SLJ Reviews of the 2024 Youth Media Award Winners

The SLJ reviews editors rounded up our reviews of the books lauded at the 2024 Youth Media Awards.

The SLJ reviews editors rounded up our reviews of the books lauded at the 2024 Youth Media Awards.

John Newbery Medal

Newbery Honor Books

Randolph Caldecott Medal 

Caldecott Honor Books


Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award

Nigeria Jones by Ibi Zoboi. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. May 2023. 384p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062888846.
Gr 9 Up–Nigeria Jones, daughter of a Black nationalist and freedom fighter, has never known a life outside the Movement. She’s dutifully and willingly played the role her father groomed her to play, that of a warrior princess. She cares for her little brother Freedom, leads the Youth Group, helps build the Freedom School, adheres strictly to veganism, and mentors new residents of the Village House. Yet a year into her mom’s disappearance, she begins to waver. The more she learns about her mom and what her mom really wanted—for herself and for her daughter—the more Nigeria questions. When she discovers that her mom secured her a place at Philly Friends, a nearby Quaker private school attended by her cousin Kamau and family friend Sage, her questions turn from drips into a torrent. She starts to wonder if divesting and decolonizing, as the Movement espouses, is the path to change or, at the very least, whether it’s the path she wants to follow. Who is the Movement serving? Is it serving men and women equally? What is her path as a young Black woman? Might it be separate from the father she loves and the Movement she’s always known? Zoboi artfully introduces each chapter through an epigraph, each a quote either altered to center or by Black women, and structures the book by article, ultimately creating the Constitution of Nigeria Jones. These stylistic choices echo the themes of Black girlhood and intersectionality seamlessly woven throughout Nigeria’s story. VERDICT A beautifully constructed portrait of one young woman growing into her own that will move readers to deeply consider the very same questions Nigeria must answer for herself.–Reviewed by Jill Heritage Maza 


Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Honors

Big by Vashti Harrison. illus. by author. Little, Brown. May 2023. 60p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780316353229.
PreS-Gr 2–A nameless Black girl, mostly depicted in a pink tutu with her hair in Afro puffs, is bright, clever, talented, and helpful. When she was little, being told she was “a big girl” was a compliment. Actually, being a big girl “was good…until it wasn’t.” Humiliations on the playground and at dance class lead to offhand insults from teachers and mockery from peers. Their words hit hard and won’t let go. As her body image worsens, she grows larger on the page, clearly uncomfortable with the space she takes up. Her previously pink ballerina costume is painted “husky gray” by her dance teacher. She grows so big she takes up the entire page spread, and that is when she breaks. As her tears flood around her, all the words that have been said about her float to the top. She gathers close the pink words—creative, graceful, BIG—and leaves the gray words—MOOSE, COW, too big. She gives those gray words back, telling their speakers how they hurt her. As she shrinks back to her true size, a girl offers to help her change, and she responds, “I like the way I am.” Adorned in optimistic pink again, she dances off, her positive words trailing behind her. This book resonates with a potential emotional impact that is immense. The girl is the only character in full color; her peers and teachers are shaded characters against a pale pink background, a stylization that reinforces her isolation. Never offered comfort by anyone else, she takes charge of her emotional well-being. VERDICT This inspiring and highly relatable title could be used with readers of any age to discuss topics of body image and self-love. Recommended.–Reviewed by Elizabeth Lovsin 

How Do You Spell Unfair?: MacNolia Cox and the National Spelling Bee by Carole Boston Weatherford (text) & illus. by Frank Morrison. Candlewick. Apr. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781536215540.
PreS-Gr 4–The inspiring team that produced Standing in Need of a Prayer shines the light on another historic moment in American history. MacNolia Cox, a champion speller from Akron, OH, persevered despite racist obstacles in her path to become the first African American top five finalist in the National Spelling Bee. Morrison’s illustrations capture the emotions, tenacity, and strength of Cox and her supporters while Weatherford’s free verse tells the story of a young girl with a gift for spelling (and an amazing work ethic) and her journey to the bee in 1936. Without shying away from the racism Cox endured, Weatherford keeps the focus squarely on the determination of the champion and her supporters for the opportunity to show her talents as a speller. Back matter expands on the story of America’s racist history surrounding spelling bees and includes other remarkable accomplishments by spellers of African descent from last century to the present. VERDICT Another stunning title from a gifted pair of creators, this deserves a place in all collections as children will root for Cox and be inspired by her amazing accomplishments.–Reviewed by John Scott 

Kin: Rooted in Hope by Carole Boston Weatherford (text) & illus. by Jeffery Boston Weatherford. Atheneum. Sept. 2023. 208p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781665913621.
Gr 5 Up–Weatherford and her son have created a poetic meditation on the process of researching ancestry, with a specific focus on those who are descended from those who were enslaved. Told in many voices, these poems tell the story of a long line of individuals who were removed from Senegal and taken to the Chesapeake Bay. The Weatherfords imagine the lives of those who couldn’t have recorded their own as they weave together a narrative of their ancestors. Poems include chilling information drawn from primary sources, including inventory documents that placed a value on human lives. These sections are evocative of similar sections in Julius Lester’s Day of Tears. The poem “Partus Sequitur Ventrem/Offspring Follows Belly” introduces the concept that during this time babies born to enslaved women were also slaves. Dramatic scratchboard illustrations throughout the book allow the tone of the poems to switch swiftly from lighter to darker topics, using design to prepare readers for some of the more difficult content. Author’s and illustrator’s notes provide context, and a bibliography offers sources for additional research. VERDICT A unique book that will be appreciated by the right readers, especially those familiar with Kwame Alexander’s The Door of No Return.–Reviewed by Kristin L. Anderson 

An American Story by Kwame Alexander (text) & illus. by Dare Coulter. Little, Brown. Jan. 2023. 56p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316473125.
PreS-Gr 3–In lyrical verse, Alexander tells the powerful story of American slavery and African resilience through the eyes of a teacher navigating students through this horrific period in American history. The shifting narrative moves between the teacher’s account and the students’ reactions, with Alexander magnifying the unfolding terror of a people stolen from home and thrust into slavery: “About sly men/ from cold places/ scheming/ and laughing/ on tall ships.../ while people/ shackled below,/ crammed in/ small, hot spaces,/ cry and/ sometimes die.” Coulter’s stunning mixed-media artwork illustrates the unflinching brutality of slavery and the beauty of a resilient people who “hold history in one hand and clench hope in the other.” Classroom scenes are sketched in black against a warm yellow background, with expressive students and teacher working through the difficult lesson. Author and illustrator notes provide further context. VERDICT An excellent and essential first purchase for all collections; whether for curriculum-building or classroom-sharing, this book is unforgettable.–Reviewed by Rosemary Kiladitis 


Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award

Big by Vashti Harrison. Little, Brown. May 2023. 60p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780316353229.
(See review above)

Holding Her Own: The Exceptional Life of Jackie Ormes by Traci N. Todd (text) & illus. by Shannon Wright. Orchard. Jan. 2023. 48p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781338305906.
Gr 2-5–An outstanding picture book biography about a groundbreaking Renaissance woman. Zelda “Jackie” Ormes was an artist and storyteller from birth. By the time she was a teen, she was a sports journalist for the Black-owned Pittsburgh Courier and eventually created a comic strip called Torchy Brown in “Dixie to Harlem, which centered around a young woman making her mark during the Great Migration. Ormes was the first nationally syndicated Black woman cartoonist. She also started a strip called Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger about two sisters, which she used to comment on Black life, World War II and its aftermath, and the fight for justice. It became so popular that Ormes created her own Patty-Jo dolls and began to use her influence to support better housing and schools for Black people, catching the attention of the FBI, which spied on her for 10 years. Todd’s impeccable research shines through in the accessible text. The narrative is punchy with the pop of a comic strip, and Ormes is the protagonist. It will draw in readers and make them want to learn more about this fascinating artist. Cartoonist Wright’s digital art has a textured feel, like a comic strip come alive. The 1940s setting is depicted through vivid, jewel-tone illustrations and reproductions of Ormes’s famous characters. The design perfectly matches the subject, with speech bubbles, newspaper-like clippings, and dynamic scenes. Back matter includes author and illustrator’s notes, photos, a selected bibliography, and scenes from the Patty-Jo cartoon. VERDICT An extraordinary picture book biography about an extraordinary pioneer in comics and journalism that deserves a spot on every shelf.–Reviewed by Shelley M. Diaz 

There Was a Party For Langston by Jason Reynolds (text) & illus. by Jerome Pumphrey & Jarrett Pumphrey. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy. Oct. 2023. 56p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534439443.
PreS-Gr 3–Reynolds and the Pumphreys sharpen all their tools for this one, throwing word art like clouds into the sky and regaling readers with scene after scene of the finest guests—Amiri Baraka, Maya Angelou, and so many more—who have come to Harlem’s Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture for one reason: to celebrate the opening of the Langston Hughes Auditorium in February 1991. And this is some party. There is music. There is food. There is the feeling that everyone who is anyone is on board. Reynolds explains in an author’s note that he was inspired to dig a little deeper by a black-and-white photograph of Baraka and Angelou doing the boogie at the event. He calls Hughes the king of letters, “whose ABC’s became drums,/ bumping jumping thumping/ like a heart the size of the whole wide world” and the pictures bump jump thump along with the text. Joy like jazz falls off the page into readers’ laps with every spread flashing back through time to Hughes’s Ohio childhood, Harlem, America, the world, interiors, exteriors, the party, the people, the famous Black faces, and more. “And all the books on the shelves were listening and looking at all the people, shimmying, full of dazzle./ Don’t nobody dance like a word maker./ And all the best word makers were there.” This book is an absolute textual and pictorial glory of people, places, word-making, song-singing, storytelling, history-making moments, and images that are unforgettable. VERDICT A beguiling, bedazzling collaboration that will send children to the shelves to learn more about all the names within, especially Hughes.–Reviewed by Kimberly Olson Fakih

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award

There Goes the Neighborhood by Jade Adia. Disney-Hyperion. Mar. 2023. 432p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781368084321.
Gr 9 Up–Fifteen-year-old Rhea is adjusting to falling for her best friend Malachi and worried about how this romance may impact her other best friend Zeke, as the three friends watch their South L.A. community face gentrification. When Zeke’s family begins receiving eviction notices, Rhea devises a bold plan to start a fake gang that will deter the gentrification. This plan starts out innocuous but soon exposes drug deals, murder, and extortion, which are blamed on the nonexistent gang. While the three friends collaborate with other students to advocate for their neighborhood, they also face the harsh consequences of their decisions as they see how far some individuals will go to protect their racist ideals. Full of wonderful BIPOC representation through Rhea and Malachi (Black) and Zeke (Latino), this debut novel will appeal to fans of Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, and Jas Hammonds. This work explores the cost of gentrification on communities of color through much pain and trauma and a little hope.VERDICT A well-written debut that tackles issues of friendship, first love, gentrification, racism, and eviction through a compelling, fast-paced narrative full of suspense, tension, and questions of fairness. Recommended for teens alongside discussions of contemporary issues.–Reviewed by Tracey S. Hodges


Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award

We Could Fly by Rhiannon Giddens (text) & illus. by Briana Mukodiri Uchendu. Candlewick. Nov. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781536222548.
K-Gr 3–A song inspired by a children’s book becomes a children’s book. A Black mother and daughter draw on the resilience of their ancestors to process their own generational trauma of slavery in this exceptional story. Told in musical conversation—the text comes from Giddens’s song of the same name—the mother imparts the levity of the spirit despite the adversity it faces. According to the back matter, the inspiration for the song was the Coretta Scott King Award–winning The People Could Fly, a collection of African American folktales by Virginia Hamilton. Women, as Giddens phrases it, “hold the family lore” so her narrative centers the matriarchs—past, present, and future. The lyrics translate to the picture book format with ease. Uchendu’s ethereal depictions of sprawling landscapes are layered with sweeping trails of spirits’ ascents, making the incorporeal visible. In a sunset-streaked palette of dreamy reds, pinks, oranges, blues, and purples, the illustrations introduce a level of visual metaphor that furthers the artistic tradition of virtuosos Leo and Diane Dillon in their art for the Hamilton book. VERDICT A magically sublime testimonial to spirituality and ancestral connection, perfect for home or classroom reading with young ones.–Reviewed by Sarah Simpson


