20 Books To Celebrate Caribbean American Heritage Month

We rounded up picture books, middle grade novels, and YA titles from the past year that either center the Caribbean American experience or are written by authors of Caribbean descent.
This year marks the eighth anniversary of June as National Caribbean American Heritage Month. Spearheaded by Dr. Claire Nelson, founder and president of the Institute of Caribbean Studies, the celebration commemorates the traditions that those of Caribbean heritage have brought to the United States. From Founding Father Alexander Hamilton to journalist Malcolm Gladwell, Caribbean immigrants have made lasting contributions to U.S. history and culture, including children's and young adult literature. We rounded up picture books, middle grade novels, and YA titles from the past year that either center the Caribbean American experience or are written by authors of Caribbean descent.

Picture BookS

PAUL, Baptiste. The Field. illus. by Jacqueline Alcántara. 32p. glossary. North South. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780735843127. POP K-Gr 3–An open field in a lush Caribbean setting calls to a group of children. They chase away grazing animals, bring out the soccer ball and goals, and begin a spirited game of soccer. Rain and a muddy, slippery field cannot stop their game; only the repeated calls from the mamas and a setting sun can. Dirty but satisfied, the children return home for baths and bed, knowing that the field will call again for another rousing game. Illustrations in deep, saturated colors with energetic lines accompany a spare but rhythmic English text, sprinkled with Creole. The narrative and images evoke the islands and the joy of playing a game regardless of weather. In a concluding note, Paul recalls his native Saint Lucia where, he explains, Creole is spoken but is rarely written down. A brief glossary is included, though most of the words will be understandable in context and in the animated paintings. ­VERDICT This engaging book is sure to resonate with children who are passionate about soccer and even those who simply enjoy lively play.–Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2018 issue.

redstarENGLE, Margarita. All the Way to Havana. illus. by Mike Curato. 40p. Holt. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627796422.

PreS-Gr 2 –Accompanied by the vibrant onomatopoeia of an old rebuilt car, a brown-skinned boy travels with his family from their village in Cuba to the capital city, Havana, to celebrate the “zero-year birthday” of his cousin. The focus of this colorful picture book is on the car (nicknamed “Cara Cara”), one of Cuba’s many mid-20th-century American vehicles maintained through constant tinkering. “Ours is so tired that she just chatters like a busy chicken—cara cara, cara cara, cluck, cluck, cluck.” Award-winning poet Engle transports readers to Cuba through her lively verse, and Curato (author/illustrator of the “Little Elliot” series) does the same with his nearly photorealistic illustrations rendered in pencil, with digital color bringing out the bright tones of the tropics. Each spread includes endless detail, from the clothes hanging on the clothesline in the boy’s backyard to Havana’s beautiful architecture. The stars of the book, of course, are the 1950s cars, which Curato studied on a research trip to Cuba and depicts precisely in all their mixed-and-matched glory. While younger readers will simply enjoy the journey, older children may desire more information about the context of the story, some of which can be found in the author’s and illustrator’s notes. VERDICT A fun addition to the ever-popular genre of transportation picture books—this one with a unique perspective and message of perseverance.–Clara Hendricks, Cambridge Public Library, MA

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2017 issue.

redstarLOVE, Jessica. Julián Is a Mermaid. illus. by Jessica Love. 40p. Candlewick. May 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763690458.

PreS-Gr 2 –Young Julián lives with his abuela and is obsessed with mermaids. He imagines taking off his clothes, growing a tail, and swimming freely through the blue-tinted water with swirls of fish and stingrays. After spying some women on a train dressed as mermaids, Julián later tells his abuela, “I am also a mermaid,” then proceeds to wrap a curtain around his waist as a “tail.” Ferns in his hair complete the fantastical look, and when his grandmother catches him —is he in trouble? Not at all! In fact, she takes Julián to a festival where people are dressed as fantastically as Julián. Love couples the spare narrative with vivid, imaginative, and breathtaking illustrations. VERDICT A heartwarming must-have for one-on-one and small group sharing.–Amanda C. Buschmann, Carroll Elementary School, Houston

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2018 issue.

Middle Grade

redstarBAPTISTE, Tracey. Rise of the Jumbies. 272p. Algonquin. Sept. 2017. Tr $16,95. ISBN 9781616206659.

