludes, “if i was the morning/and you were the night/you’d call me tomorrow/i’d call you sleep tight.”

FROST, Helen. Hello, I’m Here! illus. by Rick Lieder. Candlewick. ISBN 9780763698584.
PreS-Gr 2 –Through playful, rhyming text, a sandhill crane chick eagerly explores its new world. “Hundreds of voices fill the sky./How did those birds learn to fly?” Lieder’s stunning, full-page photographs of the crane family and their environment will enchant young children and their adults. An informative author’s note offers budding birders additional information and stresses the importance of protecting these beautiful creatures: “The baby crane’s journey into the world is helped by its watchful parents and the wild environment—and us, when we protect all living creatures.”

HEARD, Georgia. Boom! Bellow! Bleat! Animal Poems for Two or More Voices. illus. by Aaron DeWitt. Boyds Mills/Wordsong. ISBN 9781620915202.
K-Gr 3 –Onomatopoeia abounds in this playful book. Guided by their sense of sound, readers explore the animal kingdom with their ears and use their voices to mimic the quonk, waa, and errrrgh of frogs and toads, the incessant honk of geese, and the woooooooo of a humpback whale. Written for two or more voices, each poem begs to be read aloud. Font size and color, along with an occasional “Performance Key,” provide guidance, while the “Nature’s Notes” at the end satisfy the curiosity of those who desire to learn more about the sounds of the natural world. The detailed artwork reveals the physical characteristics of the creatures behind the noises.

HEGEDUS, Bethany. Rise!: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou. illus. by Tonya Engel. Lee & Low. ISBN 9781620145876.
Gr 2-5 –Hegedus uses beautiful verse to chronicle each stage of Maya Angelou’s life: “Bailey, a year older, offers/Maya comfort./His voice a lullaby,/his skin a warm blanket,/his smile rocks and reassures.” Engel employs a vibrant, swirling palette, mixing figurative forms with dreamlike expressions that complement the stirring text. The book begins with a poignant foreword by Colin Johnson, Angelou’s grandson, and ends with important back matter, including a time line, resources to support victims of sexual violence, and a selected bibliography.

HOBERMAN, Mary Ann. The Sun Shines Everywhere. illus. by Luciano Lozano. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316523844.
PreS-Gr 2 –Using rhyming verse, this ode to the sun celebrates the diversity of life on Earth and our global community, with the repeated refrain, “The sun shines everywhere!” Lozano’s watercolor pencil, India ink, acrylic, and digital artwork elevates Hoberman’s verse. There’s also plenty of information here: that the sun is shining even on cloudy or rainy days; about nocturnal animals; or why we have daytime on one side of Earth while the other side has night. Hoberman ends with the following exuberant lines: “They start to smile, they’re full of cheer/And glad to be alive!”

JANECZKO, Paul B., ed. The Proper Way To Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems. illus. by Richard Jones. Candlewick. ISBN 9780763681685.
K-Gr 2 –Thirty-three poems, ranging from the silly to the serious, teach readers a variety of skills, from how to walk on Mars to how to catch a snowflake. The selections are by classic poets (Christina Rossetti, Robert Louis Stevenson) and modern-day contributors (Douglas Florian and April Halprin Wayland). After reading Allan Wolf’s titular poem, children will learn that if they ever meet a hedgehog, they should stand silently. Jones’s earth-toned, soft-hued illustrations add appeal.

MAILLARD, Kevin Noble. Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story. illus. by Juana Martinez-Neal. Roaring Brook. ISBN 9781626727465.
Gr 1-5 –In the first stanzas, readers learn the basic characteristics of fry bread. Subsequent stanzas reveal the complex beginnings of the food, including its history and cultural significance to Indigenous peoples of North America. Maillard declares: “FRY BREAD IS US/We are still here/Elder and young/Friend and neighbor/We strengthen each other/To learn, change, and survive/FRY BREAD IS YOU.” Following the poem, the author shares his personal recipe for fry bread and provides information about its connection to American Indian culture. Martinez-Neal brings the many variations of fry bread to the forefront through her use of acrylic, colored pencil, and graphite, resulting in artwork that showcases the beauty and diversity of contemporary Native nations and tribes.

OWENS, Mary Beth. Hawksbill Promise: A Sea Turtle’s Journey. illus. by author. Tilbury House. ISBN 9780884484301.
PreS-Gr 2 –The jumby tree narrates this collection of poems that share the story of a female hawksbill sea turtle who has returned to the bay of her birth. As darkness falls, she lays her eggs and meticulously covers them, “disguising the nest/she dug so carefully,/doing her best to keep it/safe from intruders.” Time passes and suspense builds as readers wait for the eggs to hatch. Beautiful watercolor, acrylic, and ink illustrations complement the poetry in this celebration of life. Back matter shares additional facts about the hawksbill, its habitat, and the other animals appearing in the book.