Michael L. Printz Award

Michael L. Printz Honors

Schneider Family Book Award—Young Children

Henry, Like Always by Jenn Bailey (text) & illus. by Mika Song. Chronicle. Mar. 2023. 48p. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781797213897.
Gr 1-4–Henry (A Friend for Henry!), who readers might infer is on the autism spectrum, likes his classroom and everything that’s always there, especially the calendar that shows the day’s activities. It’s always the same. On Monday, Mrs. Tanaka announces that there is going to be a change to the schedule—a parade on Friday! Henry’s not happy about it. He wants things to stay the same as always. On Tuesday, the class makes posters for the parade, and on Wednesday, they pick out their instruments. As the day of the parade arrives, Henry finds a way to participate in the event that allows him to stay true to himself. This book gives readers on the spectrum a chance to identify with Henry and offers readers who are not a glimpse of Henry’s inner world. This will inspire and empower all children to find their own way to make any situation work for them. The beginning chapter book’s illustrations are black and white with blue accents that will draw readers’ eyes. Artwork features diverse characters of varied skin tones and facial features. VERDICT This title features a boy on the spectrum who finds a way to meet change and manage it; it’s a great addition to any library’s early chapter book collection.–Reviewed by Myiesha Speight


Schneider Family Book Honors—Young Children

Dancing Hands: A Story of Friendship in Filipino Sign Language by Joanna Que & Charina Marquez (text) & illus. by Fran Alvarez. Chronicle. Jul. 2023. 40p. tr. from Filipino by Karen Llagas . Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781797213323.
PreS-Gr 2–In this heartwarming friendship story, young Sam is curious when she observes her new neighbors communicating with their hands rather than speech. Curiosity leads to familiarity as she and Mai, the family’s daughter, become fast friends. Like any pair of friends, they play games, share hopes and dreams, and learn from each other. When Mai teaches Sam to sign after a minor miscommunication, the following pages are purposefully devoid of text, letting expansively illustrated spreads convey the girls’ silent conversations. The textured colored pencil and graphite drawings are rendered in an earthy palette with a childlike, folksy feel that suits the narrative’s warm, straightforward tone. While deafness is never mentioned explicitly within the story, an afterword provides context about Filipino Sign Language, and endpapers illustrate various FSL signs. VERDICT This beautifully uncomplicated tale of friendship with positive disability representation is an excellent choice for story times and a first purchase for picture book collections.–Reviewed by Allison Tran

What Happened to You? by James Catchpole (text) & illus. by Karen George. Little, Brown. Apr. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316506472.
PreS-Gr 3–George’s cover illustration tells readers nothing and everything in Catchpole’s exuberant book about abilities and how to talk about them. Two smiling children each stand on simple wooden swings, boards attached with ropes; she is Black with two puffs of dark hair, and he is white with flyaway blond hair. She has two legs, he has one. Within the pages, readers learn he is Joe, and he is a pirate, dealing with a shark. Kid One, the girl with the puffs, wants to know what has happened to Joe’s leg. Other children join in with questions about where his leg went, ruining Joe’s pirate quest as well as his day. He deflects all questions, becoming moody and even angry, until Simone, who was “Kid One,” asks, “Is that a crocodile down there?” and Joe lets her in. Soon all the kids have names and roles in Joe’s game and the question of his leg is forgotten. Most of the story unfolds in conversation; the brevity of narrative moves the action along and George’s cheerful illustrations capture in monotones pictures of the potentially absurd answers to the children’s impulsive questions. Catchpole, shown in a family photograph with one leg and a prosthetic, includes an author’s note to explain how any person with a physical difference may not want to be interrupted (or become a so-called teachable moment) for questions about that difference, and ways to address such matters openly. VERDICT A rare perspective that removes pity, dissolves differences or impediments, and welcomes everyone into the game unquestioningly.–Reviewed by Kimberly Olson Fakih


Schneider Family Book Awards—Middle Grade

The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn by Sally J. Pla. HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Jul. 2023. 336p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063268791.
Gr 4-6–Maudie McGinn has been waiting for summer all year, from the minute she had to leave her father in California last summer and go back to live with her mother and stepfather in Texas. Maudie doesn’t feel safe in Texas, but between her autism and fear she hasn’t been able to tell anyone why. The summer is her safe place. However, just as Maudie and her dad are getting settled in his forest cabin in Northern California, disaster strikes in the form of a sudden massive wildfire that causes them to flee without any of their possessions. Despite her mother’s protestations, Maudie is allowed to stay with her father, and they end up living in a campground in a small coastal town near San Diego thanks to the kindness of her father’s childhood friend. In their new summer home, Maudie works through the trauma of having to start fresh with none of her belongings and also keep herself entertained while her father attempts to find work every day. Once she finds the beach and the surfing community, however, she is newly determined to learn how to surf and enter a surfing competition to earn money. Standard prose is interwoven with free verse throughout the book, and the narrative shifts from the present day to widening glimpses of Maudie’s life and the dangers she faces in Texas. While the plot races along with ample suspense regarding Maudie’s safety and the surfing competition, ultimately the tale wraps up hastily and without the slower pacing the solid ending deserves. VERDICT Themes of autism, child abuse, and the impact of wildfires combine for a unique and memorable story that will appeal to middle grade readers open to a creative format and heavier themes.–Reviewed by Kate Olson


Schneider Family Book Honors—Middle Grade

Good Different by Meg Eden Kuyatt. Scholastic. Apr. 2023. 288p. Tr 18.99. ISBN 9781338816105.

Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow. Disney-Hyperion. Jan. 2023. 320p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781368082853.
Gr 5 Up–Facing trauma from the past is difficult, but this book handles it masterfully. Main character Simon is the only survivor from a shooting in his school classroom. He and his family have just moved to Grin and Bear It, NE—a National Quiet Zone town without internet, cell phones, or television. He hopes it will be the perfect place to find the “now” version of himself. While on his journey, Simon makes friends with Agate and Kevin. All three kids face different types of pressure and support one another as they seek out coping mechanisms and strategies. Simon’s mother works as the town undertaker and his father works for the Catholic Church. It is a very rural environment, and a large part of the story is Simon and his friends experiencing birthing goats, being chased by emus or an attack peacock, training the sweetest service dog ever, and even faking an alien signal to the scientists managing a Large Radio Telescope. In the mix are an incompetent morgue assistant who is constantly losing bodies (or taking the wrong ones!) and a wild squirrel who ate the sacrament. Simon is a funny, lovable character who has lived through an unthinkable event. Simon is white, Kevin is Filipino American, and Agate is white and autistic. Funny and heartfelt in equal measure, this book tackles some tough topics, but the humor keeps readers engaged, and it is easy to care about these characters.VERDICT A solid purchase for all libraries that serve middle grade readers. It deftly handles the sensitive topic of being a young trauma survivor; warning for school shooting content.–Reviewed by Claire Covington 


Schneider Family Book Award—Teen

Forever Is Now by Mariama J. Lockington. Farrar. May 2023. 416p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780374388881.

Schneider Family Book Honor—Teen

Where You See Yourself by Claire Forrest. Scholastic. May 2023. 320p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781338813838.
Gr 9 Up–High school senior Effie wishes the college application process could be as easy for her as it is for her friends and classmates without visible disabilities. Greek American Effie is cued white, has cerebral palsy, and is the only person at her school who uses a wheelchair. When apathetic school administrators create an arbitrary policy that keeps her from being physically able to join her friends for off-campus lunch, Effie realizes she must start advocating for herself if she’s going to be ready for college in the fall. Effie and her friends stage a sit-in to protest the policy, which solidifies Effie’s goals of pursuing journalism and advocacy. College applications loom, and while Effie’s friends get to make life decisions based on academics, location, and feel, Effie and her mom have crafted a detailed spreadsheet of variables based on the accessibility of each school (or in many cases, lack thereof). A family visit to Effie’s dream school in New York City provides some glaring examples of the challenges that await Effie once she leaves home: elevator outages in subway stations, a gravel path that runs through the heart of campus, and the school’s lack of disability representation among the student body. Effie’s dry humor, determination, and strong sense of self drive the plot forward. VERDICT A refreshing upstander story that buoys realistic disability advocacy with humor, grit, and a witty protagonist worth rooting for.–Reviewed by Allison Staley

Tilly in Technicolor by Mazey Eddings. Wednesday Bks. Aug. 2023. 320p. Tr $24. ISBN 9781250847065; pap. $14. ISBN 9781250328120.
Gr 9 Up–A sweet neurodivergent love story. Tilly, who has ADHD and is considered the ne’er-do-well of her family, is spending the summer as her overachieving sister’s assistant as she travels Europe promoting her new business. She embarrasses herself in front of her airplane seatmate, the very handsome but “rude” Oliver. Little does she know, Oliver is her fellow intern with whom she’ll be sharing a room! Oliver, who is autistic, is a photographer with a large Instagram following and has been hired as the social media manager for the business. Proximity and newfound understanding grow into love in this fun, trope-filled story. Eddings’s debut really shines in the way that Tilly and Oliver demonstrate that people in the neurodivergent community can develop deep connections with one another through shared experience even when they have different neurotypes. Tilly’s struggle for acceptance from her family is almost painfully realistic as she is infantilized and demeaned by her mother, who tries to convince her to go to college. Though the romance is perfectly paced, the novel could have used more time to resolve this family drama. Includes fade-to-black sex scenes and some swearing. VERDICT Hand to readers who could write an essay about how Mr. Darcy could be autistic, or any fan of well-written love stories.–Reviewed by Jeri Murphy


Mildred L. Batchelder Award

Houses with a Story: A Dragon’s Den, a Ghostly Mansion, a Library of Lost Books, and 30 More Amazing Places to Explore by Seiji Yoshida (text) & illus. by Seiji Yoshida. tr. by Jan Mitsuko Cash. Abrams/Amulet. Nov. 2023. 128p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781419761249.
Gr 8 Up–In this fantastical art book about remarkably diverse houses and their residents, 30 amazing, surreal, and imagined homes are constructed through colorful, hand-drawn sketches accompanied by notes that bring the houses to life. The buildings are influenced by a mixture of Eastern and Western architecture styles, and readers tour each one, from both outside and within. From a Kaidan-Do bookstore to a methodical witch’s house, a forgotten orphan’s castle to a dreamer’s tree house, an apple cider mill to a melancholy lighthouse, every home is accompanied by a written history, inhabitants, and lore. The sidebars show Yoshida’s intensive research on building materials, roofs, and plumbing. The interior floor plans, furniture, room layouts, diagrams, and personal items illustrate details in the lives of residents. The epilogue, “Concepts and Commentary Line Drawings,” reveals and documents Yoshida’s own work studio, providing readers a glimpse into the process behind the artwork. VERDICT Readers with an interest in architecture, watercolor, illustration, worldbuilding, or Miyazaki’s works will find inspiration in this richly visualized art book.–Reviewed by Anna Ching-Yu Wong


Mildred L. Batchelder Honors

The House of the Lost on the Cape by Sachiko Kashiwaba (text) & illus. by Yukiko Saito. tr. by Avery Fischer Udagawa. Yonder. Sept. 2023. 224p. Tr $18. ISBN 9781632063373.
Gr 3-7–On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck near the coast of Tohuku, Japan, causing a subsequent tsunami; over 20,000 people died. In this lightly magical novel, three women from different generations are brought together in the aftermath: an orphaned girl, a woman fleeing an abusive marriage, and an elderly grandmother with no immediate family. The three women, with new names, decide to live together, posing as Grandmother, Mother, and Daughter, each wanting to escape something of their past. The young girl, Hiyori, is mute after experiencing trauma, and Yui lives in fear of her husband finding her. Elderly Obachan protects them in the old house on the cape, and tells them folktales of a “lost house” that can move and feed its inhabitants. When something mysterious begins attacking pets, including their cat, Kofuku, it appears Obachan’s stories may be more than folktales, and a terrible sea snake may destroy their town of Kitsunezaki. The sea snake, Agame, is said to feed on dark thoughts, feasting on the inhabitants’ survivor’s guilt and grief. Yui, Hiyori, and Obachan receive help from river spirits, lion-dogs, and flying guardian statues in their quest to save the town, and ultimately, themselves. The story unfolds in flowing language, and the black-and-white drawings sweetly accompany the mystical tale. Hiyori’s desire to find her voice and save her new family unfolds beautifully and will be treasured by many. VERDICT Kashiwaba’s novel was originally published in serialized form in 2014, with an anime film adaptation in 2021 commemorating the 10th anniversary of the tragedy; this English translation will reach even more young fans of Japanese fantasy and found-family stories.–Reviewed by Michele Shaw

Later, When I’m Big by Bette Westera (text) & illus. by Mattias De Leeuw. tr. by Laura Watkinson. Eerdmans. Sept. 2023. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780802856104.

