SLJ Reviews of the 2022 Youth Media Awards

SLJ's roundup of reviews for the winners and honorees of the 2022 Caldecott, Newbery, Printz, and more.


American Indian Youth Literature Honors—Picture Books


We Are Still Here cover artWe Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell (text) & illus. by Frané Lessac. Charlesbridge. Apr. 2021. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781623541927.
 Gr 4-6–Students at the Native Nations Community School share presentations about the history, present, and future of Indigenous communities. The vivid artwork features a simple, bold style. The narrative starts with a general introduction of Native Nations in the United States. Each presentation contains illustrations with the student’s name, an overview of the subject, a brief list of the impact that the concept or historical moment had on Native American people, and the refrain “We Are Still Here!” The last pages show students and their families with a variety of skin tones and physical abilities studying the presentations on topics that include sovereign rights and relocation. Additional information, a time line, a glossary, sources, and an author’s note offer further context. The lyrical text and jewel-tone illustrations elegantly work together to stirringly portray the ongoing fight for Native American recognition and rights. VERDICT An essential purchase for introducing the impact laws and treaties had and continue to have on Native Nations.-Reviewed by Tamara Saarinen


Diné Bich’eekę Yishłeeh [Diné Bizaad]/Becoming Miss Navajo [English] by Jolyana Begay-Kroupa. Salina Bookshelf, Inc.



American Indian Youth Literature Awards —Picture Books 


Herizon by Daniel W. Vandever. South of Sunrise Creative.



American Indian Youth Literature Honor—Middle Grade


Ella Cara Deloria: Dakota Language Protector by Diane Wilson. illus. by Tashia Hart. Minnesota Humanities Center. 


Indigenous Peoples' Day by Katrina M. Phillips. illus. by Tashia Hart. Pebble/Capstone.


Jo Jo Makoons cover artJo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend by Dawn Quigley (text) & illus. by Tara ­Audibert. ­Heartdrum. (Jo Jo: Bk. 1). May 2021. 80p. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780063015371.
 Gr 2-5–Seven-year-old Jo Jo Makoons Azure lives on a fictional version of an Ojibwe reservation, and likes to do things a little differently than everyone else. When her cat Mimi sleeps on her feet every night and makes them too warm, Jo Jo solves the problem by cutting the toes off all of her nighttime socks. Her idea of Language Arts is drawing pictures with Ojibwe captions for Teacher: “language + arts!” Readers follow Jo Jo through a myriad of first grade adventures involving her family, classmates, and cat Mimi. Even though Mimi is her best friend at home, Jo Jo is worried about her friendship with Fern when the girl stops doing school best friend things like saving her a seat at lunch. The story playfully captures age-appropriate concerns and interests, as young Jo Jo navigates family traditions and shifting friendships. Audibert’s fun illustrations utilize big expressions to convey the book’s gentle high jinks and Jo Jo’s rambunctious, carefree nature. Quigley includes “Jo Jo’s Glossary” and an author’s note for further explanation about Ojibwe language and culture. The story is interspersed with Ojibwe and Michif words; Jo Jo even explains that if readers can pronounce Tyrannosaurs rex, they should be able to say these words as well. VERDICT A sweet, slice-of-life series debut. Readers will love Jo Jo and want to be her friend.-Reviewed by Danielle ­Burbank


Peggy Flanagan: Ogimaa Kwe, Lieutenant Governor by Jessica Engelking. illus. by Tashia Hart. Minnesota Humanities Center.


The Sea In Winter cover artThe Sea in Winter by Christine Day. Harper/Heartdrum. Jan. 2021. 256p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062872043; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780063078222.
Gr 4-6–Maisie loves ballet. The studio where she dances is her “sanctuary,” the place where there are no bad days. Now that she’s torn her ACL, a key ligament, she experiences depression. At times, she feels disconnected from her family, and her grades suffer. During an annual midwinter vacation to her stepdad’s native home, she realizes that her dreams of being a dancer may not come true. With the help of her family and therapist, Maisie learns that even though life may not work out the way she wants, she can still move forward. Maisie is Native American. Her mother is Makah, her father was Piscataway, and her stepdad is a citizen of the lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. The scenery of the Pacific Northwest is beautifully painted in this insightful #OwnVoices novel, and the text offers some important history. All the characters are relatable, especially Maisie, her stepdad, and brother. However, her experience with depression is very briefly addressed as a passage in her journal and oversimplified. There is also an unrealistic plot point. Recovering from an ACL tear would deter a lot of families from walking on uneven terrain. Yet on their vacation, Maisie and her family walk on rocky beaches, dig for clams in the ocean, “stumble through clay-like mud,” walk up winding boardwalks, and trudge through snow. Maisie is so worried about her ability to dance; it doesn’t seem plausible that her parents would risk her getting hurt again, which inevitably happens. VERDICT Resonant and well-represented Native American characters, and a few flaws make this a choice for many middle grade collections. Some fans of realistic fiction will enjoy.-Reviewed by Rebecca Fitzgerald



American Indian Youth Literature Awards—Middle Grade


Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young. Heartdrum.



American Indian Youth Literature Honor—Young Adult


Elatsoe cover artElatsoe by Darcie Little Badger (text) & illus. by Rovina Cai. Levine Querido. Aug. 2020. 368p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781646140053.
Gr 5 Up–Elatsoe (Ellie) is a Lipan Apache teen who lives in Texas, where bizarre supernatural occurrences are the norm and people encounter magic, monsters, shape-shifters, and various supernatural events beyond reason. Ellie has inherited the spiritual skills of her people and has raised the ghost of her dog Kirby. A shimmering mass, Kirby is a loyal companion who alerts Ellie to danger and has the ability to move through walls. Ellie uses her supernatural abilities and keen observation skills to investigate the gruesome, suspicious death of her cousin Trevor. The story opens deceptively slow with abundant character introduction, but the turning point arrives when Ellie dreams about Trevor and he reveals the murderer’s identity. Ellie and her friend Jay visit a library to research the paranormal history of the Texas town where her cousin was killed. They discover that the blood of vulnerable people is a key to one doctor’s cures. In a time-bending web of travel between past, present, and the underworld, Ellie confronts the killer. The dramatic ending will engage readers, and is a worthy payoff for the somewhat slow introductory pace. VERDICT Ellie’s family’s cultural beliefs and status as Indigenous people are presented well in the context of this supernatural fantasy. Recommended for fans of the genre.-Reviewed by Naomi Caldwell


Firekeepers Daughter cover artFirekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley. Holt. March 1, 2021. 496p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250766564. POP.
Gr 9 Up–This #OwnVoices novel is a character-driven crime thriller packed with Ojibwe culture and high-stakes tension with themes of identity, trust, and resilience. The journey of 18-year-old Daunis Fontaine is told in four parts overlaid by the four directions of Ojibwe medicine wheel teachings. Daunis should be focused on a fresh start at college after her uncle’s untimely death. She is sucked back into the world of ice hockey and starts slowly falling for Jamie, one of her brother’s new teammates. Soon she finds herself living two disparate lives: one as a loving daughter, niece, and granddaughter in her family and tribal community, and one as a confidential informant to the FBI as they investigate a deadly new drug. She dangerously furthers the investigation on her own after witnessing a murder, and ultimately must choose between protecting the people she loves or protecting her tribal community. Native cultural aspects, such as the central role of Elders in tribal life, the special relationship between aunts and nieces, and decentering of the individual in favor of the tribe are included, as are some darker aspects of life including drugs, violence, and sexual assault. Daunis, Jamie, and other characters are fleshed out, relatable, and believable, and Daunis’s journey to become a strong Ojibwe woman is compelling. VERDICT A strong crime fiction addition to any library, educators will find this text useful in discussions of character growth, social justice, and Native issues.-Reviewed by Kara Stewart (Sappony)


Hunting the Stars cover artHunting by Stars by Cherie Dimaline. Abrams/Amulet. (The Marrow Thieves: Bk 2). Oct. 2021. 400p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781419753473. 
Gr 9 Up–Dimaline’s sequel to The Marrow Thieves returns to the dystopian world of French and his found family. A plague has taken over, robbing much of the population of their ability to dream, and Indigenous people are hunted for their marrow, which is believed to contain the cure. Seventeen-year-old French awakens in a dark room with a head injury and no idea where he is. He soon finds he has been captured by Recruiters and is being held captive in a residential school where Indigenous people are harvested for their marrow. Meanwhile, his family is trying to find him and plan his escape. As new information is uncovered about the residential schools and family members become divided on the best way to retrieve French, everyone must decide how far they are willing to go to survive. The brutal realities faced by French in the residential school will leave readers thinking about what Indigenous people endured in the residential schools of the past. The idea of storytelling and the importance of realizing that the past and present are interwoven is beautifully conveyed and will keep readers anxious for what comes next. VERDICT An excellent sequel to a thought-provoking story. Purchase of the duology is highly recommended for young adult collections.-Reviewed by Ashley Leffel


Notable Native People: 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers from Past and Present by Adrienne Keene. illus. by Ciara Sana. Ten Speed Press.


Solideries Unknown by Chag Lowry. illus. by Rahsan Ekedal. Great Oak Press.



American Indian Youth Literature Award—Young Adult


Apple Skin to the Core cover artApple: (Skin to the Core) by Eric Gansworth. Levine Querido. Oct. 2021. 352p. Tr 18.99. ISBN 9781646140138.
Gr 7 Up–This bittersweet but ultimately inspiring memoir in verse chronicles Gansworth’s experience raised on a reservation. Gansworth, who is an enrolled Onondaga writer and artist, was born and raised at the Tuscarora Nation. The text aims to illuminate the truth about his family history and the trauma that shaped Gansworth’s life. Black-and-white photos and original graphic art supplement the text. The book’s very effective format creates emotional resonance. The straightforward narrative showcases themes of betrayal, racism, struggle, acceptance, resilience, risk, coming of age, and the power of family and community. The text opens by confronting and reclaiming the slur “Apple,” which is a derogatory term used to describe a Native person who is “red on the outside, white on the inside.” Gansworth’s deft storytelling skills shine; he is not afraid to examine uncomfortable truths. He writes honestly about the appropriation of Native American songs and dances, the effects of boarding school on both sets of grandparents, learning his native language, longing for his father’s approval, friendship, feeling lost, and leaving home for college. Throughout the narrative, he incorporates references to pop culture, such as television programs, movies, Batman, comic books, the Beatles, KISS, and Pink Floyd. All teens will relate to Gansworth’s profound portraits of joy, pain, and hope. VERDICT A well-written and captivating autobiography about the modern-day Indigenous experience that should be widely shared. Recommended for middle and high school libraries.-Reviewed by Naomi Caldwell



Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature—Picture Book Honor


A Boy Named Isamu cover artA Boy Named Isamu: A Story of Isamu Noguchi by James Yang. Viking. Jun. 2021. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593203446.
Gr 1-3–In tribute to Japanese American sculptor Noguchi—or, more precisely, his distinctive vision and affinity for natural forms—Yang portrays an introspective child, Isamu, in Japan who steps away while his mother is shopping to seek out quiet places. In a sparely told slow-growth epiphany young Isamu comes to appreciate shapes of leaves and twigs in a park, how every stone large or small is unique in form and character...and at last how what he sees and touches seemed to be waiting for him, as if “forest and beach were like friends giving you a gift.” Along with plenty of white space to reflect the narrative’s quiet tone the illustrations feature a small, button-eyed figure with black hair and pale skin taking a wandering course past boulders, bamboo stalks, and undulating shorelines that evoke or are even directly modeled after the artist’s own works. Readers will get a fuller picture of Noguchi’s life from Christy Hale’s The East-West House, but Yang notes the connection he shares with the artist, that “alone time” as “the most special time of all.” VERDICT Reflective young readers will come away with a deeper feeling for one artist’s work, and also how encounters with nature can spark creativity.-Reviewed by John Peters



Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature—Picture Book 


Watercress cover artWatercress by Andrea Wang (text) & illus. by Jason Chin. Holiday House/Neal Porter. Mar. 2021. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823446247.
 PreS-Gr 3–Simple text and beautiful illustrations pack a strong emotional punch in this picture book. Based on the author’s own memories of being the child of Chinese immigrants in Ohio, the story follows a young girl who is in the car with her family. They spot watercress growing in a ditch and stop to collect it for their dinner later. The girl refuses to eat it, embarrassed of how they got their food, as well as their used furniture and clothes, believing that “Free is bad.” Her parents don’t understand her humiliation as she doesn’t understand their excitement over the meal. Words are used sparingly; the illustrations complete all that is left unsaid. The most poignant spread is when the girl’s mother tells them about their uncle and how there was never enough to eat. On one page, her little brother holds up his empty bowl; on the next, his seat is empty. Readers of various ages will want to discuss the layers of miscommunication between cultures and between generations, and how to be more mindful of others’ experiences. But the work is far more than a lesson. A tightly woven piece of story and watercolor art is exemplified in one spread, where the the cornfields of Ohio become the famine-stricken land of China. VERDICT A powerful story sure to awaken empathy and curiosity: Who else left behind a homeland, and at what cost?-Reviewed by Elissa Cooper



Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature—Children's Literature Honor


Finding Junie Kim cover artFinding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh. HarperCollins/Harper. May 2021. 368p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062987983.
 Gr 5-8–Twelve-year-old Korean American Junie Kim’s first morning of seventh grade turns into a police scene when racist graffiti is discovered in the school gym. Junie has been bullied by a racist white boy who calls her hateful names. Back in 1950, Korean children Doha and Jinjoo endure a brutal civil war. The book moves back and forth between then and now, illustrating the evils and effects of war and racism. In this personal narrative inspired by the author’s mother’s life, Oh writes about the ravages of war and the depths of Junie’s depression with unflinching honesty. She seamlessly provides insight into Korean history and culture for the unintroduced and captures the human condition during wartime through frank portrayals of Junie’s modern-day struggles. The portions of the book dealing with the Korean War move more swiftly, but Junie’s journey out of depression—through friends, family, therapy, and the discovery of her special talent—still develops poignantly. VERDICT A first purchase for middle school and upper elementary collections, Oh’s powerful novel sheds light on the devastating effect racism can have on mental health, and tells a history often overlooked.-Reviewed by Kate Fleming



Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature—Children's Literature


Amina's Song cover artAmina’s Song by Hena Khan. S. & S./Salaam Reads. Mar. 2021. 288p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534459885.
 Gr 4-7–Amina loved the month of summer she spent visiting family in Pakistan, though there were moments she didn’t feel quite Pakistani enough and struggled with having to go home, not knowing when she would see her family again. She’s also trying to figure out how her experiences have changed her view of herself and the world. Her Thaya Jaan (beloved uncle) has challenged her to show her friends back home the beauty of Pakistan. The protagonist is nervous about how her classmates perceive Pakistan and wants them to understand that it’s not as dangerous as they believe it to be. After befriending a new student, Nico, who shares her love of music and a talent for mixing it, Amina finds the opportunity to present the many facets of her heritage through song. A lovely sequel that does not require familiarity with the first book, this is an uplifting story about relationships, especially those that strengthen us and help us grow. Readers really get to know and understand Amina’s perspective, but secondary characters are also fleshed out, making the narrative relatable and engaging. VERDICT A beautiful story for middle graders discovering who they are. A wonderful addition to all collections.-Reviewed by Kristyn ­Dorfman



Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature—Youth Literature Honor 


We Are Not Free cover artWe Are Not Free by Traci Chee. HMH. Jun. 2020. 400p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780358131434.
 Gr 7 Up–Fourteen teens form a bond growing up together in California. They go to school, work hard to be good kids in their community, and try their best to find happiness in various hobbies. American-born, they are of Japanese descent, and surrounded by people who do not trust their right to be in the U.S. World War II turns their already strained lives upside down. Taken and forced into desolate internment camps, these young kids must rally together as racism threatens to tear them apart. This novel evokes powerful emotions by using a variety of well-researched elements to tell the teens’ stories, creating a thorough picture of their thoughts and feelings through poetry, diary-style entries, and drawings. As Chee mentions in the author’s note, her family experienced the impact of being marked as “other” and therefore “dangerous,” and were forcibly uprooted from their homes and incarcerated in internment camps. The novel may be fiction, but it will be hard for readers not to fall deep into the harsh realities these teens face. The writing is engaging and emotionally charged, allowing the readers to connect with each character. VERDICT Chee’s words are a lot to take in, but necessary and beautiful all the same. This remarkable book deserves to be in any library collection.-Reviewed by DeHanza Kwong



Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature—Youth Literature


Last Night at the Telegraph Club cover artLast Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo. Dutton. Jan. 2021. 416p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780525555254.
Gr 9 Up–It’s 1954 San Francisco, and 17-year-old Lily Hu is the epitome of a “good Chinese girl”: She’s modest, respectful of her parents, and her most outlandish interest is rocket science. Then she finds a magazine ad for Tommy Andrews, male impersonator at the Telegraph Club, and everything changes. She befriends classmate Kathleen Miller, who’s into airplanes and knows about the Telegraph Club too, and all of her unspoken feelings begin tumbling out. The pair sneak out to the club, and Lily is both overwhelmed and thrilled as she is enveloped by the San Francisco lesbian scene. But the girls’ secret is dangerous; it threatens Lily’s oldest friendships and even her father’s citizenship status. Eventually, Lily must decide if owning her truth is worth everything she’s ever known. Lo’s historical novel is a meditative exploration of a young gay Chinese American girl in the 1950s. While there are many compelling tenets woven throughout Lily’s journey (racism, anti-Communism, her Chinese family’s relationship to their American identity), an abundance of detail weighs down the plot. The focus on world-building is at times heavy-handed, causing repetitiveness and rendering Lily and Kath’s relationship the slowest of burns. Lo’s prose comes alive when describing Lily’s blossoming awareness of desire; readers will be enthralled with her breathless, confusing experience of seeing the long-awaited Tommy Andrews and finally expressing her feelings for Kath. The ending is devastatingly realistic for its time, but an epilogue shimmers with a gloss of hope. VERDICT A pensive, rich work of queer historical fiction that will reward patient readers.-Reviewed by Ashleigh Williams



The Sydney Taylor Book Honors—Picture Book


Nicky & Vera cover artNicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued by Peter SÍs (text) & illus. by Peter Sís. Norton. Jan. 2021. 64p. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781324015741.
Gr 2-5–Sís tells the story of Nicholas Winton (1909–2015), a British citizen who helped send Czech children to England just before World War II officially broke out. In December 1938, Winton canceled a planned ski trip and joined a friend in Prague who was aiding refugees in the Sudetenland. Working from his hotel room, Winton created lists of children, took photographs, and created train schedules. He soon returned to London to work on securing visas and travel arrangements, find families to welcome the children, and handle the paperwork and bureaucracy. Vera, a young Jewish girl who was a citizen of Czechoslovakia, was one of the 669 children who were successfully brought to Great Britain through Winton’s efforts. She lost all but one aunt in the war and its aftermath. Many years after World War II, Vera and some of the other children Winton helped save paid tribute to him on a television show called That’s Life. Sís’s illustrations combine the literal with the symbolic. Using everything from expansive spreads to miniature panels, he captures different elements from the lives of those involved. The text and the artwork demonstrate the power of one courageous individual who was determined to make a difference. VERDICT A great purchase for libraries where Sís’s work is enjoyed.-Reviewed by Heidi Grange


Dear Mr Dickens cover artDear Mr. Dickens by Nancy Churnin (text) & illus. by Bethany Stancliffe. Albert Whitman. Oct. 2021. 32p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807515303.
 Gr 1-5–It is difficult to find children’s books that focus on the severity of anti-Semitism that aren’t about the persecution of the Jewish people during eras such as the Holocaust, pogroms, or the Inquisition. Churnin, known for her feel-good picture biographies about unlikely heroes, examines a less-familiar period in history in her newest work. The story centers on real-life Eliza Davis, a devoted reader and fan of Charles Dickens, who took it upon herself to write to the celebrated author about her concerns with the depiction of the Jewish thief, Fagin, in Oliver Twist. Fagin’s character encouraged “a vile prejudice” during a time in mid-19th century England when Jewish people faced discrimination. What unfolds in the story proves that with pen and paper, and some courage, we can persuade our own models to make their wrongs right. Excerpts from Dickens’s correspondence with Eliza and sprinklings of literary references will especially delight Dickens fans. Not only is this historical account well written, Stancliffe’s illustrations powerfully transport readers back to the era with well-placed details such as the floral wallpaper in Eliza’s home, and her crinoline dress and puffy sleeves. The only flaw is that the illustrations characterize Eliza as young, but she was 47 when she wrote her first letter to Dickens. VERDICT An important addition to libraries that fills a gap about anti-Semitism and confronting prejudice.-Reviewed by Danielle ­Winter


The Christmas Mitzvah cover artThe Christmas Mitzvah by Jeff Gottesfeld (text) & illus. by Michelle Laurentia Agatha Creston. Sept. 2021. 32p. pap. $18.99. ISBN 9781939547941.
PreS-Gr 2–This inspirational cross-cultural story, based on true events, captures the holiday spirit; however, it may appeal more to adults than children. Al Rosen is a Jewish man who loves Christmas. One Christmas Eve, he offers to take over a newsstand clerk’s job to allow the clerk to spend Christmas Eve with his family. This act prompts Al to offer to do people’s jobs for Christmas Eve and it inspires others to do the same. On the year Al decides he is too old, many people he has helped come together to celebrate him, inspiring a multicultural lighting of the Chanukah candles. This story has an adult sentiment. Other than mentions of his children and grandchildren, it centers on Al. The inspirational content will appeal to adults and rides the line of cloying. That said, the message is a worthy one and the writing is clear, concise, and accessible. The cartoon-style illustrations are humorous and appealing, depicting a multicultural cast that includes people of all races, as well as those wearing turbans and hijabs. Agatha uses a vibrant color palette that draws the eye and creates effective pacing, with a mix of full-bleed single pages and spreads, as well as some spot art. VERDICT Schools and libraries looking for an inspirational story that goes down easily and will likely appeal to parents and grandparents will find this fits the bill. Buy where budgets allow.-Reviewed by Amy ­Lilien-Harper



The Sydney Taylor Book Award—Picture Book


The Passover Guest cover artThe Passover Guest by Susan Kusel (text) & illus. by Sean Rubin. Holiday House/Neal Porter. Jan. 2021. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823445622.
 Gr 2-4–Inspired by the I.L. Peretz story behind Uri Shulevitz’s The Magician, this book chronicles a poor family living through the Great Depression on the night of Passover. April 10, 1933, was a Passover like no other; in the depths of the Great Depression, many families could not afford to hold a true seder. Because her family’s table is empty, a young Jewish girl named Muriel spends the day admiring the blooming cherry blossoms along the National Mall in Washington, DC. A chance encounter with a mysterious stranger begins a series of events that lead to a full Passover dinner shared by the entire neighborhood. Only Muriel notices the absence of the stranger—and Elijah’s empty wine glass—at the end of the evening. Filled with references to the holiday and accompanying traditions, this is a superb addition to modern celebrations. People of various races appear in the background even as the story focuses on a Jewish neighborhood. Abundant details—taking viewers from shtetl to the Capitol, for example—fill every page, enhancing the story’s emotions through color and texture. The length of the text makes this story well suited for older children. A short notes section at the end of the book explains more about the holiday and gives readers a glimpse behind the author’s and illustrator’s choices. VERDICT Kusel’s charming debut is a necessary volume for every holiday collection.-Reviewed by Mary Lanni