Gr 4-6 –This sequel to The Jumbies, a dark fairy tale woven from elements of traditional Caribbean folklore, does not disappoint. Shunned by most of the town on her small island for her recently revealed part-jumbie heritage, Corinne is lonely and yet still wants to help when several children are lost after a tidal wave. After discovering that these are not the first kids to go missing near water, Corinne bravely consults the queen of water for help, Mama D’Leau. Mama D’Leau does not give advice for free, however, so Corinne and her three steadfast friends must retrieve a priceless jewel in payment. They are magically led through the seas by Mama D’Leau’s mermaid daughters to Ghana, where many years ago the daughters were kidnapped by slavers and drowned when the ship went down. Mama D’Leau does not always keep her promises, and Corinne must use all her ingenuity and some of her own jumbie magic to help the missing children. The novelty of the fantasy elements, the complex characters, and the superb world-building combine in a tale well worth reading, both as a sequel and a stand-alone. VERDICT A stellar recommendation for fans of edgy fantasy such as Aaron Starmer’s “The Riverman Trilogy” or Adam Gidwitz’s “A Tale Dark and Grimm” series, and, of course, fans of the first book.–Gretchen Crowley, formerly at Alexandria City Public Libraries, VA

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2017 issue.

redstarCALLENDER, Kheryn. Hurricane Child. 224p. Scholastic. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338129304.

Gr 4-6 –Twelve-year-old Caroline and her father live on Water Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Caroline, known as a “Hurricane Child,” since she was born during a hurricane, is plagued with bad luck. She sees a spirit—the woman in black—that no one else can see. She is bullied daily at school by both children and her teachers who make cruel remarks about her dark skin tone. Her feelings of loneliness are compounded by the fact that her mother left and never returned. When a new student from Barbados named Kalinda joins her class, Caroline is drawn to Kalinda’s confidence and disinterest in befriending the bullies. The two girls soon become close friends. Caroline realizes her feelings for Kalinda are more than platonic and when she expresses them to Kalinda, they are unfortunately met with resistance. Nevertheless, Kalinda agrees to help Caroline find her mother in the midst of a terrible storm. By the end, the protagonist is able to feel more at peace with herself, her family, and her complex relationship with Kalinda. The novel moves at a substantial pace and contains intermittent flashbacks. Told solely from Caroline’s perspective, readers get an in-depth understanding of her experiences and feelings. Lush descriptions bring the Caribbean environment to vivid life. VERDICT An excellent and nuanced coming-of-age tale with a dash of magical realism for readers who enjoy character-driven novels, especially those with middle grade LGBTQ+ characterizations.–Jess Gafkowitz, Brooklyn Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal January 2018 issue.

redstarCARTAYA, Pablo. Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish. 272p. Viking. Aug. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101997260.

Gr 4-7 –This middle grade story, set in Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico, pulls together important themes of family, identity, bilingualism, friends, and bullying. Marcus Vega navigates his six-foot-tall, 180-pound frame through middle school while also caring for his younger sibling, Charlie, who has Down Syndrome. Because of his large size, some of his peers consider him to be a monster, or even a bully. When a real bully uses the “R” word in reference to Charlie, Marcus punches him in the jaw. This begins a series of events in which he is expelled from school before spring break, causing his mother to take the boys to Puerto Rico where they are introduced to their father’s extended family for the first time. Marcus decides to locate his long-absent father and over the course of five days, readers travel the island with him as he is introduced to its rich flora and fauna, foods, community life, music, and friendliness. Marcus eventually comes to terms with his life challenges, including his own identity. VERDICT An excellent choice for upper elementary and middle grade libraries given its multiple, age-appropriate themes and the window it provides to life in a Puerto Rico before Hurricane María.–Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, Lisle, IL

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2018 issue.

ENGLE, Margarita. Forest World. 208p. S. & S./Atheneum. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481490573.