My First Book of Haiku Poems: A Picture, a Poem and a Dream. tr. by Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen. illus. by Tracy Gallup. Tuttle. ISBN 9784805315156.
Gr 1-4 –Ramirez-Christensen translates haiku by Japanese masters Kobayashi Issa, Masaoka Shiki, Matsuo Bashō, and others into three languages: English, kanji (a system of writing Japanese using Chinese characters), and romaji, which is Japanese represented in the Roman alphabet. Each haiku sounds like a whisper in still air. Additional text offers opportunities for further interpretation and provides guidance for young poets.

RANSOME, James E. The Bell Rang. illus. by author. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781442421134.
Gr 2-5 –Ransome brilliantly builds his narrative about plantation life for the enslaved on a familiar days-of-the-week pattern. The author deftly conveys the humanity of ordinary family life in deep conflict with the inhumanity of slavery: “I wake to the sound of Mama and Daddy searching,/looking./No sun in the sky./Mama crying./No Ben./Daddy crying./Ben ran.” Spare, repetitive language and richly detailed paintings bring to vivid life pain and hope.

RASCHKA, Chris. Mother Goose of Pudding Lane: A Small Tall Tale. illus. by Vladimir Radunsky. Candlewick. ISBN 9780763675233.
PreS-Gr 1 –According to the book jacket: “Anyone who rhymes a little story is a kind of goose. Anyone who cares for little children is a kind of mother. Do them together and you are a kind of Mother Goose. As long as there are stories and children, there will be Mother Gooses.” In this fanciful and farcical tall tale, Raschka presents one such real life “Mother Goose,” Elizabeth Foster, who married Isaac Goose in 1692. Elizabeth raised 14 children, for whom she made up rhymes and poems. These nursery rhymes and stories were eventually published at a Boston print shop in Pudding Lane. Raschka uses well-known nursery rhymes to portray the story of the Goose family. Radunsky’s bright gouache and pencil illustrations fill the book with whimsy and movement.

ROSSETTI, Christina. Blooming Beneath the Sun. illus. by Ashley Bryan. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Bks. ISBN 9781534440920.
K-Gr 4 –These vivid, musical poems, coupled with Bryan’s bursts of colorful cut-paper collages, echo the freshness and wonder of young children. Poet and artist both offer surprises that can stir a child’s creative imagination. A daisy in the grass “stands up like a star/Out of a sky of green.” Bryan’s robin for “Wrens and Robins in the Hedge” has the conventional red breast with vibrant yellow and brown striped wings. One might have expected delicate, lacy pastels for a Victorian poet, but these poems are far better served by Bryan’s bright abundance. When readers see how the poem “Color” inspired Bryan’s gorgeous double-page spread of pears, poppies, and a swan with feathers of yellow, gray green, and pink, it comes as no surprise to read that he “has loved Christina Rossetti’s poems for as long as he can remember.”

SALAS, Laura Purdie. In the Middle of the Night: Poems from a Wide-Awake House. illus. by Angela Matteson. Boyds Mills/Wordsong. ISBN 9781620916308.
PreS-Gr 2 –In this exhilarating marriage of two playful imaginations, Salas and Matteson give voice and movement to objects in a sleeping child’s “wide-awake house,” not just to the stuffed dragon and aching basketball, but to jump-roping dental floss; a dried fruit strip that unrolls into a track where the racing car gets “stuck in berry muck”; and to strands of leftover spaghetti: “I long to be/a thing you use!/I lace myself/into your shoes.” An acrostic spells “PERFUME” while a delicate bottle with ponytail atomizer sprays flowers as it flies about. Salas’s poetry ranges from puns to the lyrical imagery of the garden hose: “I lurk in a circle out on the lawn/I’m a puddle of darkness—a great round yawn.” This is a delightful read-aloud book that children will want to revisit again and again—and perhaps create their own “wide-awake house” poems.

SALAS, Laura Purdie. Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons. illus. by Mercè López. Lerner/Millbrook. ISBN 9781512498097.
K-Gr 2 –Salas has invented an engaging new poetic form, the riddle-ku. In these three-line haiku, something nonhuman invites readers to guess what it is: “We are knitted twins/soft as kittens, warm as hugs,/waiting to hold hands.” López’s appealing full-page illustrations offer hints, through color, line, and texture, that evoke a seasonal mood, encouraging children to appreciate both verbal and visual images as they solve the riddles. The poems are organized by season, spring through winter. Back matter includes an answer key, a short list for further reading, and directions for writing their own riddle-ku.