Pardalita by Joana Estrela (text) & illus. by Joana Estrela. tr. by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Levine Querido. Apr. 2023. 224p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781646142552; pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781646142569.
Gr 8 Up–Sixteen-year-old Raquel is growing up in a small town in Portugal, and her divorced parents always seem to be focused on anything except her. But Raquel has her boyfriend of six months, Miguel; her friends Luisa and Fred; and the high school classmate and object of her increasing fascination, Pardalita. When a community theater production brings Pardalita and Raquel more squarely into each other’s lives, the two strike up a friendship that helps Raquel to untangle her thoughts about her sexuality. Raquel’s story is told in a hybrid format, presented largely in comic form interspersed with short prose passages, with memories from throughout Raquel’s life offered as evidence of how Raquel started questioning certain facets of her identity. Narration is provided by Raquel to, and often about, Pardalita, and prose sections often revolve around a particular verb (conjugated via school grammar lessons), creatively serving as the theme for that passage. The story utilizes minimalist, high-contrast, black-and-white illustrations that are loose and imprecise in their execution. Concrete images often transform on the pages until they’re nothing more than abstract shapes and lines, giving the impression of Raquel getting lost in thought. A powerful use of white space helps to draw focus to the here-and-now feelings of the moments on page. Characters are assumed white and lack notable body diversity. VERDICT Highly recommended for collections where readers are looking for a leisurely, emotional stroll through a slice-of-life story that explores identity and sexuality in an authentically sweet and subtle way.–Reviewed by Alea Perez


Odyssey Award Audiobook—Children's

El Deafo by Cece Bell (text) & narrated by Sarah ­Tubert, Lexi Finigan, Jennifer Aquino, Fred Berman, Bailey Carr, Nicky ­Endres, Matt Godfrey, Avi Roque & ­Sanya ­Simmons. Listening Library. Jun. 2023. 2:33 hrs. $45. ISBN 9780593748602.
Gr 3-7–Almost a decade has passed since Bell published El Deafo, her Newbery Honor graphic memoir inspired by growing up “severely to profoundly” deaf since age four as a result of meningitis. Creating a superhero version of herself as El Deafo helped mitigate some of the challenges of being different, especially at school. Already an animated Apple series, the book now goes aural with a full cast adaptation. This utterly superb production also proves to be a transformative lesson in immersive empathy. Through a combination of thoughtful acting and meticulous technical control of volume and clarity, listeners can actually experience an approximation of being hearing-challenged, from garbled language to fading modulation. Sarah Tubert, who gets first billing as “the narrator” (so grateful for a full cast list!), is also deaf and is half of the What the Deaf? podcast duo. Kudos to the sensitive casting powers that be. VERDICT A must-have acquisition for every library.–Reviewed by Terry Hong 


Odyssey Award Audiobook—YA

Promise Boys by Nick Brooks (text) & narrated by a full cast. Macmillan Audio. Jan. 2023. 6:30 hrs. $19.99. ISBN 9781250877253.


Odyssey Honor Audiobooks 

Chinese Menu: The History, Myths, and Legends Behind Your Favorite Foods by Grace Lin (text) & narrated by Lisa Ling. Hachette Audio. Sept. 2023. 6:05 hrs. $24.99. ISBN 9781668632598.

Mexikid: A Graphic Memoir by Pedro Martín (text) & narrated by Oscar Emmanuel Fabela, Omar Leyva, Cynthia Farrell, Kevin Orduño, Elena Rey, Avi Roque, Christophe Landa, Daisy Guevara, Alejandro Vargas-Lugo & Fernando Monroy. Listening Library. Aug. 2023. 3:25 hrs. $15. ISBN 9780593681572.
Gr 5-8–Martín’s energetic debut memoir features his extended family, in which he’s the seventh of nine children. They’re “100% authentic Mexican” (the parents), “somewhat American” having been born in “Old Mexico” (oldest five), and “somewhat Mexican” born in the U.S. (youngest four). Personalities, accents, ages, cultures are many. Martín gets blessed with a stellar audio adaptation, with remarkably distinct characters easily recognized without awkward transitional clarifications. And so the convoy road trip commences via “fancy, bargain-priced Winnebago Chieftain” motor home and a customized pickup truck camper. The goal? Bring “Revolutionary War–era abuelito” from Jalisco, Mexico, back home to Watsonville, CA. Stopovers, surprises, shocks are guaranteed, underscored by refrains of “Shipoopi” from The Music Man on relentless repeat. VERDICT The exuberance of the vast cast (with credits at recording’s end!) is a contagious gift. Hand the Martín-illustrated print and the audio to all reluctant readers.–Reviewed by Terry Hong

Once There Was by Kiyash Monsef (text) & narrated by Nikki Massoud. S. & S. Audio. Apr. 2023. 11:28 hrs. $23.99. ISBN 9781797150789.

Sisters of the Lost Marsh by Lucy Strange (text) & narrated by Lucy Strange. Scholastic Audio. Jan. 2023. 6:09 hrs. $27.99. ISBN 9781339004853.

Stateless by Elizabeth Wein (text) & narrated by Moira Quirk.
Hachette Audio. Mar. 2023. 10:37 hrs. $27.99. ISBN 9781668628072.


Pura Belpré Youth (Illustrator) Award

Mexikid by Pedro Martín (text) & illus. by Pedro ­Martín. Dial. Aug. 2023. 320p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780593462287. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9780593462294.
Gr 5-8–In 1977, young Pedro Martín is preparing, alongside his eight siblings and parents, to embark on a road trip from California to Mexico to help his abuelito take care of an important task before bringing him back to the U.S. to live with them. Martín’s memoir is an unpredictable fusion of humorous and reflective moments in his early life that gives fascinating insights into his family’s many stories while hinting at larger cultural questions and histories. Although Martín’s siblings and parents are ever-present, the heart of the story surrounds Martín’s abuelito and their distanced but invested relationship. The story’s art is vibrant, with a retro palette comprised of golds, teals, and oranges with bursts of rainbow-inspired colors in scenes featuring Mexico. Martín plays with the art styles, mixing his lined illustrations with pixel dot art for depicting heroic, largely dramatized family stories and a softer, khaki-tinted style to depict moments from his father and grandfather’s past. The Spanish language is regularly featured and is conveyed in multiple ways: directly without translation, directly with footnote translations, and representationally via punctuation. Most characters are Mexican or Mexican American; a U.S. Border Patrol agent appears to be white. Back matter includes photos of Martín’s family, as well as answers to frequently asked questions. VERDICT An always entertaining story about the trials and joys of family. Recommended.–Reviewed by Alea Perez


Pura Belpré Youth (Illustrator) Honors 

Mi papá es un agrícola/My Father, the Farm Worker by J. Roman Pérez Varela (text) & illus. by Jose Ramírez. Lil’ Libros. Aug. 2023. 32p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781948066754. BL.
PreS-Gr 2–A child shares his father’s routine as he works every day as an agrícola, a farm worker. His father rises early and helps in the kitchen before heading to work, where he spends many hours harvesting fruits and vegetables that will be enjoyed by families near and far. The father works no matter the weather, whether hot or cold or rainy, his body enduring and his hands showing signs of his hard work. He encourages his fellow farm workers, and although they don’t speak of it, the children see their father’s sacrifices, as they are shown older on the last spread—having obtained more opportunities thanks to their father. Dark blues and dark reds and oranges create the environment in each spread—whether a scorching day or a cool night—with bold black lines outlining the fields and workers. Each spread has lines of text in English and Spanish, with each sentence a poetic tribute to the father and to hard working and often underappreciated farm workers everywhere. VERDICT A lovely and much-needed addition to bilingual picture book collections.–Reviewed by Selenia Paz

Papá’s Magical Water-Jug Clock by Jesús Trejo (text) & illus. by Eliza Kinkz. Astra/Minerva. Jun. 2023. 48p. $18.99. ISBN 9781662651045.
K-Gr 3–It’s finally Saturday, and Jesús is super excited to help Papá in his gardening and landscaping work. Papá gives Jesús a very special task and puts him in charge of the barrilito that holds the water they will drink for the day, telling Jesús that when the water is gone from the water jug, it will mean the work day is over, and they can return home. Jesús helps by mowing the grass, pulling weeds, and bringing Papá water when he needs a cool drink. As they visit different houses, Jesús notices cats, dogs, and even some peacocks that look like they could use a cool drink, too. Slowly, the water jug begins to empty, and Papá is shocked when there is no more water left. Where did it all go? Jesús admits he shared with his animal friends and even splashed some on his face. Papá explains they still have quite a bit of work left, and Jesús refills the water jug and works hard to conserve it this time. Together, Jesús and his father work hard and the next time the barrilito is empty, it really is time to head home. Colorful watercolor illustrations and Jesús’s attitude—which is bursting with excitement and positivity—will pull readers in right away, sharing the boy’s outlook and the bright world he lives in with his loving parents. Jesús is shown helping his father with hard work, while they both enjoy being in each other’s company. Readers will have a good laugh every time Jesús shares the water with animals, and his attitude will have them smiling at every turn of the page. Both English and Spanish text versions convey this positive attitude and the joy and love between Jesús and his father, with thought and speech bubbles adding to the conversations between them. VERDICT Bursting with color and with life, this picture book about a young boy’s day helping his father has something new to explore with every read through. Perfect for Spanish and English picture book collections.–Reviewed by Selenia Paz 

Remembering by Xelena González (text) & illus. by Adriana M. Garcia. S. & S. Aug. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534499638.
PreS-Gr 3–The Pura Belpré award-winning team shares a new story about the deep, familiar pain of losing a pet and the natural, continuous circle of life and death. In this hauntingly beautiful text, a family memorializes their dog through the cultural practice of creating an ofrenda and sharing memories of their dearly departed protector on Día de Muertos. “The house seems empty without you here. So our family fills it with photos and stories until we feel like you are near.” Through remembering, the family builds an altar with offerings to guide the spirit of their beloved friend home to them. The gorgeously illustrated movement of swirling spirit and marigold petals fills the pages. Garcia portrays heartfelt scenes with acrylic paint on paper, inspired by photos of real-life pet friends, with the living pictures inching outside of the frame as their memories continue to live on. Back matter explains to readers how to construct their own ofrenda for remembering loved ones. VERDICT This poetic text with opulent illustrations is worthy of accolades.–Reviewed by Ellen Sulzycki 


Pura Belpré Children's (Author) Award 

Mexikid by Pedro Martín (text) & illus. by Pedro ­Martín. Dial. Aug. 2023. 320p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780593462287. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9780593462294.
(See review above)


Pura Belpré Children's (Author) Honors

Alebrijes by Donna Barba Higuera. Levine Querido. Oct. 2023. 416p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781646142637. 
Gr 4-9–Subtle worldbuilding, flesh-and-bone protagonists, and magnetic writing make this sci-fi companion to Newbery Award-winning The Last Cuentista an instant classic. To survive, orphan brother and sister Leandro and Gabi scavenge potatoes for their harsh employers. They are Cascabeles, the descendants of the farmers who worked the lands of the San Joaquin Valley before a disaster wiped out most of the world 400 years ago. They live under the subjugation of the cruel Pocatelans, under threat of exile for any minor infraction, in tent communities and dire conditions, afraid of monsters and starvation. Completely on their own, the siblings have to pickpocket to stay alive. Leandro takes the fall for Gabi when she gets caught stealing, and he is banished. Instead of a death sentence, he is transformed into a hummingbird drone and joins other machines, called alebrijes, named after the mystical creatures sculpted by Oaxacan artists. In his new form, Leandro uncovers a dangerous plot. With measured pacing and layered character development, Higuera’s latest is a masterly exploration of how corruption is an indelible part of every oppressive society. It’s also a celebration; there will always be a beacon of hope in dark times, fueled by stories and community. There are still reminders of the previous world that serve to remind readers that this society is not too different from our own. The Cascabeles speak Spanish; the Pocatelans speak English. VERDICT This gorgeously written post-apocalyptic novel is a must for every library.–Reviewed by Shelley M. Diaz

Aniana del Mar Jumps In by Jasminne Mendez. Dial. Mar. 2023. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593531815.
Gr 5-9–Acclaimed Dominican American poet Mendez’s novel in verse centers around the coming-of-age struggles of a Latinx tween pushing against the expectations of a strict (and loving) family, while also figuring out her identity as an athlete with chronic illness. Aniana and Papi keep a secret from conservative Mami—instead of attending church on weekdays, the pair go to the YMCA where Ani is excelling at swimming. When the Afro-Dominican girl can barely get out of bed because of pain in her body, their secret is out, and Aniana is diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Convinced it’s a punishment from God for lying, Mami forbids her from swimming. When Papi is away because of his work with the Coast Guard, Ani begins to pull away from him, too. Mendez never passes judgment on Ani’s parents. Her mother’s fears come from the traumatic death of Mami’s twin brother during a hurricane, and she found comfort in religion during a bout of postpartum depression. A near-tragedy finally unites them, and the realistic conclusion will satisfy readers. Multidimensional characters and the time-honored conflict between daughters and their mothers will ring true. Spanish and English are often used interchangeably in Ani’s conversations with her parents, and details about the Dominican Republic further add authenticity to the work. Mendez uses concrete poems, haiku, and tanka throughout to narrate this accessible story of forgiveness. VERDICT The nuanced depiction of disability, intergenerational conflict, and family trauma make this a must-have for all middle grade shelves.–Reviewed by Shelley M. Diaz

Benita y las criaturas nocturnas by Mariana Llanos (text) & illus. by Cocoretto. Barefoot Bks. Sep. 2023. 32p. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9798888590416.