Gr 4-7–A novel in verse told from two perspectives. Eleven-year-old Edver is reunited with his family in Cuba after the reestablishment of relations with the United States. After growing up with his mother in Miami, Edver is unaware that he has a 12-year-old sister, Luza, who has been living with his father and grandfather in the Cuban jungle. Edver finds that the meager standard of living he enjoyed in the United States is enviable in comparison with that of Cuba; Luza resents Edver’s apparent wealth. Engle’s focus is mainly on familial relationships but includes a rather minor environmental conflict: while trying to get the attention of their mother, a cryptozoologist, Edver and Luza unite temporarily to post on the Internet about the discovery of a new butterfly. A poacher who works as a “Human Vacuum Cleaner” profiting from endangered species soon appears in the forest. Although the poacher problem is tied up neatly by the book’s conclusion, the family issues mostly remain unsettled—a realistic, if unsatisfying, outcome. Edver and Luza are pleasingly realized with individual interests (online games and sculpture, respectively); the adult relationships, though, feel largely unexplored. VERDICT This well-timed and accessible work of eco-fiction should readily find its way into classrooms and libraries as an opening to learning more about the familial ties between the United States and one of its nearest neighbors.–Erin Reilly-Sanders, University of Wisconsin-Madison

redstarPÉREZ, Celia C. The First Rule of Punk. 336p. Viking. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780425290408.

Gr 3-6 –A fun romp through the awkward years of middle school that examines themes of identity and culture. When Malu has to move away from her dad and everything she knows, she takes her love of punk music with her. Following the rules of punk, she embarks on a new school journey, full of misadventures and hilarious life lessons. Malu is happy not to fit in with the crowd yet cannot bring herself to tell her mom that her passion for punk is not a rebellious phase—it’s who she is. When classmates label Malu a coconut (brown on the outside and white on the inside), she is determined to prove to her school and herself that she is proud of her Mexican roots. With tenderness and humor, Pérez explores the joys and challenges of being biracial. Readers will connect with Malu, a strong protagonist who leaps off the page and whose zine-inspired artistry boldly illustrates how she deals with life. VERDICT Those who enjoy vivacious, plucky heroines, such as the protagonists of Brenda Woods’s The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick’s Two Naomis, and Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger, will eagerly embrace Malu.–Jessica Bratt, Grand Rapids Public Library, MI

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2017 issue.

Young adult

redstarACEVEDO, Elizabeth. The Poet X. 368p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062662804. POP

Gr 7 Up –Magnificently crafted, Acevedo’s bildungsroman in verse is a stunning account of a teen girl’s path to poetry. Sophomore Xiomara Batista is simultaneously invisible and hyper visible at home, at school, and in her largely Dominican community in Harlem—her body is “unhide-able” she tells readers early on, and she bristles at how others project their desires, insecurities, failures, and patriarchal attitudes toward her. Though she is quick to battle and defend herself and her twin brother Xavier, Xiomara’s inner life sensitively grapples with these projections and the expectations of her strict, religious mother. Acevedo’s depiction of a faith in crisis is exceedingly relatable and teens, especially those going through the sacrament of Confirmation, will deeply appreciate Xiomara’s thoughtful questioning of the Church and how it treats women. Forbidden kisses with a crush and an impromptu performance at an open mic prove to be euphoric, affirming moments for Xiomara: “it’s beautiful and real and what I wanted.” Acevedo’s poetry is skillfully and gorgeously crafted, each verse can be savored on its own, but together they create a portrait of a young poet sure to resonate with readers long after the book’s end. ­VERDICT Truly a “lantern glowing in the dark” for aspiring poets everywhere. All YA collections will want to share and treasure this profoundly moving work.–Della Farrell, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2018 issue.

Gibson, Tamika. Dreams Beyond the Shore. 190p. Blouse & Skirt. Sept. 2017. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9789768267061.

Gr 8 Up –Originally published in Jamaica, this debut novel introduces readers to 17-year-old Chelsea Marchand. She has lead a charmed life due to her powerful father, Peter Marchand, who is now running for Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. Chelsea has always been the conscientious daughter who invariably put her family’s needs before her own. Her father has had her whole life planned for her, and she is coming to realize that his dreams no longer mirror her own. He hopes that Chelsea will become a lawyer who then follows in his political footsteps, but she has aspirations of becoming a writer and attending Georgetown University in the United States. Enter Kyron Grant, the handsome boy in her SAT class who may not have had the same charmed life, but is also overshadowed by a powerful father. Together they find they have more in common than not. Their attraction is palpable and their romance is a slow, but clean burn—until a gruesome murder, betrayal, and political intrigue tear them apart. Told in alternating points of view, this tale is crafted with universal themes of acceptance, family values, and doing what’s right in the face of adversity. The descriptions of Trinidad and Tobago are lush and vivid. VERDICT A solid choice for schools and libraries looking to add an accessible novel with a strong and intelligent female protagonist and a patient and respectful male protagonist set in a beautiful tropical island.–Sandra Farag, BookOps, New York Public Library & Brooklyn Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal October 2017 issue.

redstarMATHER, Janice Lynn. Learning To Breathe. 336p. S. & S. Jun. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534406018.