SALAS, Laura Purdie. Snowman-Cold=Puddle: Spring Equations. illus. by Micha Archer. Charlesbridge. ISBN 9781580897983.
PreS-Gr 2 –Mathematical poetry and lyrical informational text complement each other perfectly in this book about spring. In the opening spread, Salas tells readers that “science+poetry=surprise!” and explains, “Science is why and how a/flower grows. Poetry is/looking at that flower and/seeing a firework. Surprise!” Subsequent double-page spreads reveal those surprises through equations and text, taking readers from the earliest days of spring when “bark+beak=drum” and the woodpecker “digs for bugs in a tree” to the rainy days of April when “sun-storm=rainbow” and, finally, to late spring days when “1 dandelion x 1 breath = 100 parachutes.” Using oils, collage, gessoed paper, and Photoshop, Archer’s vibrant, full-bleed artwork invites readers into each setting to experience the wonders of spring more fully.

SCHAUB, Michelle. Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections. illus. by Carmen Saldaña. Charlesbridge. ISBN 9781580898751.
K-Gr 3 –This collection tells the story of a girl whose teacher has asked the class to share something they collect. But what is her passion? In her exploration of the collections of her family and friends—everything from buttons to baseball cards, coins to clocks—our narrator considers what she loves enough to collect, curate, and share, and in the final poem she decides: “It isn’t something that you count,/sort, or rearrange.” It’s poetry! Schaub’s language is pleasingly readable in a variety of free verse and rhyme-and-meter forms. She successfully conveys both the collectors’ devotions and the delights of their chosen objects. Saldaña’s detailed cartoon illustrations add energy and warmth.

SINGER, Marilyn. I’m the Big One Now: Poems About Growing Up. illus. by Jana Christy. Boyds Mills/Wordsong. ISBN 9781629791692.
PreS-Gr 2 –Singer’s poems are filled with wordplay and celebrate the universal, exciting developmental accomplishments of young children, from “First Good Snap, First Good Whistle” to “Big-Kid Teeth.” There are also poems about more specific experiences, like “My Own Seat on the Plane” and “Cannonball.” Learning to ride a bike is described in three installments: “Trying To Ride” highlights the effort of learning new skills bit by bit over time. This collection is also notable for its variety of companion poems, such as the quiet “In the Theatre” and the noisy “At the Ballpark.”

STEINGLASS, Elizabeth. Soccerverse: Poems About Soccer. illus. by Edson Ike. Boyds Mills/Wordsong. ISBN 9781629792491.
K-Gr 2 –Steinglass’s exploration of the soccer world begins with a mask poem, a single shin guard addressing its player, ready—though stinky—to play another game. Sadly, the other shin guard is still at the field, left alone next to a juice box! The poems highlight the competitive nature of the sport, juxtaposing players and goalies, defenders, and strikers, and confront the difficulties of fair play when emotions run high. In the end, Steinglass offers readers a note about the variety of poems used, challenging them to match the form to the page with its cartoon illustrations.

TURK, Evan. You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks. illus. by author. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781534432826.
Gr 3-6 –Turk turns his love of and connection to America’s national parks into poetry and image in this majestic book. “You are home” echoes throughout, reminding the wildlife, foliage, and human visitors that all are welcome. Sketching mostly on location, Turk illuminates stunning vistas with pastels, elevating his invitation for all to find a home in nature. Back matter offers a map for geographic perspective as well as write-ups of the parks featured, encouraging readers to explore further and possibly, one day, find themselves a park visitor as well.

VECCHIONE, Patrice & Alyssa Raymond, eds. Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience. Seven Stories. ISBN 9781609809072.
Gr 8 Up –The editors have collected 64 poems written by poets celebrating the lives of young refugees and immigrants. In their editors’ note, they explain: “Writing poetry will help you realize that you are stronger than you thought you were and that within your tenderness is your fortitude. Not only does ink know no borders; neither does the heart.” Offering both windows into unfamiliar experiences and mirrors that reflect readers’ own experiences, this collection is especially relevant today. Young adult readers may recognize contributors such as Elizabeth Acevedo, Samira Ahmed, and Gary Soto. Javier Zamora writes a compelling foreword; Emtithal Mahmoud’s afterword bids readers to “Acknowledge the pain, acknowledge the peace, acknowledge the love there is, and acknowledge the privilege that exists in reading what others have lived.” Short biographies of the poets are included at the back of the book.