The Sydney Taylor Book Honors—Middle Grade


Linked by Gordon Korman. Scholastic. Jul. 2021. 256p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338629118.
Gr 4-8–In a small Colorado town, lives are changed and secrets are unearthed when swastikas start appearing at the local middle school. Dana, the only Jewish girl, is on edge. Michael, the head of the art club, and Caroline, the class president, are organizing a paper chain six million links long in honor of Jewish Holocaust victims. Link, the most popular seventh grader, learns that as an infant his grandmother was saved in a Catholic nunnery from the Nazis. As the story unfolds, a popular YouTuber brings attention to the town, and Link, after learning about his Jewish ancestry, decides to have a bar mitzvah. All the while, everyone is trying to figure out who keeps drawing swastikas. In typical Korman style, this novel pulls readers in with its character development and engrossing, heartfelt story line. While the story tackles big issues such as the Holocaust and generational discrimination, the writing style remains upbeat and easy, making this a good choice for reluctant and avid readers. Five students and the YouTuber voice the chapters, bringing depth to each character’s perspective. Struggles with challenging decisions, friendships, and self-discovery are common middle grade issues that readers will relate to. Some readers may be shocked to learn about the origin of the swastikas, and all will be elated by the celebratory ending.VERDICT A must-purchase, especially where Korman books are popular.-Reviewed by Kate Rao



The Sydney Taylor Book Award—Middle Grade


How to Find What You're Not Looking For cover artHow to Find What You’re Not Looking For by Veera Hiranandani. Penguin/Kokila. Sept. 2021. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525555032.
 Gr 3-7–It’s 1967 and the United States is roiling with social unrest. Ari, a young white Jewish girl, lives in a small town in Connecticut with her family. When her older sister falls in love with Raj, a young man who recently immigrated to the United States from India, Ari’s parents are vehemently opposed to the union. Torn between her love for her sister and her desire to keep her family together, Ari must find her own voice and fight for what she believes is right. This enthralling historical fiction provides a view into a momentous time in U.S. history from an uncommon perspective. As one of the few Jewish students in her town, Ari feels isolated, and her classmates see her as slow because of her dysgraphia, a learning disability that affects her ability to write. But after her teacher encourages her to try writing poetry, she finds freedom, a new way of expressing herself, and a newfound ability to connect with those around her. The story centers on a tough conflict, and Hiranandani delivers an authentic depiction of reconciliation, with all its messiness and hurt feelings. Importantly, both families have misgivings about the marriage, but their love for their children forces them to confront and overcome their own prejudices. Characters discuss critical events of the period, such as the Vietnam War, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and Loving v. Virginia. Like many people, Ari and her parents initially see themselves as existing on the periphery of the critical events of their time, and it takes a personal crisis to jolt them out of this state of mind. VERDICT A splendid historical fiction tale of bravery and determination.-Reviewed by Laken Hottle


The Genius Under the Table cover artThe Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Eugene Yelchin (text) & illus. by Eugene Yelchin. Candlewick. Oct. 2021. 208p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781536215526.
 Gr 5 Up–Yelchin has created an unforgettable portrayal of one family’s experiences living in the Soviet Union during the Cold War in his ingenious memoir. Using expressive drawings, Yelchin enhances his story of growing up in Leningrad. Yevgeny, his brother Victor, father, mother, and grandmother all share one room in a communal apartment. Each figure is shown to be beautifully human, flaws and all. Victor is a wonderful ice skater who began by skating behind trucks in traffic; the father is a stern Communist who loves Russian poets, such as Osip Mandelstam; the mother works for the Vaganova Ballet School and adores Mikhail Baryshnikov; and the grandmother is keeping a secret about their grandfather. Every evening, all the furniture in their one room living space has to be moved to convert it into their bedroom. Yevgeny sleeps under the dining room table, where he draws on the underside of the table each night with a pencil he has taken from his father. When his drawings are discovered, Yevgeny earns the nickname of “The Genius Under the Table” from his family and begins to study drawing. With an engaging and likable subject, Newbery Honor author Yelchin offers a poignant look at growing up during Cold War–era Soviet Union that will fascinate readers. VERDICT Recommended for those who love captivating memoirs mixed with humor.-Reviewed by Susan Catlett



The Sydney Taylor Book Honor—YA


The Summer of Lost Letters cover artThe Summer of Lost Letters by Hannah Reynolds. Razorbill. Jun. 2021. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593349724.
Gr 7 Up–Seventeen-year-old Abby Schoenberg has recently lost her grandmother O’ma and discovers a stash of old love letters among her belongings. The letters tell of a romance on Nantucket during the 1950s that was passionate but ended badly. Her grandmother never spoke of that time of her life and Abby’s curiosity is piqued, so with her parent’s permission she obtains a summer job on the island and begins to sleuth out what happened in O’ma’s past. Abby soon befriends Noah, the grandson of the man who wrote the letters, and the two confront some hard truths and prejudices that O’ma endured as a Jewish refugee, who lost her biological family in Auschwitz and then lost her secondary family in America. This is a blend of romance, history, and a coming-of-age narrative that all ties together well. Abby and Noah’s Jewish faith and background are respectfully represented and showcase the reality that some Jews have to downplay their religion and culture to fit in. Abby and Noah are cued as white and secondary characters have various ethnicities. VERDICT This contemporary romance with a healthy mix of historical fiction, that also incorporates some deeper truths, will be a fun summer read. A solid YA purchase.-Reviewed by Nancy McKay



The Sydney Taylor Book Award—YA


The City Beautiful cover artThe City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros. Inkyard. Sept. 2021. 480p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781335402509.
 Gr 9 Up–It’s 1893 in Chicago during the World’s Fair and Jewish Romanian immigrant Alter Rosen, born sick and named to confuse the Angel of Death, finds himself in the middle of a murder mystery. Jewish boys all around the city have gone missing and been found murdered. Yakov, his close friend and roommate, is the most recent to be found dead. Strange things begin happening to Alter and he discovers that he’s possessed by Yakov’s dybbuk—a spirit that occupies a person’s soul until they accomplish a goal. In this case, the goal is tracking down Yakov’s killer, and Alter must do so before the dybbuk takes over entirely. Frankie, an alluring and dangerous boy from Alter’s first arrival in Chicago reappears in his life. The two begin to hunt for the killer before they’re targeted next and the dybbuk fully takes over. Polydoros doesn’t hold back with this heavy, dark, and gritty story that explores the immigrant experience in a unique way. While firmly a historical fiction title, this genre-bending novel is also equal parts thriller and fantasy. Featuring a queer protagonist, it is deeply layered with Jewish myth, immigration, racism, and anti-Semitism. While scenes of violence, drowning, and slaughterhouses are incredibly vivid, some readers may find the descriptions too intense. Yiddish is woven throughout the dialogue and back matter includes a glossary. VERDICT A wild ride of a queer gothic fantasy that’s a must-have for YA fantasy collections.-Reviewed by Alicia Kalan



The Sydney Taylor Body of Work Award 


Jane Yolen



Schneider Family Book Honors—Young Children


A Walk in the Words cover artA Walk in the Words by Hudson Talbott (text) & illus. by Hudson Talbott

Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. Sept. 2021. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399548710.
 Gr 1-3–With a directness similar to Jordan Scott’s I Talk Like a River, this story addresses the stigma surrounding dyslexia. While drawing is like breathing for the boy, he knows he is the slowest reader in his class. He is completely isolated by his fear of being found out until he realizes that he can make sense of what he’s reading if he takes his time and uses familiar words like stepping stones. His curiosity to know how a story turns out powers him forward with reading while he discovers that writing words can bring his drawings to life. It helps to know that Einstein, Leonardo, and Picasso, among others in his Slow Readers Hall of Fame, shared the same challenge. Talbott speaks from personal experience, as an author’s note explains, and does a brilliant job of illuminating the feeling of dyslexia through his watercolor and colored pencil illustrations. He shows us how turning a word into a picture helps with memory. Readers see a page with a few legible words in a sea of squiggles and a double-page spread mostly covered in encyclopedia clippings with an overwhelmed little face peering over the top. VERDICT Leavened with humor, charm, and a child’s self-empowerment, this is an important book both for struggling readers and for classmates who need to cultivate a dose of empathy.-Reviewed by Jan Aldrich Solow


A Sky-Blue Bench by Bahram Rahman. illus. by Peggy Collins. Pajama Press.



Schneider Family Book Awards—Young Children


My City Speaks by Darren Lebeuf. illus. by Ashley Barron. Kids Can.



Schneider Family Book Honors—Middle Grade


Stuntboy, in the Meantime by Jason Reynolds. illus. by Raúl the Third. Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/Atheneum Books.


A Kind of Spark cover artA Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll. Crown. Oct. 2021. 192p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780593374252.
 Gr 5 Up–Middle schooler Addie is autistic, and this year will be one of great change. When the teacher she had hoped for gets sick, she is stuck with Ms. Murphy, a bully who doesn’t want Addie in her class just because she is different. When Addie learns that her small Scottish village used to try “suspicious” women and execute them as witches, she feels a deep and concerning connection with these outcasts. She realizes that it is up to her to ensure that this piece of history, and these women, are not forgotten. But will Addie be able to pull strength from her family and herself while facing opposition from school and the city council because of her autism? This deeply honest, at times painful story brings a much-needed look at middle school from the perspective of neurodiverse students. Addie’s twin older sisters, one of whom is also autistic, provide strong examples of healthy family relationships, and her new friend Audrey loves Addie for who she is. This debut novel from neurodivergent author McNicoll will bring readers to tears and have them cheering for Addie as she learns how much she has to offer the world. Addie and her family are cued as white. VERDICT A first purchase in middle grade collections; a must-read for students and adults alike.-Reviewed by Emily Beasley



Schneider Family Book Awards—Middle Grade


A Bird Will Soar by Alison Green Myers. Dutton.



Schneider Family Book Honor—Teen


A Face for Picasso: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome by Ariel Henley. Farrar. 