Papá’s Magical Water-Jug Clock by Jesús Trejo (text) & illus. by Eliza Kinkz. Astra/Minerva. Jun. 2023. 48p. $18.99. ISBN 9781662651045.
(See review above)

Something Like Home by Andrea Beatriz Arango. Random. Sept. 2023. 256p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593566183.
Gr 4 Up–Everything in Laura’s life is wrong, and it is all her fault. If she hadn’t called 911, then the police wouldn’t have found her parents on pills, and she wouldn’t have been sent to live with an aunt she doesn’t know while her parents are in rehab. Haunted by her guilt and lack of autonomy, Laura is struggling to find a place in a new school and in a house with rules she doesn’t understand when she discovers an abandoned puppy and sets out to train him as a therapy dog. Maybe he will be the key to visiting her parents so she can apologize and they can all go home together. Extraordinarily honest and sensitive, this novel in verse tactfully and gracefully deals with foster and kinship care and some of the many emotions involved. Laura and her aunt are both Puerto Rican, although Laura doesn’t speak fluent Spanish, and some simple Spanish phrases are included through their dialogue. The verse format and word choice make this a more accessible option than some other books on similar topics. Throughout the story, Laura learns to accept that her love for her parents does not make her responsible for their actions, and to allow herself to have space in her heart for all those who love and care for her. An author’s note supplies more information for readers who are not familiar with foster/kinship care, as well as encouragement to those who have experienced it firsthand. VERDICT So much affirmation, exploration, and positivity for those in similar situations are packed beautifully into these verses, making it a solid addition to collections.–Reviewed by Emily Beasley


Pura Belpré YA (Author) Award 

Saints of the Household by Ari Tison. Farrar. Mar. 2023. 320p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780374389499.
Gr 8 Up–A heartrending, contemporary debut novel about the repercussions of trauma and the healing power of family and art. Bribri American brothers Jay and Max (who are Indigenous Costa Rican) are reeling from the act of physical violence they perpetrated against the town’s beloved soccer star. When they witnessed Luca stepping angrily toward their cousin Nicole and forcefully grabbing her arm in the Minnesota woods, the brothers instinctively beat him up. They’ve experienced physical abuse at the hands of their father and witnessed him doing the same to their mother. Max finds refuge in his art and a budding romance, while Jay burrows deeply into himself, occasionally finding respite in Nicole and his grandfather, who shares his love of reading and nature. However, the brothers become estranged. The chapters in this ruminative, dual perspective work are short. Jay’s are written in prose vignettes; Max’s are done in spare free verse. Tison’s (Bribri) masterly economy of language—every word and even punctuation mark is chosen for a specific purpose—presents this compelling story of a family smashed to pieces by violence. The novel searingly depicts PTSD’s strong hold—how every aspect of life is dictated by the fear of where the next fist is going to land, and how living so deeply in that circle of pain permeates every aspect of one’s identity. Their problems aren’t solved, but the siblings find peace in their small victories. Nicole is Anishinaabe, and Luca has some Mexican heritage. VERDICT Violence can be inherited but so can love and forgiveness. This vulnerable and magnetic tale of brotherhood belongs on every shelf.–Reviewed by Shelley M. Diaz


Pura Belpré YA (Author) Honors

The Prince & the Coyote by David Bowles (text) & illus. by Amanda Mijangos. Levine Querido. Oct. 2023. 440p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781646141777.
Gr 9 Up–Mesoamerican thrones, alliances, wars, and wicked machinations take center stage. Acolmiztli, 16, is the son of a betrayed and murdered king, exiled and running for his life. With a broken heart and shrewd strategy, he vows revenge. He hides in the mountains, alone except for a coyote companion. There, he takes on the name of his familiar and becomes Nezahualcoyotl, meaning Fasting Coyote. But after a season of mourning, he returns to civilization, and there meets his future lifelong companion, Sekalli. But he still has a kingdom to recapture. Nezahualcoyotl plays the long game, putting systems in place that will give him back his beloved city, Tetzcoco. Years in the making, he never abandons the dream of serving his exiled people. The protagonist is also a philosopher, poet, musician, and engineer. It is through his genius that the Island of Mexico gets fresh water from Chapoltepec, among other talents and accomplishments. The work defies a specific genre. At times this epic novel reads like a military history with pops of romance. The romance leans into the inclusion of Izcalloh, his two-spirit concubine. Court intrigue creates a sense of mystery. Long passages of poetry also fill the pages of this novel. As Nezahualcoyotl ages into manhood, the novel bridges audiences between young adult and adult. VERDICT Bowles adeptly crafts a complex, multi-format, and genre-bending novel for teens.–Reviewed by Stephanie Creamer

Worm: A Cuban American Odyssey by Edel Rodriguez. Metropolitan Bks. Nov. 2023. 304p. Tr $29.99. ISBN 9781250753977.


Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award

The Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity by Nicholas Day (text) & illus. by Brett Helquist. Random House Studio. Sept. 2023. 288p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593643846.
Gr 5 Up–Most readers will not know that the Mona Lisa painting was once stolen from its home at the Louvre. This nonfiction middle grade book contextualizes this historic moment with world events. The publicity that surrounded the theft only added to the painting’s fame. Readers will learn of the heist, discover new connections to other artists, and find out fascinating details and facts of the long-ago crime. Moving back and forth between the caper and the life of Leonardo da Vinci, the text takes readers around the world figuratively and literally. Day writes in a pleasant conversational style, addressing readers directly. The story moves along at a reasonable pace and includes many historical figures; the abundance of cultural references makes the story challenging, but interesting. VERDICT An intriguing exploration of a significant yet little-known event.–Reviewed by Amy Caldera


Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honors 

The Book of Turtles by Sy Montgomery (text) & illus. by Matt Patterson. HarperCollins/Clarion. May 2023. 40p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780358458074.
Gr 2-5–This beautiful picture/reference book will be delightful to fans of turtles, tortoises, and terrapins everywhere. Rather than a dry recitation of facts, the narrative introduces readers to various colorful, large, small, and even a few famous turtles, all of whom are gorgeously illustrated in acrylic. The fact that several of the turtles are ones Patterson personally knows (from the illustrator’s note) lends a level of authenticity to the paintings. The text is easy to read and understand, but does have several vocabulary words defined in a glossary at the end. There are also helpful hints to readers about how to help protect turtles. The vividly detailed illustrations, though, are what set this book on fire. VERDICT A stunning book that will delight readers of any age, filled with interesting facts about the turtles’ life cycles, their eating habits, and even a few myths.–Reviewed by Jessica Durham

Holding Her Own: The Exceptional Life of Jackie Ormes by Traci N Todd (text) & illus. by Shannon Wright. Orchard. Jan. 2023. 48p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781338305906.
(See review above)

Jumper: A Day in the Life of a Backyard Jumping Spider by Jessica Lanan (text) & illus. by Jessica Lanan. Roaring Brook. Apr. 2023. 48p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250810366.
PreS-Gr 3–The garden is filled with all kinds of life, from tall beanstalks to the small but noteworthy backyard jumping spider. Thanks to many adaptations, Jumper can navigate a multifaceted world with ease, whether she is avoiding danger or securing a tasty meal. But life is not always as simple as one might hope, and Jumper must be constantly on her guard in order to survive. This informative picture book reads much like a documentary narrated by David Attenborough. The text is succinct, and it invites readers directly into the narrative through questions and the use of second-person pronouns. With varied sizes and styles of text, the book has a compelling visual presentation to accompany its colorful and detailed illustrations. These images include a range of colors and details, depicting the garden from both a distance and zoomed in, which helps to orient readers to the vastness of Jumper’s world when they might only ever see a small piece of it themselves. Expert use of shadow and light brings Jumper’s world to life, and readers will come away with a greater respect for this under-appreciated garden dweller. Extensive back matter provides older readers with even greater detail about the backyard jumping spider, including a plea to protect all garden spiders from harm. VERDICT This is an accessible and thought-provoking title that connects readers to the world of a spider through engagement and education.–Reviewed by Mary R. Lanni

Shipwrecked!: Diving for Hidden Time Capsules on the Ocean Floor by Martin W Sandler. Astra. Oct. 2023. 144p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781662602047.
Gr 5 Up–From bronze statues and an early “computer” found in the Mediterranean Sea to intricate celadon pottery in the Shinan Islands of East Asia, and other significant finds from locations as far-flung as South Africa, South Carolina, and the Arctic Northwest Passage, uncovering wrecked ships has led to major historical revelations. Sandler has chosen specific shipwrecks to illustrate differing circumstances and parts of the world. The dense but intriguing text is broken up by photographs, period paintings, and spotlight boxes that highlight technological information about the ships, the development of tools that enabled their recovery, or unique cultural elements such as the haenyeo: women divers from Korea. As examples of marine archeology, these projects detail inventiveness and scientific knowledge, the historical background, and the diving expertise required to uncover, conserve, and remove artifacts from challenging circumstances for further study. The well-documented text takes information from adult books, some written by the archeologists themselves, and distills it for a younger audience. The ships and voyages had a variety of purposes. One of the most affecting chapters chronicles the fate of enslaved humans aboard the Sao Jose Paquete de Africa, a Portuguese vessel engaged in the slave trade. The Mary Rose and the Hunley were warships. The Erebus and the Terror were on a mission in ice-filled waters searching for the Northwest Passage, and the wrecks were uncovered with significant help from a person knowledgeable about Inuit oral history. VERDICT Full of adventure and numerous explorations of the value of perseverance, this title will capture the attention of readers through a wealth of scientific and historical details.–Reviewed by Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst


Stonewall Book Award—Children's

Cross My Heart and Never Lie by Nora Dåsnes (text) & illus. by Nora Dåsnes. Astra/Hippo Park. Sept. 2023. 248p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781662640544.
Gr 6-10–Tuva has a plan for seventh grade: write in her diary, be cool, go to her first sleepover, and fall in love. A typical 12-year-old, Tuva lives in Norway with her dad. As she starts school, her best friends begin quarreling over boyfriends, makeup, and how to spend their spare time. As the year progresses and things get worse, she is caught in the middle, trying to figure out how to be friends with one without alienating the other. Can she reunite her friends, or will being in love with Mariam cause them to drift farther apart? Tweens will relate to Tuva being caught in friendship drama and feeling compelled to fit into a specific mold. The relationships with friends and family are authentic and add dimension to the story. Her questions about sexual orientation will ring true with readers. Fans of Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden may enjoy this title as well. The diary format is easy to read as digital illustrations add depth and vitality to the story. This is a also a good choice for struggling readers due to the uncluttered format, copious white space, and large text. VERDICT A great story about finding one’s place in the world, fitting in, and learning to be comfortable with who you are, despite what others may impose upon you. Well-told and reassuring for young people questioning their place in the world. A good choice for most collections.–Reviewed by Elena Schuck


Stonewall Book Honors—Children's 

Desert Queen by Jyoti Rajan Gopal (text) & illus. by Svabhu Kohli. Levine Querido. Oct. 2023. 50p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781646142620.
PreS-Gr 3–Music flows through a child in the Thar Desert—and yet no one sees him dance. His binary “desert world” makes him choose boy or girl, nothing else. A school performance casts the child as Lord Krishna, and the beautiful costume offers a glimpse of freedom. As tragedy eventually strikes the boy and his family, he turns to drag. Dare he continue to be himself when not all accept him (or her)? Inspired by (and dedicated to) real-life drag performer Queen Harish, Gopal and Kohli’s lyrical collaboration is a visual feast with a powerful message. Within the narrative, the child uses both he and she pronouns, typically referred to with he/him out of drag and she/her in drag. The spreads boast vivid colors and culturally-specific motifs. Back matter includes an author’s note, artist’s note, and additional information about Queen Harish. VERDICT With art as shiny and glittery as the goddess herself, this picture book is nothing short of brilliant. An essential purchase.–Reviewed by Alec Chunn 

Not He or She, I'm Me by A.M. Wild (text) & illus. by Kah Yangni. Holt. Oct. 2023. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250818607.