WOLF, Allan. The Day the Universe Exploded My Head. illus. by Anna Raff. Candlewick. ISBN 9780763680251.
Gr 3-6 –Commenting on everything from Saturn’s fashionable accessories (its rings!) to Neptune’s lonesome blues, Wolf’s witty poems inform and amuse. Readers meet planets, moons, and stars, as well as historians and astronauts, through playful sonnets, verse, and multivoice poetry. Raff’s illustrations humorously enhance the text, and the back matter supports learning through a scientific glossary and explanation of the poetic variations. Out of this world!

WONG, Janet. A Suitcase of Seaweed & More. Pomelo. ISBN 9781937057336.
Gr 6-8 –Wong’s story of her Korean mother’s family, her Chinese father’s family, and her own American family unfolds beautifully in three different narratives told through poems, short memoir, and brief invitations to participate in her poems. The history of immigration is revisited, and Wong poses critical questions about the misconceptions of cultural diversity among Chinese, Korean, and Japanese people. Her poetry creates a gallery dynamic: Each full-page spread engages readers in provocative reading-writing connections.

Notable Verse Novels

ARGUETA, Jorge. Caravan to the North: Misael’s Long Walk. illus. by Manuel Monroy. Groundwood. ISBN 9781773063294.
Gr 3-6 –This verse novel illuminates the experiences of a diverse array of people from many nations that too often have been conflated in the oversimplified category of Latin America. Readers experience a harrowing journey through the eyes of the narrator, 10-year-old El Salvadorean Misael. He and his family have joined a caravan of people heading to the North, hoping to escape violence or poverty or find work. Misael meets individuals from Sonsonate, Chalatenango, La Unión, and San Salvador. Approaching the borders of Guatemala and Mexico, the migrants express fear and excitement. Monroy depicts their journey using simple pen-and-ink line drawings. The book includes an author’s note and a map of the caravan route.

BARON, Chris. All of Me. Feiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250305992.
Gr 3-6 –Ari Rosensweig is so visible he’s invisible: “I am so big/that everyone stares,/but no one sees the real me.” Baron tells Ari’s honest, complicated, and authentic story with immediacy and raw emotion, emphasized by condensed lines of poetic narrative. Adult support comes in the form of doctors and a rabbi who help him separate from the hardest parts of his tangled family life. At last, Ari finds “Just moments/with no eyes on me.” What a relief to have no eyes but one’s own on oneself.

ELLIOTT, David. Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc. HMH. ISBN 9781328987594.
Gr 6 Up –A tour de force of poetic craft, this reconstruction of the extraordinary life of Joan of Arc challenges and surprises on every page. Elliott weaves witness testimony from Joan’s trials with the distinctive voices of the young woman herself, the saints who guided her courageous actions, and the objects that play roles in her story—a needle, a dress, a road, a sword, the very fire upon which she was burned. Metered verse set in concrete shapes work against their formal regularity, just as Joan strained against all expectations of her gender. Elliott skillfully mingles the facts of Joan’s mission to save France with the superstitious flavor of pre-Enlightenment religious belief that permitted a teenage girl to lead an army in God’s name.

HEMPHILL, Stephanie. The Language of Fire: Joan of Arc Reimagined. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780062490117.
Gr 7 Up –Told entirely through the voice of Jehanne (Joan of Arc), this verse novel embodies the subject’s humanity and power. Hemphill has filled in many gaps in the documented history. She creates Jehanne’s voice with poetic imagery, drawn from countryside and court, that is sometimes haunting and sometimes down-to-earth. Readers trace her shifting emotions from 13-year-old misfit peasant to inspired leader of soldiers and nobles to persecuted defendant on trial for her life. Breaking this complex arc into very brief segments, each with a helpful heading and date, Hemphill makes it easier for readers to follow Jehanne’s story. In the closing section, long after her death, Jehanne comes to a new understanding: “The girls who fear/the fire inside themselves,/I burned for them.”

HOLT, K.A. Redwood and Ponytail. Chronicle. ISBN 9781452172880.
Gr 5-7 –In free-verse monologues and two-voice poems, Holt brings to life the shifting emotions of two 12-year-old girls who are drawn to each other despite being apparent opposites—glamorous, popular cheerleader vs. lanky, unconventional athlete. The relationship intensifies as each starts to see beneath the stereotypes and to understand and trust the other. These are voices that teen and preteen readers need to hear as they question their own sexual and social identities and confront adult authority as they work to become comfortable in their own skin. As the book flap notes, “Sometimes you know who you’re meant to be with before you know how you’re meant to be.” Secondary characters—confidante, mentor, the two mothers—are equally convincing. Full of humor, tension, and sweetness.