Schneider Family Book Award—Teen


Words in My Hands cover artWords in My Hands written and illus. by Asphyxia. Annick. Nov. 2021. 388p. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781773215280.
Gr 8 Up-Sixteen-year-old Piper has been raised by her single mother to be an independent, oral (speaking) person, even though she became deaf at age three. Her mum feels it's important to appear as normal as possible to make her way successfully in the world, as if being deaf is something she has to compensate for. But lip-reading and using her hearing aids won't make Piper the prosperous bio-engineer her mother is—instead, it only gives her headaches. In this mid-21st century Australian setting, changes to the way food is created, proccesed, and delivered has led to a repressive society and great cost to the environment. Navigating her way through her mother’s fall from grace in the scientific community, the loss of her best friend, a new love interest who seems to somewhat understand her struggle with the demands of her deafness, as well as near starvation, Piper is determined to find her own voice by using her hands—to build a garden of sustainable food sources and finally communicate like she never has before. Augmenting the story is the distinct artwork on almost every page. It reads like a journal and is filled with jotted notes, sketches, slathers of paint, and fully developed illustrations that portray Piper's journey through friendship, love, and her gift of communication without sound. An appended Dear Reader section shares how the hearing can be more inclusive to the deaf community. VERDICT Fans of dystopian and realistic fiction will savor this engaging work, and the message will resonate with young activists seeking their own purpose. A standout must-read for teens and adults.-Reviewed by Carol Connor



Stonewall Book Honors


Almost Flying cover artAlmost Flying by Jake Maia Arlow. Dial. Jun. 2021. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593112939.
Gr 5 Up–A delightful middle grade debut exploring first crushes and family relationships. Dalia is upset to discover that her father has had a girlfriend for the past six months and is now getting married. Dalia always thought she and her father were close, so this comes as a shock. But the worst part isn’t Vanessa, her dad’s fiancée; it’s Vanessa’s college-aged daughter, Alexa. Alexa seems angry and uninterested in getting to know Dalia, but their parents want Alexa to cancel her week-long summer vacation to five amusement parks so she can bond with Dalia. Dalia, who is secretly obsessed with roller coasters (even though she has never been on one), has a better idea: She can come along. Everyone agrees that this could work, and Dalia is even lucky enough to bring her new friend, Rani. The trip gets off to a rocky start, but Dalia isn’t too bothered, because she really enjoys spending time with Rani. When Dalia starts to think her feelings for Rani might be more than friendly, she finds some unexpected guidance from Alexa and her friend Dhruv. Dalia’s inner thoughts feel authentic, and most other characters are well developed. The relationships between characters deepen at a natural pace, and tweens will enjoy trying to figure out if Rani likes Dalia, too. Characters’ skin tones are not described; Dalia and her father are Jewish, and Rani is Muslim. VERDICT A super sweet LGBTQ romance for middle grade readers. Highly recommended.-Reviewed by Lisa Buffi

The Darkness Outside Us cover art


The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. Jun. 2021. 416p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062888280.
Gr 9 Up–This deep-space survival story, with a strong gay romance and notes of horror, will appeal to fans of Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae. Ambrose wakes up on a ship with no memory of the launch. He knows he was selected to pilot the rescue mission to save his sister, who tripped her emergency beacon on Saturn’s moon Titan. He has no memory of the Fédération teaming up with their enemies to send two spacefarers on the mission. With no contact from Earth, bronze-skinned Ambrose, 17, and Kodiak, 18, with olive-toned skin, work their way into a détente and then to something more. They realize the spaceship’s operating system is not being honest with them—not about their missing memories or about their mission. Ambrose’s dry humor and confidence create a page-turning narrative that carries readers through its slower moments. Schrefer uses the cyclical nature of the plot to turn tables, amplifying fears and piling on the impossibilities, ultimately pulling together a satisfying—if not explosive—climax. Schrefer balances the romance of the novel (Ambrose is pansexual and Kodiak is attracted to men) with the intricate science behind space travel and survival. Readers may find that much of Ambrose’s humor, which carries the novel pre-climax, disappears and the ending is less satisfying for its absence. A content warning for self-harm and suicide is applicable, though the romance remains intact. VERDICT A secondary general purchase, though recommended anywhere voracious sci-fi readers can be found. Readers who like accurate science in their fiction will not be disappointed.-Reviewed by Emmy Neal


Grandad's Camper cover artGrandad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate (text) & ­illus. by Harry Woodgate. Little Bee. Apr. 2021. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781499811933.
 PreS-Gr 2–Before they were Grandad and Gramps, two young men, waving a rainbow flag from their pink VW bus, were a romantic couple, traveling the world—or at least Europe—together, camping under the stars. Grandad, white, and now balding, recounts their adventures to his young grandchild who hangs on every word. The grandchild, with long curls, is Black, as was Gramps, who has passed away. That child is inspired to help Grandad dust off the old camper/bus in the garage, give it a new blue stripe, change a tire, and start out for new adventures. Woodgate’s explosively colorful scenes center most of the book on the men, with snapshot after snapshot of their loving life together. That leaves the child’s role (and there is no mention of parents, or even that Grandad and Gramps had children) as brackets to the piece, only becoming an active part of the story at the end. Still, there is a wholesome gentility to every page, of enjoying every minute, even in memory, of growing sweet cherries in the garden, and of filling a home with mementos and stories. The book reflects on an aspect of mature gay life, a piercing sense of loss, and in the child, of the possibilities still to be found. VERDICT For the hope for new adventures, and the glimpse of intergenerational kindness and understanding, this lovely book should be on every shelf.-Reviewed by Kimberly Olson Fakih



Stonewall Awards


Too Bright to See cover artToo Bright To See by Kyle Lukoff. Dial. Apr. 2021. 192p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780593111154.
 Gr 4-7–Lukoff’s (When Aidan Became a Brother) middle grade debut is a deeply empathetic exploration of grief and gender identity through the eyes of Bug. The summer before Bug starts middle school, things are rough. Bug’s beloved Uncle Roderick passed away from a difficult illness and the family business is in trouble. Bug’s longtime best friend is excited about makeup and boys, but these things don’t resonate with Bug, and a rift begins to form between the friends. With all this change and grief comes a much different problem: Bug is being haunted, and not by the innocuous spirits that typically inhabit their home. Lukoff’s three primary themes—gender identity, grief, and ghostly hauntings—work in elegant harmony despite the load. Lukoff navigates Bug’s journey of identity and discovery with grace, welcoming readers in so they can learn along with Bug in real time. Those readers focusing more on the haunting aspects of the story won’t be disappointed and can expect multiple goosebump-worthy moments. In a brief author’s note, Lukoff provides guidance in regards to both Bug (pronouns, etc.) and the book when recommending it to others. While some potential readers may hesitate at mixing ghosts and gender, Lukoff’s portrayal is sensitive, hopeful, and effective. The cast generally adheres to the white default; Bug’s family and classmates share diverse LGBTQIA+ identities.
VERDICT A hopeful examination of grief and gender, and a good ghost story to boot. Recommended as a first purchase for all libraries.-Reviewed by Taylor Worley


Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo. Dutton. Jan. 2021. 416p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780525555254.
(See review above) 



Coretta Scott King/Virginia Hamilton for Lifetime Achievement:


Nikki Grimes



Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award


Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford (text) & illus. by Floyd Cooper. Carolrhoda. Feb. 2021. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781541581203.

Unspeakable cover art Gr 3-6–One hundred years ago, the Greenwood district of Tulsa, OK, was a prosperous Black community. Restaurants, beauty salons, movie theaters, and dozens of other businesses thrived along “Black Wall Street.” Cooper’s sepia-tone illustrations depict the bustle of everyday life as people hurried to shops or churches and gathered with friends. A stark spread signals the tragic turning point that resulted in the decimation of Greenwood’s Black community. A 17-year-old white woman elevator operator accused a 19-year-old Black man of assault. Incited by calls to action printed in white-owned newspapers, thousands of armed white men headed to the jail, where they met 30 armed Black men determined to stop a lynching. The confrontation resulted in the deaths of two Black men and 10 white men. Angry that they didn’t get to the jailed Black man, a white mob invaded the town, looted, and committed arson. The police did nothing to protect the Black citizens. Up to 300 Greenwood residents were killed, and more than 8,000 were left homeless. Seventy-five years passed before an official investigation occurred. Cooper’s illustrations are infused with a personal connection. Not only did he grow up in Tulsa, but Cooper also heard his grandpa’s stories of surviving the events. The powerful photo spread on the endpapers documents the destruction and smoking ruins. Cooper’s final illustrations of Tulsa’s Reconciliation Park offer a bit of hope. Weatherford’s author’s note provides additional background. VERDICT This moving account sheds light on shameful events long suppressed or ignored. All collections should consider this title’s value in providing historical context to current conversations about racism and America’s ongoing legacy of white supremacy.-Reviewed by Kathy Piehl



Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award


Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford (text) & illus. by Floyd Cooper. Carolrhoda. Feb. 2021. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781541581203.

 (See review above)



Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Honors


Nina cover artNina: A Story of Nina Simone by Traci N Todd (text) & illus. by Christian Robinson. Putnam. Sept. 2021. 56p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781524737283.
 Gr 2-6–This book begins with a little girl, Nina Simone, who has a gift and a passion for music, whether gospel, jazz, or classical. As Simone grows up, she begins to notice more inequities and injustices. Her anger grows, and the focus of the book shifts to issues of the civil rights movement and Simone’s role within it. Discussions of racism and resistance are undertaken with a skillful hand, not exceeding the tone or maturity level appropriate for young readers. Robinson’s jewel-tone artwork is colorful, engaging, and complements Todd’s lyrical text, supporting comprehension and revealing additional details about the time. For example, in one of the opening images, the subject’s mother is hanging up laundry while chickens peck around baby Nina in a basket. The character’s expressive faces add another dimension that will leave kids much to ponder. This is especially notable in a scene between two families who are segregated, where everyone is hurt by this unjust separation. This title would support curricular units on civil rights, biography, theme, and identity. Back matter includes more details about the artist’s life and her relationship to the civil rights movement. VERDICT An excellent and magnetic biography, this book is highly recommended in all elementary collections and should be considered for libraries serving older students.-Reviewed by Christina Salazar


We Wait for the Sun cover artWe Wait for the Sun by Katie McCabe (text) & illus. by Raissa Figueroa. Roaring Brook. Feb. 2021. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250229021.
 K-Gr 2–This luminous picture book introduces young readers to civil rights pioneer Dovey Johnson Roundtree through a pivotal moment in her childhood. Adapted from Roundtree’s autobiography, young Dovey narrates the experience of accompanying her grandmother and other neighborhood ladies on a pre-dawn berry-picking expedition. The spellbinding text evokes a strong sense of place and mood, drawing the reader in with a quiet sense of wonder. Roundtree’s telling conveys the sense of a sacred tradition being passed from generation to generation, and lovingly illuminates the precious bond between a grandparent and grandchild. The illustrations match the enthralling quality of the narrative. The darkness of the forest setting is painted in rich, velvety shades of blue and purple that melt into soft lavender tones as dawn approaches, ultimately leading to a breathtaking moment when the sun finally rises and the scene is bathed in gold. While the story itself offers only a brief glimpse at Roundtree’s formative years, an extensive author’s note and timeline fills in the details of her life and accomplishments. Fittingly, the back matter also highlights Rachel Bryant Graham, the grandmother who was such an influential figure in Roundtree’s life. VERDICT Absolutely captivating; a first purchase for picture book collections. This peek into the childhood of a groundbreaking civil rights activist is an excellent choice for Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Grandparents Day, or any time of the year.-Reviewed by Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Lib., CA , Mar 12, 2021


Soul Food Sunday cover artSoul Food Sunday by Winsome Bingham (text) & illus. by C.G. Esperanza. Abrams. Sept. 2021. 48p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781419747717.
K-Gr 3–On Sundays everyone rolls up to Grandma’s house for a soul food feast of chicken, ribs and sausage, greens, mac ’n’ cheese, and sweet tea. Not so much a story as a slice of life, this vividly illustrated picture book welcomes readers into an extended family’s warm weekly ritual. Roles are divided by gender and age: Men watch football (apart from Grill Chef Roscoe Ray), women gather in the kitchen to prepare the food and set the table, and the kids play. This Sunday there’s a change, as the young male protagonist takes on the role of sous-chef to his grandmother, grating endless blocks of cheese for the baked macaroni, rinsing off the greens, prepping the raw meat for the grill, and finally making the pitcher of sweet iced tea all by himself. Esperanza’s brightly realistic oil paintings echo the warmth and humor in this extended family, and tantalize readers with images of the delicious food on the table. Each member of this Black family is individually characterized with fabulous hairstyles (Grandma’s cornrows are purple) and fantastic outfits that include Afrikan print aprons and elephant slippers. Readers will want to join this happy, hungry family and partake of this feast; Bingham allows for that by providing the recipe for a delicious cheesy dish as well as tips for cleaning the grit from the greens. VERDICT A book that invites readers into an extended family’s moment in time, this welcoming title should be on any shelf addressing family life, celebrations, and food.–Reviewed by Jane Barrer



Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Honors


Home Is Not a Country cover artHome Is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo. Random/Make Me a World. Mar. 2021. 224p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593177051.
Gr 6 Up–Sudanese American poet Elhillo invites readers into her dreamlike story of 15-year-old Nima, who struggles with loneliness and the possibilities of the road not taken. Growing up in the United States, Nima wonders what life would be like if she spoke Arabic fluently, if her father hadn’t died, if her mother had not left a country where everyone had dark eyes, sepia-toned skin, and textured hair like her, or if she had been given a name she felt she could live up to. In this novel in verse, Elhillo shows readers the beauty of what could have been, and the pain of being labeled a terrorist. When Nima’s best friend, Haitham, is attacked, a series of dangerous events unfold, yet readers are given no real resolution. Told in three parts, the flow is a bit disjointed, but overall this is a quick and engaging story. Fans of Elizabeth Acevedo’s Clap When You Land or Samira Ahmed’s Love, Hate & Other Filters will enjoy this look at identity and acceptance. VERDICT A unique verse novel that looks at how our past choices influence identity and sense of belonging.-Reviewed by Monisha Blair


Revolution In Our Time cover artRevolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon. Candlewick. Nov. 2021. 400p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781536214185.
 Gr 7 Up–In this thorough, well-researched work, Magoon offers an in-depth look at the Black Panthers that we’ve not really seen for young people—one that is honest and offers a much-needed corrective. This more sympathetic portrait is broken down into clear, easy-to-follow sections that take place in chronological order. Members of the party, particularly the founders, are highlighted; these historical figures are fleshed out as complex individuals. The compelling narrative also covers the history of the entire organization. Magoon doesn’t shy away from presenting the troubles and challenges the party faced, including numerous arrests, and how despite their mission for racial equality, gender equality didn’t seem to be an issue they wanted to tackle. She brilliantly shares the positive, such as how they allowed their offices to be used for childcare and free meals, and how they set up survival programs to help people in need. The free breakfast program schools have today is thanks to the Black Panthers. VERDICT A must-have for American history units that will spend more time in readers’ hands than on the shelves.-Reviewed by Amanda Borgia


The People Remember cover artThe People Remember by Ibi Zoboi (text) & illus. by Loveis Wise. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Sept. 2021. 64p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062915641.
 PreS-Gr 3–A primer on the principles of Kwanzaa and an examination of the tenacious spirit of the formerly enslaved African people. Stolen African people from different cultures were forced to build uncommon bonds to survive the transatlantic slave trade. That they survived being separated from their land, culture, and personhood was nothing short of a miracle. Zoboi’s gorgeous prose illuminates all of the ways Black people attempted to reclaim their rights as American citizens. They were often thwarted by a corrupt system bent on consuming African culture without respecting the people who created it. Zoboi creates a colorful time line that covers the horrors of lynching, the great migration, white uprisings, hip hop music, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Along the way, the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba, which were first introduced in 1966, are celebrated. Wise’s illustrations highlight the beauty of African American culture. Their color palette takes readers on an emotional journey that is also a brilliant blend of poetry, African, and African American history. Zoboi skillfully weaves together the narratives of enslaved Africans into a wonderful tapestry that is honest and beautiful. VERDICT Perfect for school and public libraries, this must-have offering celebrates African American cultural identity should be included in all collections.-Reviewed by Desiree Thomas



Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent (Author) Award


Me (Moth) cover artMe (Moth) by Amber McBride. Feiwel & Friends. Aug. 2021. 256p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250780362.
 Gr 8 Up–This searing debut novel-in-verse is told from the perspective of Moth, a Black teen whose life changed forever the day a car crash killed her family. Once a dancer who lived so hard she drank the sun, now she lives quietly with her aunt Jack in suburban Virginia. She no longer dances and is struggling with the guilt of her family’s deaths. But then she meets Sani, a Navajo boy who lives with his white mother and abusive white stepfather and really sees Moth. Sani gave up making music after leaving New Mexico and takes pills to clear his mind. Summer arrives, and the two take off on a road trip out west, back to the reservation where Sani’s Navajo father lives. Along the way, their stories entwine. Sani recounts the origin story of the Navajo, and Moth shares about her grandfather who taught her hoodoo. Like a moth in a cocoon, they each find themselves on the edge of transformation on their journey. Each free verse poem is tightly composed, leading into the next for a poignant and richly layered narrative. The story builds softly and subtly to a perfect, bittersweet ending. Fans of Jacqueline Woodson won’t be able to put this one down. VERDICT Earnest, surprising, and with a little magic, this book is a must purchase for all teen collections.-Reviewed by Erica Ruscio



Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent (Illustrator) Award


The Me I Choose to Be by Anastasia Tarpley. illus. by Regis and Kahran Bethencourt. Little, Brown.



Alex Awards


Light From Uncommon StarsLight From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki. Sept. 2021. 384p. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781250789068.
 Katrina Nguyen is a survivor. A runaway, queer, transgender violinist, Katrina jumps out of her window one night, with a broken rib, a black eye, her hormones, and her violin. She escapes the abuse of her father for what she hopes is the safety of a friend in Los Angeles. Shizuka Satomi is the Queen of Hell and has one more year to deliver her seventh and final soul to Hell, or she will be damned forever. She is a brilliant violin teacher who has taught the likes of Burke, Tourischeva, Eisen, and Choi, taking them as young aspiring musicians and creating stars. Katrina and Shizuka meet on a park bench in El Molino Park, and Shizuka hears something in Katrina’s violin playing. Could she be the seventh soul? Aoki’s writing is as lovely as a violinist’s concerto. At times humorous, interspersed with delicious descriptions of the L.A. food scene, Aoki’s beautiful novel explores Asian and transgender identity in the form of a science fiction novel with Star Trek and Star Wars references aplenty. At its heart, the novel is a metaphor for taking someone broken and giving them the love, tenderness, and time they need to heal. VERDICT A brilliant story about resilience, vitality, and risking being broken to give everything.-Reviewed by Gretchen Schulz



The 100 Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin. Harper.



The Witch's Heart by Genevieve Gornichec. ACE.



The Library of the DeadThe Library of the Dead by T.L Huchu. (Edinburgh Nights: Bk. 1). Jun. 2021. 336p. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9781250767769; pap. $18.99. ISBN 9781250767783.
 Fourteen-year-old high school dropout Ropa is barely hanging on as she tries to support her Gran and her younger sister with her licensed ghost-talker business. However, the money she gets for delivering messages between the living and the dead is barely enough to pay the rent on their trailer. Although Ropa seems to be a tough-as-nails young businesswoman, when one of her ghostly clients begs for help investigating her missing child, Ropa’s conscience won’t let her ignore the mother’s plea, despite the fact that she can’t pay the fee. Ropa’s search starts at a very unique magical library where she uncovers a hidden talent inside of her which leads her across the seedier parts of Edinburgh, Scotland, and into several life-threatening situations. Readers must remain on their toes as they keep up with a large cast of characters both living and dead, while following the physics of magic and references from Scottish history, Zimbabwean culture, and Greek mythology. However, Ropa’s snarky, noir-ish first-person narration keeps the plot moving along quickly. Enough closure is provided to satisfy readers in the end, although plenty is left open for a whole new series to develop. VERDICT This supernatural thriller is a natural crossover title for teens who like fantastical elements mixed in with their scares.-Reviewed by Carrie Shaurette



How Lucky by Will Leitch. Harper.



Winter's Orbitby Everina Maxwell. Tor.



The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. William Morrow.



Crossing the Line: A Fearless Team of Brothers and the Sport That Changed Their Lives Forever by Kareem Rosser. St. Martin's.



Lore Olympus, Vol. 1 by Rachel Smythe. Del Rey. 



Malice by Heather Walter. Del Rey.



Margaret Edwards Award


A.S. King



William C. Morris Award


The finalists for the William C. Morris were announced in December 2021.



2022 Winner:


Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley. Holt. March 1, 2021. 496p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250766564. POP.
(See review above)



Excellence in Nonfiction Award


The finalists of the YALSA's Excellence in Nonfiction Award were announced in December 2021.



2022 Winner:


Ambushed! cover artAmbushed!: The Assassination Plot Against President Garfield by Gail Jarrow. Calkins Creek. (Medical Fiascoes). Oct. 2021. 240p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781684378142.

 Gr 4-9–Jarrow continues her “Medical Fiascoes” series with a compelling account of the life and death of James Garfield, the 20th President of the United States. Clearly presenting the figures of Garfield and Charles Guiteau, Jarrow’s analysis of the lead up to the assassination and its aftermath is a mesmerizing read. Readers, who most likely already know the outcome of the July 2, 1881 shooting, will be rooting for Garfield’s survival along with the nation as it receives daily updates from the president’s medical team. The author has provided a multitude of primary sources to enhance the immediacy of her writing. The ramifications of each medical decision are reviewed and placed in their political and the historical contexts. The slow, lingering death of James Garfield in the summer heat of Washington, D.C., the anger of the American people, and the mental instability of the assassin all combine to make this an unforgettable book. Back matter includes glossary, time line, more to explore online websites, author’s note, source notes, extensive bibliography, index, and picture credits. VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of medical nonfiction works by Mary Roach and other titles by Jarrow.-Reviewed by Susan Catlett



Michael L. Printz Honors


Concrete Rose cover artConcrete Rose by Angie Thomas. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Jan. 2021. 368p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062846716; pap. $10.99. ISBN 9780063056534.