The Otherwoods by Justine Pucella Winans. Bloomsbury. Sept. 2023. 288p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781547612543. 
Gr 4-7–Reluctant seer River Rydell is haunted by spirits, grotesque monsters, and unexpected portals to The Otherwoods: an eerie, spectral forest that seems bent on luring them into its depths. A naturally anxious person, River is overwhelmed by everyday tween fears like talking to their crush, Avery, or standing up to their cruel teacher, Mrs. Deery, who insists on deadnaming them. In comparison, facing Charles—the drooling insectoid monster who lives under their bed—seems impossible, and so River suffers through the constant stream of ghosts, beasts, and portals the only way they can: by actively ignoring them. When Avery is dragged away by a monster into The Otherwoods, River must gather all their strength and their cat, Mr. Fluffy Pancakes, and venture through a dark portal for the first time to bring her back. River’s very human struggles with facing fears, learning to trust in allies, and being truthful about themself will resonate with many tweens, even the non-magical kind. Mr. Fluffy Pancakes, River’s heroic sidekick, leaps off the page with humorous body language and expressions that speak louder than actual words. Although the monsters and spirits are very one-dimensional throughout the story, the author sticks the landing with a big, final reveal, adding some complexity to their general scariness and leaving the window open just a crack for a possible sequel. River is nonbinary and described as having light skin, while Avery is pansexual and Mexican American. VERDICT A first purchase for middle school libraries, this underdog hero fantasy is recommended for fans of Tae Keller’s work and Roshani Chokshi’s “Aru Shah” series.–Reviewed by Catherine Cote 

Stars in Their Eyes by Jessica Walton (text) & illus. by Aśka. Graphix. Aug. 2023. 224p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781338818802.


Stonewall Book Award—YA

Only This Beautiful Moment by Abdi Nazemian. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. May 2023. 400p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063039377.
Gr 9 Up–This complex book spans three generations and 80 years of an Iranian family whose story is told in three voices and lengthy chapters. Moud—whose story is told in the year 2019, initially in Los Angeles—is a gay Iranian American teenager who has a boyfriend. His mother is dead, his father quiet and withdrawn, and he is afraid to tell his father about his sexuality. Moud’s father Saeed’s story takes place in 1978 where his participation in a demonstration in Tehran puts his life in danger, so his father sends him to Los Angeles to live with a grandmother he has never met. The third voice, that of Bobby in LA in 1939, gives the backstory of what it was like to be gay then, and of his mentoring Saeed’s father, and Moud’s Iranian grandfather, in accepting his sexuality. The grandfather, Baba, and the issues of being gay during dangerous times, are the links that join the three narratives. When Moud travels with his father to Tehran because Baba is ill and dying, the interconnection of family and their individual stories becomes evident. The book paints an informative and interesting picture of a family, of acceptance, and of taking chances when being who you are is dangerous. The four main characters (because Baba must be included, even though he is not a narrator) are well drawn, compelling, and strong. VERDICT While probably more appealing to older teens and new adults because of the ages of the characters, the strength of the writing warrants this book a strong recommendation.–Reviewed by Janet Hilbun


Stonewall Book Honors—YA

Ander & Santi Were Here by Jonny Garza Villa. Wednesday Bks. May 2023. 368p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250843999.
Gr 10 Up–An emotional romance about claiming the life and love you want. Ander Martínez, a nonbinary 19-year-old living in San Antonio, TX, has taken a gap year between high school and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to create stunning murals celebrating their neighborhood. They plan to spend the year defining their artistic style while working at their family’s taqueria, but things change when they fall hard for new waiter Santiago López Alvarado. What Ander doesn’t know is that Santi is undocumented, and lives with the threat of ICE agents tearing him away from the life he’s built for himself in Texas. Ander and Santi’s budding relationship is a whirlwind of ecstatic highs and tragic lows that carries with it the intensity and fierceness of a new love. The novel skillfully captures the nuance of Ander’s struggle to define themself as an artist while facing the racist stereotypes of their future college adviser. VERDICT A hopeful queer love story that is grounded by the complexities of the protagonists’ struggle to stay together. Recommended for purchase.–Reviewed by Emily Yates

Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. May 2023. 432p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063325265.
Gr 9 Up–Imogen Scott is many things—animal lover, vision board expert, future Blackwell College student, and an amazing ally to the queer community. But Imogen herself is totally, completely straight—obviously. When Imogen spends a weekend at Blackwell with her best friend, Lili, who recently came out as pansexual, and all of Lili’s amazing new friends (who also happen to be queer), things start to become a little less obvious. As Imogen participates in an array of typical college student activities, like eating the best dining hall grilled cheese, thrifting outfits for theme parties, and hiding weird objects in someone’s dorm room, she quickly hits it off with Lili’s friend Tess—but Imogen is straight, so they’re obviously just friends. Imogen continues talking to Tessa after going home, though, and it starts to feel like more than friendship. Imogen has always liked boys and always identified as straight. So, is it even possible that Imogen isn’t so straight after all? The plot of this novel is well-paced and entertaining, but the characterizations are where the story truly shines. The secondary characters are fleshed out, fully formed individuals with diverse queer and racial identities, and the relationships, even amongst new friends, are full of humor and compassion. Imogen, who is white, is a complex character with a distinct voice, and her story of grappling with her identity during this transitional period of life will resonate with teens. VERDICT An excellent addition to collections for teens; hand to readers who love found-family stories and fans of Racquel Marie’s Ophelia After All and Jennifer Dugan’s Hot Dog Girl.-Reviewed by Alison Glass

The Long Run by James Acker. Inkyard. Feb. 2023. 400p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781335428622.
Gr 10 Up–Sebastian Villeda, also known as “Bash the Flash,” is a senior on the track team and is ready to run away from his problems just as fast as he executes his events. Sandro Micelli, a classmate and track teammate, has a caring heart and a complicated home life. Navigating all the uncertainties of senior year in their own self-knowing ways, Sebastian and Sandro form an unexpected bond that helps bring clarity to not only their futures but their own personal journeys. By writing it as a multi-perspective novel, Acker effortlessly allows readers to see the narratives of both protagonists develop through sprinkles of Spanish to highlight the differentiation of cultures, vivid imagery through descriptive writing, and candid dialogue both internally and externally. This YA LBTQIA+ novel is written with the honesty and transparency of not only teenage emotions, hardships and romances, but to the evolving growth of two boys from different backgrounds being there for one another. VERDICT Highly recommended.–Reviewed by Marcos Vargas

The Spirit Bares Its Teeth by Andrew Joseph White. Peachtree. Sep. 2023. 400p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781682636114.


Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

Fox Has a Problem by Corey R Tabor (text) & illus. by Corey R. Tabor. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. (My First I Can Read). Aug. 2023. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780063277915; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9780063277922.
PreS-Gr 1–Everyone’s favorite fox is back, but this time Fox has a big problem: his kite is stuck in a tree! As the humorous illustrations suggest, this is not an isolated incident. Fortunately, Fox has no shortage of ideas to solve this conundrum. Unfortunately, these would-be solutions only create more problems for Fox and his forest friends, including flooding Bear’s cave with leaves and kites and blocking Rabbit from leaving his burrow. With tempers running high, Elephant proposes a resolution that leaves everyone happy and flying kites while enjoying each other’s company. The engaging text, which is ideal for new and emerging readers, features common sight words and repetitive phrases. Tabor’s signature pencil and watercolor illustrations are as charming as ever, with a cast of appealing characters engaged in comical antics. VERDICT A welcome and valuable addition to any early reader collection, sure to be popular with fans of the series in addition to newcomers.–Reviewed by Olivia Gorecke

Theodor Seuss Geisel Honors 

Henry, Like Always by Jenn Bailey (text) & illus. by Mika Song. Chronicle. Mar. 2023. 48p. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781797213897.
(See review above)

Worm and Caterpillar Are Friends by Kaz Windness (text) & illus. by Kaz Windness. S. & S./Simon Spotlight. (Ready-to-Read Graphics Level 1). Jan. 2023. 64p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781665920018; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781665920001.
PreS-Gr 2–Windness’s comic for young readers explores the nature of evolving relationships with gentle humor. The titular earth-bound friends carry out a simple, flowing conversation as they idyll through a fall day. Worm assumes they understand a static set of facts about their friend, and Caterpillar patiently and deliberately challenges their assumptions. Worm tries to discuss the similarities between themself and Caterpillar, like their lack of legs (Caterpillar has legs!), their dirt-based diet (wrong again!), and their mutual fear of birds (this one’s true!). But while Worm clings to the present moment, Caterpillar carefully tries to prepare them for the future, since caterpillars, of course, must change in a rather dramatic fashion. Though the direction of the plot is well-worn—a caterpillar becomes a butterfly—the emotional interplay between a friend seeking surface similarities and a friend nourishing a deep connection is subtle and satisfying. What sets this title apart from similar tales of animal amity are Windness’s full-page watercolor backdrops, deep and rich with purple, green, and orange, conjuring a magical, fading fall twilight. Windness also brings a buzzing energy to her characters, with raised eyebrows and body language between the pair doing as much work as words. VERDICT A straightforward, satisfying treatise on friendship weathering difference and change, with richly colored, lively illustrations, this title offers a lovely, light reading experience for early readers.–Reviewed by Emilia Packard 


William C. Morris Award 

The finalists for the William C. Morris were announced in December 2023.

2023 Winner:

Rez Ball by Byron Graves. HarperCollins/Heartdrum. Sept. 2023. 368p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-0063160378. 


Excellence in Nonfiction Award

The finalists of the YALSA's Excellence in Nonfiction Award were announced in December 2023.

2023 Winner:

Accountable: The True Story of a Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed by Dashka Slater. Farrar. Aug. 2023. 496p. Tr $20.99. ISBN 9780374314347.
Gr 9 Up–Journalist and author Slater once again achieves another level of introspection about society through the lens of teen behavior. While The 57 Bus dealt with hate crimes and the juvenile justice system, her newest nonfiction deals with social media and school districts. In 2017, a racist social media account was outed in a small school district in Albany, CA. Followed by a handful of students, it targeted Black girls in the school and posted race-based memes for what was described as “edgy humor.” What followed was a multi-year interrogation of prejudice, teen behavior, school response, and punishment that ended with adjudication in the courts. Wanting to tell a balanced story, Slater sought to interview as many involved families as possible and while not all of them sat for interviews, the book includes court documents, statistics, testimony, and more, which are included in the back matter. The book is an honest accounting of the event couched in a societal reckoning of free speech versus hate speech. Its length accounts for a full chronology with one flaw in its approach: sectioned into 15 parts with prose chapters titled, rather than numbered, and several unexpected poems, it creates unnecessary breaks in the intense narrative. The shocking reality that Albany could be any town is what sustains the rabid interest in seeing how the story plays out since it touches on many aspects of contemporary culture. VERDICT This is a well-timed page-turner due to Slater’s investigative reporting and must be read, shared, and discussed. Make this a priority purchase.–Reviewed by Alicia Abdul 


American Indian Youth Literature Award—Picture Book

Forever Cousins by Laurel Goodluck (text) & illus. by Jonathan Nelson. Charlesbridge. Oct. 2022. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781623542924.