Gr 9 Up –The tale of a teen struggling to define her own boundaries. All of her life Indira has been compared to her mother Shariece, a drug addict who had multiple sexual partners. The people in Indy’s small village in the Bahamas have always thought she would follow in her mother’s footsteps and gave her the nickname Doubles. The fierce love of her Grammy stabilizes a life littered with her mother’s poor choices. Her grandmother sees trouble ahead and tries to protect Indy by sending her to Nassau to live with her uncle’s family. Before she leaves, Indy receives a bag and book from her grandmother with instructions to not open the present before it’s time. She tries to seize this opportunity to create a new identity for herself but is hindered by a boy from home, and the unwanted attention of a male relative who reminds her of her mother’s past. A chance meeting at a yoga retreat points Indira in a new direction. This is a well-written, thought-provoking book that tackles difficult topics such as unwanted pregnancy, familial relationships, and rape, with nuance. The language and depiction of the practice of yoga is lyrical and beautiful. Readers will agonize with Indira as she struggles to make the best decision for herself and her child. VERDICT A stirring debut for all YA collections.–Desiree Thomas, Worthington Library, OH

This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2018 issue.

redstarOLDER, Daniel José. Shadowhouse Fall. 368p. (Shadowshaper Cypher: Bk. 2). Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780545952828. POP

Gr 7 Up –Sierra and her crew of shadowshapers are back for another adventure in this sequel to Shadowshaper. A mysterious card deck appears and, with it, a conflict between Shadow House and The House of Light arises. Sierra must act quickly to figure out whom she can trust while learning what it means to be a leader. She also begins a relationship with a new love interest. There is a satisfying conclusion, leaving threads of an open-ended mystery involving the Deck of Worlds. It will be exciting to see where this increasingly political urban fantasy will go next. Older has upped the ante with this second installment. This entry adds a layer of social activism that is refreshing and timely. The crew challenges their white AP history teacher about how she is approaching the topic of slavery. Many of the protagonists experience conflicts with the police and are able to resist. For a change of pace, those who enjoyed Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give may want to check out this fantasy title. In addition, it is good to see a sequel include a very realistic changing romantic landscape for the protagonist. VERDICT A worthy follow-up to Shadowshaper that fans will devour.–Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

This review was published in the School Library Journal September 2017 issue.

RIVERA, Lilliam. The Education of Margot Sanchez. 304p. S. & S. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481472111. Gr 9 Up–Margot is disappointed to be spending her summer working in her family’s Bronx-based chain of grocery stores, away from her elite prep school crowd. She is suffering the consequences after misappropriating her father’s credit cards to finance her wardrobe. She would much rather be partying with her friends and her crush in the Hamptons. Teens will recognize the obvious consequences of her decisions as she is rude to her family’s employees, rejects her childhood friend, steals beer from her family to impress her friends, and casually loses her virginity (to a guy who clearly doesn’t value her much) after she’s been drinking. Her attempts to redeem herself as she finally sees the error of her ways are effective, though, and over the course of the summer, Margot slowly learns the value of real friendship, navigates some family secrets, and begins to see her Puerto Rican heritage in a different light, culminating in an unsurprising but happy conclusion. VERDICT A fairly standard problem novel, but the realistic Latinx characters make this a welcome addition to YA shelves.–Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH This review was published in School Library Journal‘s January 2017 issue.

redstarSILVERA, Adam. They Both Die at the End. 384p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062457790.