 Gr 9 Up–Maverick “Lil Don” Carter is a 17-year-old King Lord growing up in the Garden Heights district. The King Lords have been in existence long before Maverick was born, so his life has always been steeped in gang culture. Maverick knows that the game can steal family, friends, and time from you. His father Adonis’s imprisonment is a testament to that fact. Maverick’s cousin Dre and his friend Shawn try to keep Maverick from falling too deep into the game, but Maverick’s best friend King keeps finding new ways to convince him to deepen his involvement. The unexpected joys and pains of fatherhood, the death of one of his best friends, and another unexpected pregnancy threaten to break Maverick’s tenuous hold on his own sanity. How can he cut ties with the King Lords, raise his son, prepare for another child, and maintain his independence? The pressure Maverick is under yields some startling blooms in this novel about tenacity and rebirth. This is the perfect example of a narrative that straddles the beauty and pain of belonging and having the courage to make your own choices. Maverick Carter, who is Black, is a wonderfully complex character who will resonate with readers of all stripes. Thomas writes with a depth of humor and clarity that really allows readers to bond with the characters. VERDICT This prequel to The Hate U Give is perfect for public and school libraries.-Reviewed by Desiree Thomas


Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo. Dutton. Jan. 2021. 416p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780525555254.
(See review above)



Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon. Candlewick. Nov. 2021. 400p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781536214185.
 (See review above)



Starfish cover artStarfish by Lisa Fipps. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. Mar. 2021. 256p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781984814500.
 Gr 5 Up–A charming novel in verse about a girl struggling with self-worth. Ellie is a middle school girl who is bullied every day for her weight. Whether it comes from classmates, siblings, or even her mother, Ellie is constantly bombarded with comments about her size. Luckily, her friends help keep her head up most of the time. When her best friend Viv moves away, a new friend, Catalina, fits right into her place. Ellie’s dad is also an ally; he stands up to Ellie’s mom and decides to take Ellie to a therapist. With the help of Dr. Wood, Ellie learns how to feel comfortable in her own skin. Once readers start, it will be difficult for them to put this book down. Ellie’s story is heartbreaking and raw at times, and Fipps paints a realistic picture of bullying in a world that equates thinness with beauty. Ellie’s own family, except for her dad, also buy into that ideal, calling her “Splash,” making fun of her, and cataloguing everything she eats. True joy comes in watching Ellie gain confidence in herself and standing up to the bullies, even when they’re family. The race of most characters is not mentioned. Catalina and her family are Mexican American. VERDICT A must-have for libraries serving teens and tweens.-Reviewed by Lisa Buffi



Michael L. Printz Award


Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley. Holt. March 1, 2021. 496p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250766564. POP.
(See review above)



Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Honors


Boogie Boogie, Y'all cover artBoogie Boogie, Y’all by C. G. Esperanza (text) & ­illus. by C. G. Esperanza. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. Aug. 2021. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062976222.
 K-Gr 2–Art is everywhere in the city: sprayed on walls, on trains, and in the park, but everybody is too busy to appreciate it. Two Black kids and a dog do their best to call attention to how “mad fun” the art makes the neighborhood. When the kids add their own spray art, the block finally begins to boogie and to merge with the art themselves. Neon colored pictures, created with oils, acrylic, and Photoshop, explode off the pages with dramatic perspectives. They are edge-to-edge rich with the details of city life, from a mariachi band on the subway to skateboarders, food trucks, breakdancers, a block party, and graffiti galore. People have photo-realistic faces, their bodies traced with a thick, black line that helps set them apart from the urban landscape. The exuberance is mirrored in a rhyming text that mostly bops along and is chock-full of exclamations and onomatopoeia. It will be up to readers to interpret what is happening on the closing spreads where the children appear to be painting on glass, and art comes off the wall to envelop the people. VERDICT Purchase anywhere—everywhere!—an appreciative take on the vibe and culture of urban life is needed.-Reviewed by Jan Aldrich Solow 



Bright Star cover artBright Star by Yuyi Morales (text) & illus. by Yuyi Morales. Holiday House/Neal Porter. Sept. 2021. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823443284.
 PreS-Gr 3–In an author’s note, Morales states that she used “the most beautiful things I could find” to make this book: words in English and Spanish, drawings, paint, wool, and photographed textures. Beauty gleams from the pages in soft, sunrise pink, as a whitetail fawn wakes in a patch of desert plants and explores its environment with its mother. The text addresses a “Child,” which may refer to the fawn or to a reader; observers will also notice hummingbirds (whose wings blur as they hover), tortoises, insects, and cacti. In a dramatic spread, the pink shifts from the color of a sunrise to that of a wound, as the fawn and other desert creatures confront the harsh vertical barrier of the border wall, topped with curls of barbed wire and surrounded by pieces of chopped-down cacti. Night falls as does rain; bats emerge and the desert teems with life. In a new dawn, the fawn curls among pink and yellow flowers; on the following page, a brown-skinned girl is in the fawn’s place, peering over her shoulder, directly at readers. On the final spread, six people stand or sit, their gazes out and up, under the refrain, “You are a bright star inside our hearts,” transforming the art into a message of love and hope that honors children everywhere, especially migrant children. VERDICT Morales shares her love for the borderlands, shows the pain the border wall inflicts, and presents an invitation to learn more. Recommended for all collections.-Reviewed by Jenny Arch



De aqui como el coqui cover artDe aquí como el coquí by Nomar Perez (text) & illus. by Nomar Perez. Dial. Mar. 2021. tr. from English by Farah Perez. $17.99. ISBN 9780593324073.
PreS-Gr 2–Miguel loves listening to his abuelito’s stories, sharing meals with his family, and playing baseball with his friends and pet frog, Coquí. When Miguel and his parents have to move to the U.S. mainland, he has to leave so much that he loves in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Once in New York City, he is uncertain and misses his home, Miguel agrees to go out to explore their new neighborhood with Mamá. As they find familiar things they love—empanadillas, a baseball field, and even a pond full of frogs like Coquí—New York City begins to feel much more like home. Vibrant, colorful illustrations depict the life and beauty of Puerto Rico and the rich diversity that can be found in Miguel’s new neighborhood. The text is available in English and Spanish editions and conveys the excitement, sadness, and new possibilities that Miguel experiences. This is a wonderful book with a comforting message, perfect for sharing with young readers who are experiencing big changes. Miguel is light-skinned. VERDICT A strong choice for all collections.-Reviewed by Selenia Paz



May Your Life Be Deliciosa cover artMay Your Life Be Deliciosa by Michael Genhart (text) & illus. by Loris Lora. Cameron Kids. Sept. 2021. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781951836221.
PreS-Gr 3–In a gathering for Christmas, the narrator reveals the tamale-making that fits hand in glove with life lessons uttered by his abuela. The mostly English narration is full of in-context Spanish words, but when Abuela utters words such as “protection and security,” the Spanish equivalents appear in large calligraphy as part of the art. Vibrant scenes show a Mexican family pitching in to tell stories, soak the husks, remove silks, add filling, and then fold and place the tamales in the pot to cook. The scent in the air is overwhelming, and anticipation grows, but the slow cooking teaches “patience,” and soon the family is feasting on the fruits of their labor. Colors, flowers, rooms filled with laughing people, and a flowing well-paced text combine in a mantra-like telling, as rewarding as the tamales themselves. VERDICT A bilingual beauty that celebrates family across generations, and traditions that can be shared beyond the communal table.-Reviewed by Kimberly Olson Fakih



Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award


Vamos Let's Cross the Bridge cover art¡Vamos! Let’s Cross the Bridge by Raúl the Third (text) & illus. by Raúl the Third. Clarion/Versify. Sept. 2021. 48p. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780358380405.
 PreS-Gr 2–Little Lobo has his new truck loaded up with fun things for a big celebración—piñatas, cakes, gifts, and more—but first Little Lobo and friends have to cross the puente to get to the city. As they make their way, readers can see the colorful towns on both sides of the bridge, one that resembles the Paso del Norte International Bridge. It connects two similar towns in two countries, one in which English is mostly spoken, and one in which Spanish is the main language. Having to wait in much heavier traffic than anticipated, Little Lobo shows his friends the incredible happenings all around them—food trucks selling delicious foods like churros, lowriders bouncing up and down, and a bus full of luchadores. As they wait, the friends realize they can bring the celebration to everyone. New and returning visitors to the “¡Vamos!”series will jump right into the bright, colorful world and travel alongside the characters, taking in the sights and imagining the smells. Readers will love pointing out the Easter eggs and cultural references on every page, many of which, like Cantinflas and De la Rosa Mazapan, may be very familiar. Vibrant spreads allow the party to spill out of the pages, and the Spanish words appear in a glossary. VERDICT A perfect addition to the world of “¡Vamos!” and to picture book collections for children.-Reviewed by Selenia Paz



Pura Belpré Children's (Author) Honors


Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna cover artBarefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P Dobbs. Sourcebooks. Sept. 2021. 288p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781728234656.
 Gr 5 Up––Set during the Mexican Revolution, mostly during 1913, this book follows Petra and her grandmother, her sister, and her baby brother as they flee the Federales after the burning of their village. Loosely based on the stories from the author’s own family, the novel weaves traditional Mestizo tales and desert knowledge, historical events, and original storytelling. The book is compelling, with well-paced action that flows and keeps readers engaged. The lyrical writing perfectly evokes the loneliness of the desert, the companionship of fellow refugees, and the bravery of Petra. Throughout the journey, Petra struggles to recognize that she is a leader in her family and must choose new paths even while respecting and balancing the place of her grandmother’s traditional knowledge. The conclusion is thrilling, though cheapened slightly as Petra pedantically explains what she has learned. End materials include an author’s note on Dobbs’s own family’s experiences and her research methods, as well as a time line of historical events. VERDICT This beautifully written and exciting story of a family fleeing during the Mexican revolution offers a new perspective in historical fiction. An excellent addition to all collections.-Reviewed by Elizabeth Nicolai


Child of the Flower Song People cover artChild of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jiménez, Daughter of the Nahua by Gloria Amescua (text) & illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. Abrams. Aug. 2021. 48p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781419740206.
 Gr 1-5–The moving story of one of the biggest cultural influences on Mexican culture. Luz Jiménez loves learning about her Nahua culture—from traditional weaving and cooking to the beautiful stories told by the fire. And even though it means wearing strange European-style clothes, she also loves going to school. Jiménez is sure there’s a way to combine her love of her Nahua culture and her growing passion to teach, until the Mexican revolution changes everything. In the aftermath of war, the subject and her family struggle to find their way in Mexico City, until she finds a solution that could save her family and the story of her people. The straightforward text belies a complicated story about the devastating effects of colonization on an Indigenous culture and the complex ways that Jiménez had an immeasurable impact on contemporary Mexican culture. Tonatiuh’s beautiful pre-Columbian illustrations provide a vivid play-by-play of events and evoke Jiménez’s ultimate impact on the art world. An author’s note gives more historical context, and a time line, glossary, and bibliography make this a valuable source for student researchers. Missing are examples of some of the art Jiménez inspired, but students reading this will be impulsed to find those on their own. VERDICT Essential reading about the impacts of colonialism for public and school libraries.-Reviewed by Savannah Kitchens


De aquí como el coquí by Nomar Perez (text) & illus. by Nomar Perez. Dial. Mar. 2021. tr. from English by Farah Perez. $17.99. ISBN 9780593324073.
(See review above)



Pura Belpré Children's (Author) Award


The Last Cuentista cover artThe Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera. Levine Querido. Aug. 2021. 336p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781646140893.
 Gr 5 Up–The magic and power of stories and storytelling help a preteen in a terrifying future. In 2061, with Earth about to be destroyed, 12-year-old Petra Peña and her scientist parents and younger brother Javier are just barely aboard the ship that will take them to the planet Sagan when a group of zealots called the Collective, wanting absolute equality at the expense of any diversity, take over. Almost 400 years later, Petra is one of the last four “sleepers” revived, and the only one who somehow retains her memories of Earth. She uses the stories her family shared and a precious copy of Yuyi Morales’s Dreamers to try to save the others in her cohort, her newly rediscovered brother, and what seems to be the last Collective child. Life on the ship, made even more claustrophobic by Petra’s declining vision from retinitis pigmentosa, and filled with the translucent, drugged Collective, is particularly chilling. Mexican American Petra is a strong, heroic character, fighting incredible odds to survive and protect others. The ending leaves the door wide open for a sequel. VERDICT A keep-you-up-all-night, compulsively readable science fiction novel that offers much food for thought.-Reviewed by Mara ­Alpert