A Letter for Bob by Kim Rogers (text) & illus. by Jonathan Nelson. HarperCollins/Heartdrum. Sept. 2023. 32p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063044555.
PreS-Gr 3–This is a letter to Bob, a family car, from a girl who feels that the car is part of her family, tying together events from their family history. She talks about seminal events in her family’s time line: trips that they took together, like to the Wichita Annual Dance, where Katie danced in the Tiny Tots division, and an epic trip to Yellowstone. There are also less monumental events, like when things were dropped or spilled, as well as ordinary things like going to the dog park or to friends’ houses. Bob the car carried the family safely to all of these things. Eventually, the family has to say goodbye to Bob, but not without some sadness at the parting. The artwork shows all the happy memories, using color to help readers understand the emotions at all the different events that the family has shared. The outings are common enough to help readers make connections to Katie as well as the family trips and gatherings, but specific enough so that modern Indigenous culture is allowed to shine through. VERDICT This would be a good choice for libraries needing mentor texts on family history or books showcasing modern Indigenous culture.–Reviewed by Debbie Tanner


American Indian Youth Literature Award—Middle Grade

We Still Belong by Christine Day. HarperCollins/Heartdrum. Aug. 2023. 256p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780063064560.
Gr 5 Up–Wesley Wilder, whose family are members of the Upper Skagit Tribe, is about to have a big day. Not only is it Indigenous People’s Day, but her poem celebrating the occasion has been published in the school newspaper and will be discussed in her seventh grade English class. She has also prepared the perfect card referencing her favorite online game to ask blond-haired, green-eyed, suntanned, good-smelling Ryan to the school dance. The school day does not go according to plan, and though comforted by her best friend Hanan, she arrives home in tears. Things only get worse as her grandpa and mom have a fight about her job, and Wesley learns her aunt and uncle might move out of the house with her baby cousin. In the midst of all this, Wesley makes a new friend and by the time the family arrives at the local powwow, she is looking forward to the dancing and food. Her day has turned completely around and ends on the highest note. Wesley is a believable seventh grader who struggles with family, social, and identity issues as an Indigenous student in Washington state. All of that and more happening in just one day might stretch believability, but there is enough background from past scenes to provide context, and readers will get a well-rounded view of her life. There is also context of Upper Skagit tribal culture and politics to provide even unfamiliar readers an understanding of this central theme. The text realistically touches on discrimination by dismissal, lack of understanding, and complete ignorance, encouraging tweens to consider why Wesley had to write a poem called “We Still Belong.” VERDICT A creative peek into the life of a relatable gamer girl who is finding her place in the social and emotional world of middle school while dealing with the ways Indigenous peoples are ignored and celebrated.–Reviewed by Clare A. Dombrowski


American Indian Youth Literature Award—Young Adult

Rez Ball by Byron Graves. HarperCollins/Heartdrum. Sept. 2023. 368p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-0063160378. 


American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor—Picture Book 

Celebration by Lily Hope (text) & illus. by Kelsey Mata Foote. Sealaska Heritage Institute.

Contenders: Two Native Baseball Players, One World Series by Traci Sorell (text) & illus. by Arigon Starr. Penguin/Kokila. Apr. 2023. 48p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593406472.

Berry Song by Michaela Goade (text) & illus. by ­Michaela Goade. Little, Brown. Jul. 2022. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316494175.
PreS-Gr 1–This book shares the foraging tradition of a young Tlingit girl and her grandmother living on an island off of the coast of Alaska. The grandmother teaches the young girl which berries to pick and how to say “Gunalchéesh,” or give thanks. Told with rhythm to match the song, the duo sings as they pick berries (“Salmonberry, Cloudberry, Blueberry, Nagoonberry. Huckleberry, Soapberry, Strawberry, Crowberry”). The author captures rich language to mirror the beauty of nature. A note cautions young foragers to research and use adult supervision, while the back matter includes a glossary of information on which berries are safe to gather. These additions make this picture book perfect for cross-disciplinary learning with science or social studies. VERDICT Goade calls upon her childhood memories and current home and shares important information about the beauty and utility of nature. Told in rhythm, song, and narrative, the language is rich and evocative—perfect for early elementary readers.–Reviewed by Tracey S. Hodges

Remember by Joy Harjo (text) & illus. by Michaela Goade. Random House ­Studio. Mar. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593484845.
PreS-Gr 3–As the modern world propels forward at a breakneck pace, the complexities of the universe can be easily forgotten. Every living creature is beholden to the cycles of nature—day and night, birth and death, growth and decay. Harjo, a member of the Mvskoke Nation and the U.S. Poet Laureate, urges young readers to remember that they are of the earth, both indebted to and intertwined with the natural world. In an economy of perfectly chosen words, Harjo conveys the ancient Indigenous reverence for nature and the passage of time. Caldecott winner and Tlingit tribe member Goade interprets the text in otherworldly watercolor illustrations that are nothing short of a masterclass in visual storytelling. Each scene incorporates icons of Northwest Coast art rendered with beautifully graduated color. Goade and Harjo’s creative synergy produces an important cultural artifact and testimonial to their Native heritage. VERDICT A significant work of children’s literature, this paean to nature and Indigenous culture belongs in every school and public library collection for years to come.–Reviewed by Sarah Simpson 

Rock Your Mocs by Lauren Goodluck (text) & illus. by Madelyn Goodnight. HarperColllins/Heartdrum. Oct. 2023. 32p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063099890.
PreS-Gr 2–Goodluck and Goodnight highlight a First Nation tradition through their words and whimsical illustrations: “We Rock our Mocs with pride! Kyah strikes a pose in her Yurok mocs. Taktuk, who is Inupiaq, slips on his kamipiak, then gives his dad a high five.” Beginning on every November 15th, Rock Your Mocs day is celebrated for a week during Native American Heritage month. Young and old, members of the Indigenous Nations wear moccasins to represent their tribes as well as arts, traditions, and personal style. During this time, the heritage behind the designs on moccasins are shared and celebrated. Goodnight creates relatable school scenes, gatherings of all kinds of children wearing mocs, and shows the versatility, beauty, and care that goes into each pair. Back matter includes a note from Heartdrum founder Cynthia Leitich Smith, plus further notes on the celebration and on the lives of Indigenous children. VERDICT Recommended for cultural studies of the First Nations, especially for those interested in incorporating art, history, and modern life in an always respectful but dazzling display of mocs! A good choice for all picture book shelves.–Reviewed by Brittany McMahon


American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor—Middle Grade

Eagle Drums by Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson (text) & illus. by Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson. Roaring Brook. Sept. 2023. 256p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250750655.
Gr 3-6–In this novelization of a traditional Iñupiaq tale, a boy named Piŋa is out hunting alone when approached by an eagle who transforms into a man. Following this eagle, he spends a year and a half learning new skills such as drumming, singing, dancing, and building large shelters. Those skills add to the thorough knowledge of survival and respect for animals that he has learned from his parents. Eventually, he takes these lessons back to his parents and together they share them with the Iñupiat people. Told in beautiful prose, this story evocatively describes life in the arctic, skillfully showing the frustrations and the beauty through Piŋa’s eyes. The pace is slow but consistent with a satisfying surprise at the end. Occasional full-page color illustrations are simple but add to the charm and help provide imagery for readers unfamiliar with the arctic. Across the tops of chapters are traditional imagery such as arrows and ulu knives in repeating patterns. Author Hopson draws on her own Iñupiat heritage and worked with several elders, detailed in her author’s note, to share this tale that forms the basis of the most important traditional Iñupiat feast. VERDICT An authentic, beautiful Alaska Native tale presented as a novel perfect for upper elementary students.–Reviewed by Elizabeth Nicolai

Mascot by Charles Waters & Traci Sorell. Charlesbridge. Sept. 2023. 256p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781623543808.
Gr 3-7–Waters and Sorell’s novel in verse, told in alternating perspectives, tackles the relevant topic of racist imagery in mascots. In the football town of Rye, VA, Callie, who is Black and a member of the Cherokee Nation, shares her earnest poem in eighth-grade honors English class about using Indigenous peoples as mascots. Their teacher then sets up a formal debate to address the pros and cons of the school’s Indigenous mascot. The diverse group of students have varied backgrounds and strong feelings about the issue. As they work through their debate, questions about what is right emerge, friendships are tested, and what it means to be an ally is brought forth. Each character grows throughout the book. However, as in life, the issue remains sensitive and unresolved. VERDICT Highly recommended as a pick for classrooms to use in debate and conversations; a timely and important novel.–Reviewed by Amy Zembroski

Jo Jo Makoons: Fancy Pants by Dawn Quigley (text) & illus. by Tara Audibert.  HarperCollins/Heartdrum. (Jo Jo Makoons: Bk. 2). May 2022. 96p. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780063015401; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9780063015418.

Jo Jo Makoons: Snow Day by Dawn Quigley (text) & illus. by Tara Audibert. HarperCollins/Heartdrum. (Jo Jo Makoons: Bk. 3). Sept. 2023. 96p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780063015432; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780063015449.
K-Gr 3–Seven-year- old JoJo Makoons is enjoying her first real snow day. No e-learning is occurring today due to an internet outage on the Ojibwe reservation where JoJo lives. She has been learning about healthy foods and being neighborly in school. With those topics in the forefront of JoJo’s mind, she and her friends set out to create Olympic games of their own. Outdoor adventures include rolling down the hill, using burned fry bread, and a lip pointing race that even the elders can get involved in. Being healthy and neighborly are woven throughout the nine chapters. New readers will adore JoJo’s voice and hilarious take on life. This early chapter book includes journal entries from JoJo, a glossary with pronunciation guide, and black-and-white illustrations. VERDICT Readers will laugh out loud at JoJo’s antics and opinions as she embraces her community, heritage, and love for life. Give to fans of “Junie B. Jones.” Recommended for all libraries.–Reviewed by Tracy Cronce

Maria Tallchief by Christine Day (text) & illus. by Alexandra Boiger & Gillian Flint. Philomel. (She Persisted). Nov. 2021. 80p. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780593115800; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9780593115817.
Gr 3-6–This chapter book in the “She Persisted” series chronicles the life of America’s first prima ballerina Maria Tallchief. Readers are introduced to Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief, an Osage girl from Oklahoma. Day (Upper Skagit from the Pacific Northwest), provides details about the Osage tribe and their history to help readers understand Tallchief’s roots. The Indigenous author provides a unique perspective on Tallchief’s story by teaching readers about the land and tribal nations of the regions where the dancer lived. As the book progresses, Tallchief and her family move to California, where she changes her last name from Tall Chief to Tallchief. Then at the age of 17, Tallchief moves to New York City, and her name eventually becomes the one readers know best: Maria Tallchief. The book highlights the fact that Tallchief never forgot her Osage heritage. Black and white illustrations, while few, are impactful. The artwork depicts special moments in the subject’s life, from dreaming about ballet as a young girl to starring in the New York City’s Ballet’s opening night of Firebird, where the crowd cheered and chanted her name. In tandem with the text, the illustrations show Tallchief’s growth and transformation from a little girl to a prima ballerina. The text is interesting, straightforward, and easy to read for the intended age group. Back matter includes, along with references, a list of ways readers can persist and help carry on Tallchief’s legacy. VERDICT Recommended for all library collections. A great addition to the “She Persisted” series.–Reviewed by Danielle Burbank

Wilma Mankiller by Christine Day (text) & illus. by Alexandra Boiger & Gillian Flint. Philomel. (She Persisted). Oct. 2022. 80p. $16.99. ISBN 9780593403037; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9780593403051. 

Deb Haaland by Laurel Goodluck (text) & illus. by Alexandra Boiger & Gillian Flint. Philomel. (She Persisted). Oct. 2023. 96p. $16.99. ISBN 9780593620694; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780593620700.


American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor—Young Adult

Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley. Holt. May 2023. 400p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250766588.
Gr 9 Up–Perry Firekeeper-Birch wrecked the Jeep and had to join her twin sister, Pauline, in a summer internship offered by their tribe to pay for repairs. The summer is harrowing, with local Indigenous women going missing, and the murders of Black people by police that have the twins concerned for their father’s safety. Perry’s internship begins with Cooper Turtle, curator of the Tribal Museum. Perry is less than enthused, but after visiting a local college and seeing the bones and artifacts of her ancestors stored there, she finds her passion—to bring her ancestors back to Sugar Island. Cooper helps educate her on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Impatient with the red tape involved with NAGPRA, Perry repatriates seeds from a college backlog collection and loses Cooper’s trust. Bouncing around different tribal departments for the rest of her internship, Perry is encouraged by the sub-Chief to lead her sister and friends into a heist to repatriate a private collection. Their plan takes a dark turn, and Perry finds herself in the hands of a predator. Though a sequel to Firekeeper’s Daughter, it can be read as a stand-alone. VERDICT Perry’s dreams, desires, culture, traditions, and actions create a compelling narrative about one teen’s attempt to undo some of the injustices her community and people have faced. Strong first buy.–Reviewed by Tamara Saarinen

Funeral Songs for Dying Girls by Cherie Dimaline. Tundra. Apr. 2023. 280p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780735265639.
Gr 8 Up–A haunting coming-of-age novel centering Indigenous girls struggling with heartbreak, disappointment, and grief. Almost-16-year-old Winifred (Métis and white) has grown up in the apartment above the crematorium, living with her father, who has never recovered from his wife’s death, which happened when Winifred was born. With the crematorium in danger of closing, the teen hatches a plan with her con artist cousin to convince the town that there’s a ghost in the cemetery, hoping that the proceeds from a ghost tour would keep them from leaving the only place she’s ever known, the same place where her mother’s ashes are buried. However, Winifred meets the real ghost of another Indigenous girl, Phil, who died decades ago in the ravine nearby. The two girls become friends as Phil slowly recounts her life, including how she died. Soon, the young women become more than friends, but misunderstandings and impossibilities get in their way. Dimaline’s prose is magnetic, and her storytelling skills are on full display. Readers will be as entranced by Phil’s tale as Winifred, hoping that her story doesn’t end in tragedy while already knowing the ending. The complex characters are fully developed, and though the conflicts aren’t resolved neatly, the book’s conclusion comes together realistically. This contemporary novel with hints of a magical realism recalls the missing and murdered Indigenous women of North America, a very real and current epidemic of violence. It explores drug abuse, sexual assault, and racism, but also identity and first love. Both girls are queer. VERDICT A tough, heartrending ghost story that will seep into readers’ bones and never let them go.–Reviewed by Shelley M. Diaz