Gr 9 Up –Everyone who is going to die on a given day gets a call to let them know; not the when, or the how, or the why, but just notification that they will die on that day. Mateo and Rufus each get that call and are facing their last day without a loved one. But there’s an app for that. Combining a well-realized alternative present with a lovely romance, Silvera’s latest delivers what readers want in a book about dying teens. There’s no avoiding the cliches that go along with the idea that an impending end makes life more meaningful, but recasting a Lurlene McDaniel–style doomed teen romance with Latinx queer boys and having the societal changes wink at those clichés softens them and makes a better ­storytelling device. The overarching structure of meaningful coincidences making a magical day in New York has its predecessors—Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star being prime examples—but this title is a deft exploration of that trope. Silvera continues to masterfully integrate diversity, disability, and young queer voices into an appealing story with a lot of heart. VERDICT While most of the elements and themes of this work are not new, they are combined, realized, and diversified expertly in this title. A must-have for YA shelves.–L. Lee Butler, Hart Middle School, Washington, DC

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2017 issue.

Webbe Maxwell, Florenz. Girlcott. 190p. Blouse & Skirt. Sept. 2017. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9789768267085.

Gr 7-10 –Desma, 16, dreams of becoming an actuary. As an exemplary student, obedient daughter, and all-around driven person, Desma tries to make sense of a looming boycott of a popular theater. After disparaging comments from her white employer, Desma begins to question the thin veneer of racial civility, blatant colorism, and flagrant sexism that exists all around her. As Desma’s awareness of injustices in her community mounts, so does her confidence and her ability to use her own voice to speak out. Within Desma’s home and neighborhood she learns of the precarious nature of race and politics. Her neighbor values the beauty of lighter skin over the rich darkness that she possesses. Desma watches her mother seethe with anger over racism but remain powerless to keep it at bay. Readers will be able to taste the flavor and culture of Bermuda juxtaposed with the thick tensions of prejudice and the fight for freedom. Through heartfelt prose and extensive research, Maxwell gives readers invaluable insight into an important and unsung narrative of the civil rights movement. The Progressive League Boycott of 1959 is not often discussed and the author writes with tenderness and bravery. Readers who loved The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano and The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon will enjoy this courageous tale. VERDICT An incredible story that should be read and distributed widely, and a valuable addition to any library collection.–Christina Vortia, Hype Lit, Land O’Lakes, FL

This review was published in the School Library Journal October 2017 issue.

Williams, Ismée. Water in May. 320p. glossary. Abrams/Amulet. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781419725395.

Gr 9 Up –Mari Pujols is 15 and pregnant, but her main issue isn’t about the baby growing inside her; it is a matter of the heart. Mari finds out that her baby has some complications in the heart and lungs that will require multiple surgeries. She lives in New York City with her abuela. Mari’s grandmother thinks she should reconsider continuing her pregnancy. Mari is determined to see out this pregnancy and create a new family for herself. Mari’s family is littered with pain as her father is in prison, her mother abandoned her, and her abuela holds onto a lot of resentment. She shoulders her problems with her friends, her only refuge, but that doesn’t stop Mari from having her doubts. This book not only discusses teen pregnancy but a high-risk one, a new parent’s nightmare. Mari and her friends are Dominican American, and this narrative fuses culture and language to help paint the story. Spanish words and Dominican slang are peppered throughout. Most of the phrases are easy to decipher through context clues ,and there is a Dominican slang glossary. This book is filled with heartache as Mari and her friends find love, family, and themselves. VERDICT A first purchase, this book has a promising plot, and the family drama will keep readers hooked.–Katie Llera, Bound Brook High School, NJ

This review was published in School Library Journal's November 2017 issue.

redstarZOBOI, Ibi. American Street. 336p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062473042.

Gr 9 Up –After her mother is detained by immigration officials, Fabiola Toussaint has to finish her move from Port-au-Prince to Detroit alone. The tough-as-nails cousins and exhausted aunt who greet her in Michigan bear little resemblance to the warm family she had dreamed of when she was in Haiti. Left with a mother-size hole in her life, Fabiola begins the unsteady process of assimilation, holding on to her family’s spiritual traditions while navigating the disconnectedness and violence of her new home. A sweet romance and her cousins’ fierce and complex support ease the teen into a halfway space between worlds, but her eyes remain on the prize of reuniting with her mother. When Fabiola is approached by the police to inform on her cousin’s volatile boyfriend in exchange for information about her mother, she must work around the gaps in her understanding to make some explosive decisions. In this bright, sharp debut, Zoboi weaves grittiness, sensitivity, and complexity into every character, but Fabiola’s longing, determination, and strength shine especially brightly. VERDICT A breathtaking story about contemporary America that will serve as a mirror to some and a window for others, and it will stay with anyone who reads it. A must-purchase for YA collections.–Beth McIntyre, Madison Public Library, WI

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2017 issue.