Pura Belpré YA (Author) Honors


Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun cover artFifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa. Skyscape/Amazon. Jun. 2021. 354p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781542027052.
 Gr 9 Up–Julián “Jules” Luna is a closeted gay teen pressured by his father to be a machismo, heteronormative Mexican American. He has endured both emotional and physical abuse at the hands of his father, who refuses to allow him to acknowledge his true self. One night, a drunken tweet results in Jules inadvertently outing himself to his entire school. While some students harass him, his core group of friends supports him, and a Twitter flirtation evolves into a long-distance relationship with Mat, a Vietnamese American teen living in Los Angeles. Jules dreams of escaping Corpus Christi, TX and going to college in L.A. and being close to Mat. When a hate crime forcibly outs Jules, his dad kicks him out of the house. Relationships with the likable characters of his sister Xochi, grandfather Güelo, Mat, and friends provide comfort to Jules as he is vulnerable and adjusts to living his life authentically. Readers will empathize and connect with Jules as a well-rounded character who loves cooking, soccer, and is a vegetarian. The banter-filled, amusing, conversational writing style includes slang and Spanish terms that can be understood via context. Although parts of the story are heartbreaking and heavy, they are balanced with humor and hope, giving queer teens of color opportunities to see joy and love reflected back to them. Content warnings are advised for emotional and physical abuse, homophobia, homophobic and racist slurs, and forced outing. VERDICT Tender, touching, hopeful, and hilarious; enthusiastically recommended for all collections.-Reviewed by Lisa Krok


Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet cover artSomewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp. Little, Brown. Apr. 2021. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316460279.
Gr 9 Up–In Austin, TX, Pen Prado’s Mexican American family runs Nacho’s Tacos, a popular place to eat and gather and the community hub that neighborhood residents turn to in times of need. Pen’s father, Ignacio, can always be counted on for a meal when someone is hungry, quick money for a small job, or steady employment for people with undocumented statuses. Pen has a passion for cooking and dreams of running the restaurant when her father retires, but her parents insist Pen finish nursing school. When they find out that she has been skipping classes, they fire her from the restaurant and let her know that she may continue to live at home only if she finishes school. Xander lives with his abuelo and lives in fear of his undocumented status being revealed. He has worked with immigration lawyers and private detectives in hopes of finding his father, but so far doesn’t even know if he’s alive. When Xander, who is from Mexico, takes a job at Nacho’s Tacos, he finds a place to belong and a family as his relationship with Pen progresses, but those things are threatened by J.P., or El Martillo, a loan shark who has corrupt members of law enforcement on his payroll. In this coming-of-age story told in multiple perspectives, Pen struggles to deal with familial expectations while chasing her dreams of cooking, the heady emotions of first love, and mental health issues stemming from anxiety and depression. Secondary characters are well developed and the plot is a balance of tension, humor, romance, and fear. Lush imagery celebrates Mexican culture and depicts how food can bring people together. VERDICT This #OwnVoices YA contemporary debut is not to be missed; recommended for most collections.-Reviewed by Samantha Lumetta


Where I Belong cover artWhere I Belong by Marcia Argueta Mickelson. Carolrhoda Lab. Sept. 2021. 264p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781541597976.
 Gr 9 Up–Millie Vargas, who would rather observe the behavior of sea turtles in their natural habitat, takes care of three younger siblings after school (and whenever she is needed), while her mother works for a high-powered Corpus Christi family, the Wheelers. When Mr. Charles Wheeler, a Senate hopeful, reveals some personal details of his “model immigrant” housekeeper’s family at a protest against the separation of children from their families at the border, Millie’s family is trolled online and become the target of a hate crime. Millie navigates her anger at the Wheeler family, who are privileged enough to openly protest injustice without fear, while slowly developing a crush and falling in love with the oldest son, Charlie, and preparing to tell her mother that she has received a full scholarship at a top college and will be leaving home. Mickelson, who, like Millie, immigrated from Guatemala as an infant, has crafted an analytical and emotionally charged first-person narrative, and explores with a deft and wise hand the complexities of a budding relationship with a person of a different class and the conflict between upward mobility and family loyalty. The perspicacious eyes and heart of Millie, who respects her hardworking mother and mourns her father, who died too young, bring the reader in touch with an honorable family who defy stereotypes, transcend low expectations, and who know they belong here. VERDICT A fabulous debut, not to be missed. There is truth on every page—about love, restraint, and integrity.-Reviewed by Sara Lissa ­Paulson



Pura Belpré YA (Author) Award


How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe cover artHow Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland. S. & S. Aug. 2021. 432p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781534448667.
Gr 9 Up–At the age of 17, twin sisters Moon and Star Fuentez’s lives are still controlled by their mother. Star is a “purity culture” social media influencer whose flawless natural beauty is the focus of her ambitious mother, while Moon, a “size 16,” is required to be their porter and photographer. Only Moon’s secret acceptance to Tulane University’s art program in the fall gives her hope. The novel opens as the family learns that Star has been offered a spot on a high-profile, cross-country charity tour organized by social media app founder Andro Philips. Moon is again required to serve as her sister’s photographer, but this time she will also profit by working the merchandise table. Things deteriorate when she meets the others on the trip, especially her merch-selling partner, Santiago, Andro’s sexy younger brother. Their rough start, though, melts into a simmering romance during long hours on the bus and the shared love of gourmet food and more. Recounted in a highly descriptive manner with a healthy dose of magical realism, Gilliland-Vasquez’s second book weaves together themes of healing from fat- and disability-shaming, homophobia, and domestic and religious abuse. VERDICT This slow-paced novel reads like a popular telenovela and is good choice for teen collections.-Reviewed by Ruth Quiroa



Mildred L. Batchelder Honors


Coffee, Rabbit, Snowdrop, Lost by published by Betina Birkjær. illus. by Anna Margrethe Kjærgaard. trans. by Sinéad Quirke Køngerskov. Enchanted Lion.


In the Meadow of Fantasies by Hadi Mohammadi. illus. by Nooshin Safakhoo. trans. by Sara Khalili. Elsewhere Editions.


The Most Beautiful Story  by Brynjulf Jung Tjønn. illus. by Øyvind Torseter. trans. by Kari Dickson. Enchanted Lion.


Sato the Rabbit, the MoonSato the Rabbit, the Moon by Yuki Ainoya. Enchanted Lion. (Sato the Rabbit: Bk. 2). Oct. 2021. 72p. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781592703067.
 Gr 1-4–Haneru Sato, the most imaginative Japanese boy in a bunny suit to ever grace the page, returns. And who better to guide readers along a journey of absolute imagination? In a series of short stories, Sato explores nature and finds fantastic things. In “The Green Screw,” he twists a tender green sprout until a blooming forest rises up around him. “Falling Rain” sees Sato tie together the falling rain with ribbons and use the curtains of rainwater as drapery in a ballroom. And in “Fallen Leaves,” he rolls up leaves as if they are a red carpet and unfurls it at a wedding. The artwork is colorful and varied; the moon is especially beautiful, shining brightly in a buttery, warm yellow glow. Paired with the illustrations is succinct, crisp text. The language sparkles when onomatopoeia is employed. Each story ends with a little bunny emoji, a minute detail that adds to an already charming presentation. VERDICT In Sato’s world, it’s not that nothing is what it seems; instead, everything is exactly what it seems to be when viewed from his unique perspective. A beautiful addition to all collections.-Reviewed by Chance Lee Joyner


The Sea-Ringed World cover artThe Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas by María García Esperón (text) & illus. by Amanda Mijangos. Levine Querido. Feb. 2021. 240p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781646140152.
 Gr 5 Up–This text features sacred stories that have been passed down within and by Indigenous cultures of the Americas for thousands of years. Each of these mesmerizing stories pulls readers in, leaving them wishing they could remain within these worlds much longer. Tales provide lessons humans should heed and stories about how things came to be, such as the stars, the sun, and the moon. Some stories, such as “Hummingbird” from the Guarani tradition, tell of tragedies and love; others, such as “Kukulkan” from the Yucatec and K’iche’ tradition and “Land of Fire” from the Selk’nam tradition tell of how some things came to be and about the gods’ interactions with one another. Stories pass on messages of hope and resilience, but also provide events filled with sadness and tragedy. The vibrant blue, black, and white palette used in the illustrations brings events from the stories beautifully to life. A pronunciation guide, “Quick Guide to Cultures” featured in the text, map, and glossary add to the richness of this title. VERDICT Highly recommended for readers young and old, this work is breathtaking and simply beautiful.-Reviewed by Selenia Paz



Mildred L. Batchelder Award


Temple Alley Summer cover artTemple Alley ­Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba (text) & illus. by Miho Satake. Yonder. Jul. 2021. 240p. Tr $18. ISBN 9781632063038.
Gr 3-7–It all starts with a ghost story show on TV one night, a show self-proclaimed scaredy-cat Kazuhiro Sada knows he has no business watching. Late that night, Kazu sees a pale figure sneaking out of his family’s altar room. Could it be a ghost? Then he sees the same figure in his class the very next day—a girl known as Akari who all of his friends insist he’s known since kindergarten. When he learns the street he and Akari live on used to be called Kimyo Temple Alley, a name that implies the dead coming back to life, Kazu’s sure something fishy is going on. But as he spends the summer delving deeper into this mystery and befriending Akari, things will become even more complicated and strange than he could’ve imagined. A humorous yet thoughtful mystery chock-full of the fantastical, this is a must-read for young fans of Studio Ghibli—an especially warranted comparison, as another book by Kashiwaba served as inspiration for Spirited Away. Lovingly translated into English from the original 2011 text, this version is completely accessible to an English-language audience while retaining a classic Japanese sensibility and storytelling style. All characters default as Japanese. VERDICT An excellent choice for fantasy lovers of all ages, particularly those who enjoy magical realism and a dose of the supernatural. Highly recommended.-Reviewed by Kaitlin Frick



Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honors


The Great Stink: How Joseph Bazalgette Solved London’s Poop Pollution Problem by Colleen Paeff.  illus. by Nancy Carpenter. Margaret K. McElderry Books.


Fallout cover artFallout: Spies, Superbombs, and the Ultimate Cold War Showdown by Steve Sheinkin. Roaring Brook. Sept. 2021. 352p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250149015.
 Gr 6 Up–Sheinkin delivers another heart-pounding tale, picking up where his 2012 award-winning book Bomb left off: the end of World War II and the start of the Cold War. The story opens in 1953, with Jimmy Bozart, the 13-year old paperboy who discovered a hollow nickel dropped by Soviet spy Rudolf Abel, a key early player in the series of conflicts that would lead up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. In tightly organized chapters adorned with historical photos, Sheinkin seamlessly weaves the stories of different players and includes meticulously well-researched details to personalize and humanize his subjects. Key events from the Cold War are dramatized in detailed scenes, including the inception of the arms race between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., the capture of U2 pilot Francis Powers, the Bay of Pigs invasion, and the building of the Berlin Wall. While Sheinkin examines up close the spies, ordinary citizens, scientists, and world leaders—including Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Khrushchev—who put events into motion, he simultaneously considers the bigger picture, not making outright villains or heroes of either side, except perhaps Soviet commander Vasily Arkhipov, who prevented a nuclear submarine strike during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Sheinkin concludes with just how close the world came to catastrophe, and urges readers not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Teens who love history such as Marc Favreau’s Spies and historical fiction like Jennifer Nielsen’s A Night Divided won’t be able to put this one down. VERDICT A first purchase for all teen collections.-Reviewed by Erica ­Ruscio