Man Made Monsters by Andrea Rogers (text) & illus. by Jeff Edwards. Levine Querido. Oct. 2022. 320p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781646141791.
Gr 8 Up–Chilling stories tell about generations of a Cherokee family’s encounters with the supernatural and violence. Beginning on the Trail of Tears, when Ama is turned into the Undead, and continuing through 2039, the stories of Ama’s various family members and descendants are told. Each chapter can be read as a standalone short story; the entries are tied together by characters from one story appearing in later ones. Ama is featured in many of the chapters, appearing to help and guide her current family members through various trials and tribulations. The stories from the 1800s are odes to European horror. In the 1900s, ghosts, werewolves, and revenge are the main topics, and during the 2000s, most of the characters are dealing with violence—dating, gun, and domestic. Traumatic events are primarily alluded to, then described in detail. Most chapters end without a clear understanding of what happened to the various characters. The narrative incorporates Cherokee history, words, and customs. One section focuses on Deer Woman, a Cherokee myth, who avenges women and children. The themes throughout are family love and tribal ties. Each chapter begins with the name of a family member, date of the event, and a white illustration on a black background. Family trees are provided at the beginning, and a glossary of Cherokee words written in English and in Cherokee syllabary are provided at the end. VERDICT Full of familiar tropes and new ideas, these stories are the right balance of suspense without too much horror. A strong first purchase.–Reviewed by Tamara Saarinen

Running with Changing Woman by Lorinda Martinez. Salina. Jun. 2023. Tr $23.99. ISBN 9781960830005.

Heroes of the Water Monster by Brian Young. HarperCollins/Heartdrum. May 2023. 384p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062990433.
Gr 5-7–The second installment in the “Healer of the Water Monster” series is a fantastical blend of action, Navajo lore, and familial relationships. As Nathan is getting older, he understands he needs to pass the care of Dew the water monster off to Edward, his (sort of) stepbrother. But that doesn’t make it any easier, coupled with the fact that Dew needs to learn more about her water monster siblings. So when Yitoo arrives to teach Dew, it seems like the perfect fit! However, Yitoo has quite the grudge against the Pale People and sets out on a path of revenge. Readers will be engaged in the fascinating Navajo legends and characters that Young has populated throughout the novel. Young deftly touches on a number of tough topics like climate change, generational trauma, and divorce in a manner that is insightful and age appropriate. The evolving relationship between Edward and Nathan is realistic and heartwarming, and highlights the dynamics of blending families. Yitoo, while being downright mean at times, is still easy to empathize with. VERDICT An immersive and heartfelt story that tackles tough topics with grace.–Reviewed by Tara Peace


Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature—Picture Book 

The Truth About Dragons by Julie Leung (text) & illus. by Hanna Cha. Holt. Aug. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250820587.
Gr 1-2–Readers will lean in to hear of a mysterious journey into the deepest heart of two enchanted forests. Leung crafts a melodious tale of Eastern and Western cultural mythologies stirred together and overflowing in a warm celebration of love. Guided by his mother’s bedtime storytelling, a young child begins a search, with help from his two wise grandmothers, to learn of a revelation surrounding the realms of two types of dragons: the ones that breathe fearsome fires of red and those that rule the clear azure skies and tranquil rivers. These two blended worlds ultimately open his heart to a greater understanding of his own integrity. Luminescent watercolors sweep across pages worthy of a pause, even as the lyrical text carries readers along in their eagerness to know more. Nonetheless, most will pause to soak in luscious watercolor illustrations in jewel tones of ruby, sapphire, gold, and emerald. The remarkable wording infused into spreads of dynamic colors makes this enchanting story a true gift in the world of children’s literature. VERDICT A must-have book to place on every library shelf where literary pathways will open up young children’s minds as they discover their own hidden truths.–Reviewed by Lyn Smith 


Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature—Picture Book Honor

Finding Papa by Angela Pham Krans (text) & illus. by Thi Bui. HarperCollins. Feb. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780063060968.
PreS-Gr 3–Mai loves to play the crocodile chomp with Papa. Papa chomps his hands together and Mai always laughs because “Crocodiles were scary, but Papa was not.” One day Papa says an extra long goodbye to Mai and Mama, then leaves Vietnam to look for a new home for them all. When word finally arrives from Papa, Mama and Mai set out to join him, taking very little with them. During the long and difficult journey, first by foot, then by boat, Mai comforts herself by playing crocodile chomp on her own. The pair eventually make their way to America where, dressed in new clothes, they see an unfamiliar man with a mustache approaching through a crowd. Mai doesn’t recognize the man and hides behind Mama’s legs, but her fears disappear when the man kneels and does the crocodile chomp. The illustrations infuse the story with warmth and keep even the most harrowing parts of the journey from feeling too scary for children. The love in Mai’s family is palpable, shown both by physical affection and the fact that they are never far from each other’s thoughts. An author’s note explains more about the true events of the book, and an artist’s note provides further historical and personal context as well. VERDICT Reassuring despite depicting a dangerous journey and uncertain time; there are many children for whom this is not history, but family stories. Essential.–Reviewed by Heather Webb


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

Ruby Lost and Found by Christina Li. HarperCollins/Quill Tree. May 2023. 304p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063008939.
Gr 5 Up–A thematically rich novel that will spark important discussions, and to which any tween can relate. Thirteen-year-old Chinese American Ruby is having trouble adjusting to the changes of the past year. She is grieving her beloved grandfather Ye-Ye and the loss of her best friends to new social groups. While staying with her grandmother Nai-Nai for the summer, Ruby must face more changes—to Nai-Nai and to the Chinatown neighborhood she loves. Li establishes a strong sense of place, emphasizing the importance of community and intergenerational connections in overcoming life’s challenges. Ruby is a relatable and well-developed protagonist, as are the side characters, who add humor and heart to a sometimes emotionally heavy plot. VERDICT Perfect for fans of Merci Suárez Changes Gears and Maizy Chen’s Last Chance, this novel is recommended for general purchase.–Reviewed by Maria Bohan


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

Parachute Kids by Betty C. Tang (text) & ­illus. by Betty C. Tang. Scholastic/Graphix. Apr. 2023. 288p. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781338832686.
Gr 4 Up–In 1981, Feng-Li, 10, travels to California from Taiwan with her family for what she thinks is a vacation, but her parents planned for the siblings to stay in “the land of opportunity.” They adopt American names for school, and Feng-Li (now Ann) holds fast to her “tomorrow will be better” fortune cookie paper, despite her struggles with English. When both parents have to return to Taiwan, the undocumented siblings are on their own, with older sister Jia-Xi (Jessie) in charge, and middle son Ke-Gng (Jason) resentful. Feng-Li plays peacemaker between her two siblings, but the three face frightening obstacles before their family is reunited. Feng-Li wonders, “How has everything gone so wrong? Aren’t we here for the American dream? So far it has been nothing but a nightmare.” But when her sister falls into depression, the plucky girl swings into action, inspiring her siblings to pull together, and the ending is hopeful. There are sometimes six or seven panels on a page, but the action and the characters’ emotions are easy to follow; red text in yellow speech balloons denote when they are speaking Chinese, black text in white balloons signifies English. A subplot indicates that Ke-Gng is gay, something his mother wants him to suppress, and his new friends reject him for. An author’s note explains that she herself was a “parachute kid,” and that the story is a mix of fiction, memory, and anecdotes. VERDICT At once common and unique, this is a compelling story of immigration and family bonds; highly recommended.–Reviewed by Jenny Arch


Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature—Youth/Young Adult Literature 

I'd Rather Burn Than Bloom by Shannon C. F. Rogers. Feiwel & Friends. July 2023. 320p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250845665.


Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature—Youth/Young Adult Literature Honor 

In Limbo by Deb JJ Lee (text) & illus. by Deb JJ Lee. First Second. Mar. 2023. 352p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781250252654; pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781250252661.
Gr 8 Up–Lee’s powerful memoir explores coming of age as a Korean American teen in New Jersey. Deborah (Jung-Jin) was always a good student and first chair violin in her middle school orchestra. It’s shocking to her family when Deb barely passes her freshman courses and drops her instrument in favor of art, and Deb’s mom becomes increasingly verbally abusive as year one goes on. Deb perseveres, making it to sophomore year and her new elective art class, where she meets Quinn. Though they’re inseparable at first, Quinn soon becomes distant, and that heart-sickening gap, paired with isolation from her few other friends and her mom’s escalating verbal and physical abuse, contributes to Deb’s worsening mental health. After surviving a suicide attempt, Deb begins to work through her trauma in sessions with a therapist, revealing more of her past. Readers see how fraught her relationship is not just to her mother, but to her entire Korean heritage, from which she distanced herself steadily until even her first language was foreign to her. The microaggressions and overt aggressions depicted are painful, which makes the resolution, Deb’s return to South Korea and a tentative embrace of her culture, a cautious reconciliation. Filled primarily with digitally created grayscale artwork, Lee’s style has the feel of memory, with some images hazy and others sharp, the suicidal moments and abusive treatment from Deb’s mother fuzzing out and fading to black. Readers seeking realistic depictions of lived teen mental health experiences will find this beautiful work rewarding. VERDICT Recommended for graphic nonfiction collections.–Reviewed by Abby Bussen


The Sydney Taylor Book Award—Picture Book 

Two New Years by Richard Ho (text) & illus. by Lynn Scurfield. Chronicle. Aug. 2023. 44p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781797212814.
Gr 1-3–Inspired by his own Chinese and Jewish backgrounds, Ho contrasts the different ways New Year is celebrated in the two traditions in order to highlight the commonalities that lie beneath—from special foods to new clothes, from blowing the shofar to sending paper lanterns into the sky, from bidding goodbye to bad luck by sweeping it out the door to dropping pebbles or bread crumbs into a stream (taschlich). Both the Jewish and Asian New Year celebrations, he writes, “bring family home. Children and grandchildren reunite with bubbies and zaydies, rejoice with ma mas and yeh yehs, and remember the ancestors who live in our hearts.” In her radiant illustrations, Scurfield depicts a biracial couple and their children enjoying the double set of festivities and rituals, in public and intimate domestic settings. The author concludes with descriptions of the two “lunisolar” calendars and expansive notes on each set of holiday rituals, symbols, and practices. VERDICT An illuminating set of contrasts and parallels likely to leave younger audiences primed to welcome different ways of celebrating every version of the new year and to compare them with those of their own families.–Reviewed by John Edward Peters 


The Sydney Taylor Book Award—Middle Grade

The Dubious Pranks of Shaindy Goodman by Mari Lowe. Levine Querido. Nov. 2023. 175p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781646142644.
Gr 3-7–Shaindy lives in a small Jewish suburb where life is quiet, and Jewish traditions are closely followed. Shaindy is thrilled to be chosen to participate in a prank by the most popular girl in her yeshiva’s all-girl sixth grade class. She sees her classmates rollerblading and wants to join them, but her parents won’t buy her a pair until she proves adept at it. As an incentive for joining in on the pranks, cool girl Gayil promises to teach Shaindy how to rollerblade. At first, Shaindy overlooks her misgivings and follows along, but as time passes, Shaindy starts to realize that the pranks are not harmless and are filled with spite. This causes Shaindy to wonder about the connections among those being pranked, herself, and Gayil. Eventually, the mean girl pins Shaindy as the only guilty party. Initially, the protagonist is very angry at Gayil, but then Shaindy begins to truly think about mercy as her community celebrates Yom Kippur, a day of forgiveness. There is a dearth of middle grade, non–Holocaust-related novels with Jewish main characters. Lowe’s second novel for middle schoolers is a well-written, pitch-perfect contribution for the audience. The struggle between trying to fit in and keeping true to yourself will resonate with all tweens. VERDICT Readers will eagerly follow Shaindy’s story and root for her to make decisions aligned with her values.–Reviewed by Charla Hollingsworth