LUCIDO, Aimee. Emmy in the Key of Code. HMH/Versify. ISBN 9780358040828.
Gr 3-6 –Twelve-year-old Emmy has been uprooted from Wisconsin to California because of her father’s job. She already doesn’t fit in; her parents are talented musicians, and Emmy struggles to carry a tune. She’s highly knowledgeable about classical and modern music, but performing just doesn’t click. At her new school, she finds a new language—coding. Lucido masterfully weaves music and computer science into a verse narrative about overcoming challenges, navigating new friendships, and ultimately finding oneself.

MOSKOWITZ-SWEET, Gloria & Hope Anita Smith. It Rained Warm Bread: Moishe Moskowitz’s Story of Hope. illus. by Lea Lyon. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. ISBN 9781250165725.
Gr 6-8 –This heartrending novel in verse shares events from the life of Michael “Moishe” Moskowitz, a young Jewish boy living in Poland at the time of the Nazi invasion. “The Nazi soldiers have built a den in our town./They are wolves traveling in packs./They are hungry./Neighbors are disappearing./There are beatings and/public humiliations./They are eating Jews./We become shadows.” Moishe and his family suffer in numerous ways, sacrificing normal daily life and spending months in hiding, only to return home too quickly and find themselves under the soldiers’ menacing watch. Ultimately, the Nazis force them from one concentration camp to another. Moishe’s traumatic journey ends with hope. In her author’s note, Moskowitz-Sweet, Moishe’s daughter, provides further details for readers about the life of this brave, determined man.

NAGAI, Mariko. Under the Broken Sky. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. ISBN 9781250159212.
Gr 5-9 –Nagai, winner of the Pushcart Prize for both poetry and fiction, contextualizes Manchuria’s role as an occupied territory during World War II. Through her unsentimental portrayal of 12-year-old Natsu and her family’s farm life in Manchuria, the author introduces a lesser-known story of Japanese settlers-turned-refugees. When her father is drafted by the Japanese army, Natsu and her little sister are left alone. Forced to flee with other villagers, Natsu and her sister face many hardships. Following the Soviet occupation in 1945, Natsu, fearing for her sister’s life, sells her to a local Russian woman. Overcoming tremendous odds, Natsu works tirelessly to get her sister back. They eventually reach Japan, although they are never reunited with their father. An informative afterword offers readers historical context for Natsu’s harrowing yet hopeful narrative.

SALAZAR, Aida. The Moon Within. illus. by Joe Cepeda. Arthur A. Levine Bks. ISBN 9781338283372.
Gr 4-8 –Celi is an 11-year-old with “a Mexican side and a Caribbean side,” confronting puberty. In four sections named after moon phases, Celi struggles to navigate the tensions between bodily privacy and positivity, between old ways and current cultural norms, between her love for the people she’s always known and her expanding social circles. Throughout, the rhythms of Afro-Latino music, drumming and dance, are foremost: Celi, her Papi, and her best friend Magda are all performers in a community bomba group. Celi supports Magda as Magda realizes that he is really Marco, and defends Marco when another boy she’s been crushing on through social media derides him. Celi also comes to accept the significance of her first-blood Moon Ceremony, which her Mima has planned. Salazar brings layers and inflections that break the first-period conversation wide open for 21st-century young people. It is beautifully frank, creating lasting images through varied voices and emotions.

WARGA, Jasmine. Other Words for Home. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780062747808.
As 12-year-old Jude’s Syrian hometown becomes too volatile, she and her pregnant mother must flee to Ohio for safety, leaving behind her father and older brother. Jude struggles with language, racism, and longing for her loved ones. Yet as she grows and matures, Jude finds strength in her new friends who have immigrated like she has, in the theater that offers her an opportunity she cannot pass up, in her newly born sister’s tiny fingers of hope, and, ultimately, in herself. This Newbery Honor book uses verse in a moving and powerful way to explore finding home wherever we are.

WILSON, Kip. White Rose. HMH/Versify. ISBN 9781328594433.
This is a story of teen activists during World War II under the Nazi regime. White Rose was a nonviolent German resistance group made up mostly of young people. Narratives from young Germans, especially girls like Sophie Scholl, illuminate untold perspectives on the war and the resistance. Readers will come away with an understanding of the importance of taking action, even when one is young and seemingly powerless.

The 2020 NCTE Poetry Committee members included: Trish Bandré, Donna Friend, Ted Kesler, Judy Rowe Michaels, Heidi Mordhorst, Lisa Pinkerton, and Yoo Kyung Sung.

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