Adult Books 4 Teens

redstarCOSTER, Naima. Halsey Street. 332p. Little A. Jan. 2018. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781503941175. Penelope is in a quarter-life crisis. Having dropped out of art school, she spends her days underemployed, drinking gin, and taking anonymous lovers. She can no longer hide out in Pittsburgh when she receives a call that her father, the incomparable Ralph Grand, has harmed himself, and she must come back to her home in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn and care for him. Matters are further complicated when Penelope must reach out to her estranged mother, Mirella, now living in the Dominican Republic, who abandoned her father a few years before to rediscover herself back in the country of her birth. With great subtlety and detail, Coster has woven a tale that deals with gentrification, loneliness, and a very flawed and complex family. Penelope is deeply imperfect but remains relatable and real. As she navigates a neighborhood that was once her childhood home, as well as the location of her father’s once successful business, she and her family grieve not only for what they’ve lost but also what they have become. VERDICT This is a tender story that packs as much hurt as it does heart. Recommended for fans of Zinzi Clemmons’s What We Lose and Brit Bennett’s The Mothers.–Christina Vortia, Hype Lit, Land O’Lakes, FL This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2018 issue.


redstarOTHEGUY, Emma. Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad. illus. by Beatriz Vidal. 32p. bibliog. Lee & Low. May 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780892393756. BL

Gr 2-5 –The life of poet, writer, and freedom fighter José Martí (1853–95) comes alive in this lyrical, bilingual retelling of his everlasting impact on the people of his native Cuba. Growing up, Martí was an admirer of nature and fell in love with the beauty of the Cuban countryside. As he traveled the landscape, he observed the cruel enslavement of the Cuban people on sugar plantations during the period of Spanish rule. When he saw the injustice of slavery in his homeland, he knew he had to fight for Cuba’s independence and the freedom of the island’s people. Inspired by the U.S. Civil War, and President Abraham Lincoln, Martí called others to action and was jailed by the government for doing so. But not even imprisonment could silence him. Martí traveled extensively throughout the world, spreading his message of social justice, freedom, and peace. During his exile from Cuba, he found inspiration in the natural beauty of the Catskill Mountains in New York. Here he wrote Versos sencillos, a collection of poems that came to define the struggle for Cuban independence. Otheguy pens this biography in a series of stanzas that mimic Martí’s poetry, weaving together his vision of hope for the Cuban people with rich illustrations that pay homage to the vivid hues of his native land. VERDICT A sensitive and poignant tribute to one of Latin America’s most important historical figures that will encourage readers of all ages to fight for freedom and peace.–­Natalie Romano, Denver Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2017 issue.

redstarWEATHERFORD, Carole Boston. Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library. illus. by Eric Velasquez. 48p. bibliog. chron. notes. Candlewick. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763680466.

Gr 3-6 –Born in 1874, Afro-Puerto Rican Arturo Schomburg’s sense of wonder was stoked early on by listening to el lector, who read aloud from newspapers and novels to the cigar workers Schomburg kept company. When a teacher asserted that “Africa’s sons and daughters” had no history or heroes worth noting, it sparked Schomburg’s lifelong quest to uncover his people’s stories, “correcting history for generations to come.” He immigrated to New York in 1891, and though stymied in his hopes to pursue higher education, began amassing a collection of Africana books and art. Through text and art, Weatherford and Velasquez craft a winning portrait of both collector and his collection. Oversize oil-on-watercolor paintings accompany each page of text: one arresting image finds young Schomburg immersed in a book, with a portrait of Benjamin Bannecker hanging above his shoulder. Velasquez captures Schomburg’s proud bearing and intent focus. His research led to writers and poets, including Frederick Douglass and poet Phillis Wheatley; revolutionaries like Toussaint Louverture; and luminaries whose “African heritage had been whitewashed,” including John James Audubon and Ludwig van Beethoven. By day, Schomburg worked as a mailroom clerk, but his collecting and scholarship introduced him to members of the Harlem Renaissance, such as Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen. Schomburg’s collection was donated to the New York Public Library and now boasts over 10 million items. VERDICT This excellent work of history illuminates Schomburg and his legendary collection for a new generation—it belongs in all public and school libraries.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2017 issue.

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