The Sydney Taylor Book Award—YA

The Blood Years by Elana K Arnold. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Oct. 2023. 400p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062990853.
Gr 9 Up–Arnold’s gripping novel of sisterhood and survival amid both Soviet and Nazi occupation illuminates a little-explored part of the Holocaust in Romania, based on the life of the author’s grandmother. Growing up in Czernowitz, Rieke Teitler’s world revolves around dance lessons with her sister, Astra, and her grandfather’s watch-repair shop. But in 1939, disaster strikes three times: Rieke develops tuberculosis, Astra falls in love with a much-older man, and Romania is caught up in WWII. As Rieke struggles to survive persecution and her worsening illness, she must also find her own path between the moral polarities of her grandfather and sister. Religious Opa wants to “build this world with love” in the face of hatred. By contrast, Astra insists “Sometimes we choose between bad, and worse.” Arnold gives the characters and moral dilemmas breadth and depth. Astra’s selfishness is sometimes pragmatic and life-affirming; her much-older husband is a philanderer and also a life-saving doctor. Later, a smuggler sexually abuses Rieke—but also gives her food that allows her family to survive. The truth is difficult, but as one character says, “knowing is better than not knowing.” Rieke must learn to make choices and maintain her ability to love. The complex setting is another truth, expertly revealed. Arnold represents the full cultural complexity of Czernowitz, which has belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Romania, and modern Ukraine. A historical afterword includes photographs of Rieke and Astra’s real-life counterparts. VERDICT Arnold’s wrenching tale of two sisters surviving the Holocaust in Romania is a must-read.-Reviewed by Katherine Magyarody 


The Sydney Taylor Book Honors—Picture Book

Afikomen by Tziporah Cohen (text) & illus. by Yaara Eshet. Groundwood. Mar. 2023. 32p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781773066066.
K-Gr 3–This attractive wordless picture book depicts a large, diverse, multigenerational contemporary family celebrating the Passover Seder. Three children and their dog steal the afikomen (the middle piece of matzoh) from the Seder leader, as is customary in some families. But when they crawl under the table to hide it, they are transported to the land of Egypt. They witness baby Moses being placed in a basket by his mother and sister and follow the basket down the Nile River. The children rescue the baby from a crocodile and make sure that he reaches safety with Pharaoh’s daughter. They then travel back to their dining room and return the afikomen to the adults so that they can conclude the Seder. The author’s note provides further information. “When celebrating Passover, we are supposed to see ourselves as if we, not just our ancestors, were the ones to escape slavery in Egypt. It is this ‘time travel’ of sorts that gave me the idea of linking the generations, Moses’ and our own, through a piece of magical afikomen.” Multiple panels on each page tell the story through detailed, expressive illustrations. Children familiar with the story of Passover and the holiday customs will delight in decoding the pictures, looking for hidden clues, and retelling the tale. VERDICT A unique addition for synagogues, Jewish schools, and library holiday collections.–Reviewed by ­Rachel Kamin

Hanukkah Upside Down by Elissa Brent Weissman (text) & illus. by Omer Hoffmann. Abrams. Sept. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781419762963.
PreS-Gr 2–This clever offering tells the story of two cousins on opposite sides of the world celebrating Hanukkah together and apart. Noah lives in New York, his cousin Nora lives in New Zealand, and they love to argue about which of them is upside down. They decide to have a photo contest about which Hanukkah is better. The story follows them as they do parallel but opposite things, yet celebrate the nights of Hanukkah in similar ways. Finally, each receives a present from the other: a shirt with “World’s Best Cousin” printed upside down. The text and pictures weave together neatly. Using spot art, they each do something location appropriate (Noah has hot chocolate, Nora has hot chips), and then, integrated into the same spread, the same Hanukkah-related thing (eating sufganiyot). Appealing and accessible text is clear and deft, with nary a wasted word. The art is wonderful. Characters have shaggy hair and a Quentin Blake feel to them. The protagonists have light skin; Nora’s father’s has brown skin. Hoffmann fills the pages with movement, masterfully depicting the scenes with Noah and Nora doing the same thing by simply splitting pages in half so that they merge into each other, while using a cool palette for New York and a warm one for New Zealand. While the Hanukkah story is not explained, all the traditions are included. VERDICT Any library looking for Hanukkah books will want to add this unique international tale to their collection.–Reviewed by Amy Lilien-Harper

Hidden Hope: How a Toy and a Hero Saved Lives During the Holocaust by Elisa Boxer (text) & illus. by Amy June Bates. Abrams. Mar. 2023. 48p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781419750007.
Gr 4-6–It’s World War II, and the Nazis have crossed into France to round up Jewish people. With most Jews fearing the threat of concentration camps and death, a few brave people have stepped up and joined a secret society called the French Resistance. The goal of the resistance was to create documents with fake names, birth dates, families, and religious affiliations. Smuggling those papers became a full-time job for one young girl named Jacqueline Gauthier, a French Christian who kept her Jewish identity secret (her real name was Judith Geller). Her tenacity at smuggling these papers from place to place was impressive to the Jewish people. She accomplished it all on her bike, through the use of a wooden toy duck with a hollowed-out center. Despite nearly being caught many times, Gauthier persisted. Many Jews pondered what her motivation was in helping them; if they only knew her secrets, they would understand. Accompanying the almost poetic text, where truncated sentences add immediacy, are moody, atmospheric full-page watercolor, pencil, and gouache illustrations, softly done in teal, browns, and orange, that well portray the terror of living during this era. Gauthier and all characters are white. VERDICT An important true account to add to all collections. Gauthier’s inspiring story will spur on anyone who doubts just how much difference one young person can truly make.–Reviewed by Tracy Cronce


The Sydney Taylor Book Honors—Middle Grade 

Don't Want to Be Your Monster by Deke Moulton. Tundra.  July 2023. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781774880494.

The Jake Show by Joshua S. Levy. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. May 2023. 240p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780063248199.
Gr 5 Up–This novel has a tropey premise in middle grade novels: the seventh-grade kid caught between warring divorced parents. However, it is distinct from so many others because the root of Jake’s angst is his parents’ wildly differing approaches to their Jewish faith and culture. Jake’s parents can’t even agree on his name; Jake’s dad calls him Jacob and his mom–or Imma–calls him Yaakov, his Hebrew name. The differences and expectations ramp up from there, causing Jake to create three versions of himself: Yaakov, the Orthodox version, pleasing to his mother; Jacob, the non-observant, earnest math and science student for his dad; and Jake, as he refers to himself, the kid who is just trying to make it through each day. Jake manages to assimilate into his fifth school in two years and makes friends with Caleb and Tehilla, who, like all kids, have their own personal issues. The story takes some unrealistic turns as Jake, Caleb, and Tehilla come up with a convoluted plan for them all to attend a Jewish summer camp, tricking both of Jake’s parents into thinking the camp would fit their criteria for appropriate summer activities. Readers might like the story because the kids take the reins and make adult-worthy decisions. But even Jake admits that “turning on subtitles” might be helpful to non-Jewish readers. Not true. Jake does a good job of explaining. The climax contains unrealistic histrionics, but the ending is nice and tidy and will please most readers. VERDICT A representative novel with enough broad drama to circulate in middle grade libraries.–Reviewed by Kim Gardner

Not So Shy by Noa Nimrodi. Kar-Ben. Apr. 2023 256p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781728427911.

A Sky Full of Song by Susan Lynn Meyer. Union Square Kids. Apr. 2023. 272p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781454947844.
Gr 4-8–In 1905, 11-year-old Shoshana and her mother and sisters experience antisemitic violence and leave Ukraine for the United States. She arrives in North Dakota and moves into a dugout with her father and brother, who have been working to “prove up” their homestead. Shoshona and her father connect as he teaches her to play his fiddle. While her faith is important to her, Shoshona wants to fit in and is willing to participate in school activities related to Christmas to do this. Ultimately, it’s her connections to her faith, family, and father’s fiddle that give her the confidence to be fully herself. As she gets to know her new home, Shoshona does encounter two Dakota children and observes them being treated unfairly by members of her pioneer community. The problematic nature of settler colonialism is acknowledged through first-person narration from a child’s perspective. Shoshona questions why people were moved off the land so that she and her family could homestead on it. This engaging title does include usage of several antisemitic slurs that would have commonly been used at the time, without preparing readers for those terms or explaining that they are not acceptable words to use today. VERDICT Solid historical fiction that fleshes out the diversity of the pioneer experience. Pair with books like Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark House or Linda Sue Park’s Prairie Lotus.–Reviewed by Kristin L. Anderson


The Sydney Taylor Book Honor—YA

Courage to Dream: Tales of Hope in the Holocaust by Neal Shusterman (text) & illus. by Andrés Vera Martínez. Scholastic/Graphix. Oct. 2023. 256p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780545313476.
Gr 7 Up–This work of graphic fiction uses an anthology of fantastic tales to explore the horrors of the Holocaust. Shusterman creates stories that engage and educate young readers about Nazi persecution of the Jewish people. He writes in the dedication, “This book is about impossible and wondrous things that never happened, set against a backdrop of impossible, unthinkable things that did.” The first story begins with a tale of young children hidden for safety behind a bookshelf, who escape through a portal to a peaceful world. Next is a very Marvel-inspired story of a Golem of Auschwitz, and then a tale of Baba Yaga and mythical creatures forming a resistance force in a deep, dark wood. The fourth is a Moses-inspired story of rescue and daring, followed by a final story about a young American girl and a terrible alternative future. The illustrations are reminiscent of early Marvel comic books. There are plenty of details that will draw the eye, like Baba Yaga’s flying cauldron, but plenty of action to move the plot forward. VERDICT A nice addition to any teen graphic fiction collection.–Reviewed by Meaghan Nichols 

Going Bicoastal by Dahlia Adler. Wednesday Bks. Jun. 2023. 336p. Tr $20. ISBN 9781250871640.
Gr 10 Up–Rising high school senior and proud bisexual Natalya Fox gets to choose between two options for the summer: staying with her math professor dad on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where she’s always lived, or going to Los Angeles to live with her semi-estranged high-powered businesswoman mom and intern at her PR firm. After a couple of chapters, the narrative diverges into two parallel arcs: one in which Natalya stays in New York but vows to push herself out of her comfort zone, and the other in which she spends the summer in LA. Her NYC time line sees her finally connect with the crush she keeps running into, a redheaded young woman named Elly. Natalya is whisked into her edgy punk rock world and a quick friends-to-lovers journey unfolds. In LA, she has a brief enemies-to-lovers journey with the other intern she shares a desk with, a somewhat curmudgeonly young man named Adam who moonlights at his brother’s taco truck. In each path, she finds ways to connect with her mom and also discovers a possible career. Judaism is at the center of the narrative, with weekly Shabbat dinners and Jewish comfort food playing a central role in Natalya’s life. The book ends with a choose-your-own-adventure style, offering a conclusion with Elly or with Adam based on reader preference. While the parallel time lines are innovative, they are also a bit dizzying, and the many characters can be hard to track. VERDICT The inventive narrative devices are not entirely successful, but a fun and affirming story of a bisexual Jewish teen embraced and celebrated for both identities by her family and peers make this book a necessary purchase.–Reviewed by Mallory Weber

Impossible Escape: A True Story of Survival and Heroism in Nazi ­Europe by Steve Sheinkin. Roaring Brook. Aug. 2023. 256p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250265722.
Gr 8 Up–Sheinken has penned another must-read with this powerful and harrowing account of childhood friends Rudolf Vrba and Gerta Sidonová, Slovakian Jewish teens who not only survived the Holocaust but fought back against the Nazis. In 1942, when their government announced that Jews were to be deported to “work camps,” Rudi was determined not to go and ran away to try to make it to England. He was captured at the Hungarian border and sent to Auschwitz. Due to his age and health, he was spared the gas chambers and sent to work. With cunning, determination, and good luck, he managed to survive, but never stopped thinking about escape. In April 1944, Vrba and friend Alfred Wetzler made an astonishing escape—even though they were near starvation, they walked to Slovakia with a goal to tell the world what was happening in the camps. Their account became known as the Vrba-Wetzler report, which compelled President Roosevelt to intervene with the Hungarian authorities, credited with saving over 200,000 lives. Paralleling Rudi’s story, readers learn how Sidonová and her family hid with relatives in Hungary, and her later work with a Hungarian resistance. Sheinkin’s unflinching account of the torturous conditions in Auschwitz is chilling and unimaginable, and the escape is heart pounding. This is all expertly interwoven with informative background information making for an absorbing page-turner. This book is well documented with extensive source notes, bibliography, and index; it also includes two diagrams of the camp and black-and-white photos. VERDICT Thoroughly researched with exceptional writing, this riveting narrative is an important addition to Holocaust literature. Highly recommended for all libraries.–Reviewed by Karen T. Bilton 

Wrath Becomes Her by Aden Polydoros. Inkyard. Oct. 2023. 336p Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781335458032.

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