We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell (text) & illus. by Frané Lessac. Charlesbridge. Apr. 2021. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781623541927.
 Gr 4-6–Students at the Native Nations Community School share presentations about the history, present, and future of Indigenous communities. The vivid artwork features a simple, bold style. The narrative starts with a general introduction of Native Nations in the United States. Each presentation contains illustrations with the student’s name, an overview of the subject, a brief list of the impact that the concept or historical moment had on Native American people, and the refrain “We Are Still Here!” The last pages show students and their families with a variety of skin tones and physical abilities studying the presentations on topics that include sovereign rights and relocation. Additional information, a time line, a glossary, sources, and an author’s note offer further context. The lyrical text and jewel-tone illustrations elegantly work together to stirringly portray the ongoing fight for Native American recognition and rights. VERDICT An essential purchase for introducing the impact laws and treaties had and continue to have on Native Nations.-Reviewed by Tamara Saarinen


Summertime Sleepers cover artSummertime Sleepers: Animals that Estivate by Melissa Stewart (text) & illus. by Sarah S. ­Brannen. Charlesbridge. Apr. 2021. 40p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781580897167.
K-Gr 3–This picture book provides an appealing survey of a dozen animals that estivate. Brannen’s simple, adept illustration on the cover introduces a pleasing pictorial scheme. The brief text highlights different places where animals sleep, including tree crevices, muddy hollows, and empty rodent holes. Ladybugs, fish, butterflies, lizards, and the yellow-bellied marmot are featured. Each spread depicts two views of the resting animal. Gentle watercolor scenes include a small black-and-white page that resembles a guidebook entry, which offers a sketch of the animal, its name, and brief facts. Readers learn that scientists have recently given more attention to the study of estivation. End material offers more details about each animal. Author and illustrator notes, a bibliography, and a substantial list of print and online resources are included. VERDICT A well-crafted and attractive text for animal fans, and a suitable introduction to the scientific concept of estivation.-Reviewed by Margaret Bush


Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford (text) & illus. by Floyd Cooper. Carolrhoda. Feb. 2021. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781541581203.
 (See review above)



Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award


The People’s Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought for Justice with Art by Cynthia Levinson. and illus. by Evan Turk. Abrams.



Odyssey Honor Audiobooks


Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson. narrated by Adjoa Andoh. Listening Library.


I Talk Like a River cover artI Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott (text) & illus. by Sydney Smith. Holiday House/Neal Porter Bks. Sept. 2020. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823445592.
 Gr 1-4–In first-person narration about the author as a boy, this debut brings readers into the world of dysfluency, that is, stuttering. The narrator, a white boy, sits alone at the kitchen table before school, imagining how badly his day will go, and it’s even worse. The letters MP, and bring special terrors for the garbled sounds they demand of him in a school day, when the teacher asks students to describe a favorite place. His solitude is, for readers, almost unbearable until he returns to his understanding father. He knows about a “bad speech day,” and takes his son to the river. There, without many words, he explains how his son talks like the river, with ebbs and flows, a rush of sounds, emotion, and meaning streaming. The boy’s dawning realization brings the story to a resonant pause, in a foldout that opens to a vast four-page spread of the sparkling waters that surround him. And then the remembrance resumes, for when he returns to school, he talks about his special place in his own manner, his dysfluency making him and his telling unique. Smith’s lyrical, color-saturated paintings capture mighty nature as well as the blurred, staring faces of schoolmates, who mock and laugh but mostly do not understand the main character’s inner world. An author’s note, in tiny type but very personal and expressive, outlines the journey Scott has taken to make peace with himself. VERDICT By turns heartbreaking and illuminating, this picture book brings one more outsider into the fold through economy of language and an abundance of love.-Reviewed by Kimberly Olson Fakih


Perfectly Parvin cover artPerfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi. Putnam. May 2021. 320p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593109427.
 Gr 6-10–Abtahi’s charming debut will have readers cheering for Parvin as she navigates her freshman year of high school. Fourteen-year-old Iranian American Parvin Mohammadi is elated as she prepares to start high school in her Northern Virginia town. She’s just scored her first kiss from her first boyfriend and she and her friends, crafter-extraordinaire Ruth and social media sensation Fabian, are ready to take on James K. Polk High. Only Parvin is quickly dumped by her boyfriend, who tells her she’s “too much.” Parvin launches an initiative to tone down her voice, her hair, and her style, in order to catch the attention of a cute sophomore in time for the Homecoming dance. But she soon discovers that being demure like a rom-com heroine is difficult, as Parvin juggles Farsi lessons, changing friendships, and waiting for her aunt’s visit from Iran. Parvin is an incredibly charming, funny, and lovable protagonist who greets life with unbridled enthusiasm. Ruth, who is Korean, and Fabian, who is Mexican, are wonderful counterparts who support but challenge Parvin as they deal with their own issues. Parvin’s parents and aunt are fully realized characters who get to the heart of Parvin’s Iranian heritage as she navigates her two cultures with vim. A visa issue highlights immigration bans in the United States, giving readers a personal look at a complex political issue. VERDICT A truly delightful story about a charming and engaging teen navigating freshman year.-Reviewed by Elissa Bongiorno



Odyssey Award Audiobook


Boogie Boogie, Y’all by C. G. Esperanza (text) & ­illus. by C. G. Esperanza. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. Aug. 2021. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062976222.
 (See review above)


When You Look Like Us cover artWhen You Look Like Us by Pamela N Harris. HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Jan. 2021. 368p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062945891.
 Gr 9 Up–Black teen Jay Murphy lives in Newport News, VA, with his sister and grandmother. Jay’s mother is in prison for drug-related offenses, and his father died from an illness when he was young. Jay is an excellent student and teaches Sunday school at his church. Jay’s sister, Nicole, goes to a party on a Thursday evening with her boyfriend and best friend and doesn’t return home. Jay tries to cover for her as much as possible but eventually turns to the police for help. After Jay realizes the police won’t be much help finding his missing sister, he teams up with his friend from church and embarks on a harrowing journey to find out what happened to Nicole. Harris begins this debut novel with an author’s note about her personal connections to the characters. Harris begins the first chapter with a vivid auditory description of Jay’s neighborhood that will hook readers. This is a high-speed story that will draw teens in and keep them turning pages until they reach the unpredictable and thrilling ending. VERDICT Fans of Jason Reynolds and Nic Stone will devour this novel. A must for YA collections.-Reviewed by Michelle Kornberger



Excellence in Early Learning Digital Media Honors


Goodnight World

Tab Time



Excellence in Early Learning Digital Media Award


Alma's Way



Children's Literature Legacy Award


Grace Lin



Theodor Seuss Geisel Honors


Beak & Ally #1: Unlikely Friends written and illus. by Norm Feuti. HarperAlley.


I Hop (cover art)I Hop by Joe Cepeda. Holiday House. (I Like to Read). Nov. 2021. 32p. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780823448258.
 PreS-K–A good old-fashioned pogo stick changes the way a little boy moves around his neighborhood. Geared up with his helmet, and after only a couple of falls, the little boy hops on his pogo stick all the way to his grandmother’s house, stopping for cheese, apples, and bread along the way. When he arrives, he and his grandmother hop on pogo sticks to the park for a picnic with the food the little boy purchased. Much like Cepeda’s “I Like To Read” companion books I DigI See, and Up!, the vibrant illustrations tell a sweet story about a boy, who appears to have brown skin, and his world in just 12 short words. For the very newest reader, Cepeda lovingly crafts a little boy with agency in a diverse community with heart. VERDICT In a category of books that abounds in talking animals and seriously lacks in diversity, this little book is a great addition to an easy reader collection.-Reviewed by Jennifer Miskec


Nothing Fits a Dinosaur by Jonathan Fenske (text) & illus. by Jonathan Fenske. S. & S./Simon Spotlight. (Ready to Read). Aug. 2021. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781665900652.

PreS-Gr 2–Fenske’s creative, joyful book, showcases all the struggles of putting an active youngster to bed. In the bath, the child transforms into the dinosaur he was once playing with on the floor; throughout the story, the pictures illustrate the dinosaur that the child has become in his mind. As the child of color moves from one piece of clothing to another, the images detail his need to think outside the box to find bedtime clothing for his large dinosaur size. The pictures pair perfectly with the child having fun while getting bedtime directives from Mommasaurus. Facial expressions of wonder and happiness depict a child deep in an imaginative world using everyday items to dress the dinosaur for bedtime. Caregivers may use this book to teach kids the pieces of clothing they need to get dressed properly. VERDICT Fans of leveled readers will not be disappointed, from the jolliness of the character’s speech, to the quality pictures of the dinosaur’s t-shirt and bathrobe. Dinosaur vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea would pair perfectly with this book.-Reviewed by Tanya Haynes



Theodor Seuss Geisel Award


Fox at Night written and illustrated by Corey R. Tabor. Random/Balzer + Bray.



Randolph Caldecott Honors


Have You Ever Seen a Flower? by Shawn Harris. Chronicle.


Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor. Random/Balzer + Bray.


Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford (text) & illus. by Floyd Cooper. Carolrhoda. Feb. 2021. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781541581203.
 (See review above)


Wonder Walkers by Micha Archer. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen.



Randolph Caldecott Medal


Watercress by Andrea Wang (text) & illus. by Jason Chin. Holiday House/Neal Porter. Mar. 2021. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823446247.
 (See review above)



John Newbery Medal Honors


Red, White, and Whole cover artRed, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca. HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Feb. 2021. 224p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780063047426.
Gr 5 Up–Indian American middle schooler Reha navigates growth and loss in this 1980s coming-of-age novel in verse. Thirteen-year-old Reha deals with ordinary concerns; she tries to stay true to her Indian culture while growing up with in the United States, and she grapples with a crush on a classmate. When her mother suddenly gets sick with leukemia, Reha’s ordinary everyday concerns fade away and are replaced with the belief that if she is as virtuous as possible, she will save her mother’s life. As the story goes on, Reha deals with her grief and builds a strong support network of friends and family to help her face her mother’s illness. References to musicians such as Pat Benatar, the Beach Boys, and Cyndi Lauper firmly set this story in the 1980s, but the story otherwise feels modern. Reha’s story is slow to start but quickly ramps up. Readers will be invested in her relationships with her parents and friends and will enjoy the evocative verse and emotional stakes. VERDICT A recommended purchase, perfect for fans of Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga and Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton.-Reviewed by Kelsey Socha


A Snake Falls to Earth cover artA Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger. Levine Querido. Oct. 2021. 352p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781646140923.
Gr 7-10–Little Badger’s sophomore effort is an atmospheric, world-straddling, dual-narrative tale laced with themes of climate change, family, and identity. Nina is a Lipan girl living in Texas, a budding documentarian working to find her voice. As she hones her videos over the years, she also works to decipher tales of her family’s history—stories full of animal people and the Reflecting World. Oli is a young cottonmouth, sent away by his mother to find his own way. Lost and beset upon by monsters, he eventually makes a home on the banks of a bottomless lake, where he befriends a frog and two coyote twins. When Oli’s frog friend and Nina’s grandmother are endangered because of climate troubles on Earth, their lives intertwine. Magic and monsters combine with internet stardom and hurricane warnings to create a wonderful fable set in modern-day Texas. Following traditional Lipan Apache storytelling structure, this is an entertaining and illuminating look at how traditions and magic can exist in the modern world. Oli and his friends are delightful to read about, while Nina’s human concerns and love for her grandmother shine. VERDICT A modern-day fable with real-world significance, perfect for magical realism fans and fantasy lovers alike.-Reviewed by Elissa Bongiorno


Too Bright To See by Kyle Lukoff. Dial. Apr. 2021. 192p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780593111154.
 (See review above)


Watercress by Andrea Wang (text) & illus. by Jason Chin. Holiday House/Neal Porter. Mar. 2021. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823446247.
 (See review above)



John Newbery Medal


The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera. Levine Querido. Aug. 2021. 336p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781646140893.
 (See review above)


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