Though this is by no means a complete list, PW has compiled the following selection of recommended fiction and nonfiction about race and activism from creators of color, as well as suggested fiction that celebrates the diversity of the Black experience by #OwnVoices authors and illustrators.
Understanding Race and Anti-Racism
by Ibram X. Kendi, illus. by Ashley Lukashevsky (Kokila, June 16, $8.99, 9780593110416, ages up to 3)
National Book Award winner Kendi addresses the youngest of readers in this board book introduction to combatting racism, which outlines nine steps for raising accountable kids. A mindful companion for families striving together toward a more equitable future. See our full review.
M Is for Melanin: A Celebration of the Black Child
by Tiffany Rose (Little Bee Books, 2019, $17.99, 9781499809169, ages 3-6)
This A–Z affirmation of Black children presents each letter in different bold design, while the text works to inspire confidence and pride: “Be you. Love you. Always. All ways.” References to Black leaders—Obama (“Our first black president”) and Malcolm X (“Activist. Leader. Revolutionary”)—occur alongside calls for children to define and be themselves, and to “SPEAK OUT for what is right./SPEAK UP when others are silent.” See our full review.
Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson (Penguin/Paulsen, 2014, $17.99, 9780399252518, ages 10 and up)
Written in verse, Woodson’s collection of childhood memories, which won the Newbery Medal and a National Book Award, provides insight into the author’s perspective of America, “a country caught/ between Black and White,” during the turbulent 1960s. See our full starred review.
This Book Is Anti-Racist
by Tiffany Jewell (Quarto, Jan. 7, $14.99, 9780711245211, ages 11-15)
Using clear, compelling language, Jewell employs four sections to deftly explain progressive understandings of identity, history, action, and solidarity as tools to encourage anti-racist reflection, thought, and action among readers at various points in their activist journeys. See our full starred review.
Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and Me
by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi (Little, Brown, Mar. 10, $18.99, 9780316453691, ages 12 and up)
Reynolds lends his signature flair to remixing Kendi’s award-winning Stamped from the Beginning into a powerful “not a history book” primer on the historical roots and present-day manifestations of antiblack racism in America. In five sections, Reynolds discusses the influential figures, movements, and events that have propagated racist ideas, beginning in 1415 with the publication of the infamous work that laid the groundwork for subsequent religious justifications of enslaving African peoples and continuing through the “war on drugs” and #BlackLivesMatter. See our full starred review.
All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto
by George M. Johnson (FSG, Apr. 28, $17.99, 9780374312718, ages 14 and up)
Johnson’s debut is a collection of heartfelt personal essays revolving around themes of identity and family and his experience growing up Black and queer in New Jersey and Virginia. His story highlights the importance of community and inclusive sex education, as well as the freedom to define oneself outside of society’s conditioning. See our full starred review.
Don’t Touch My Hair
by Sharee Miller (Little, Brown, 2018, $17.99, 9780316562584, ages 4-8)
African American Aria is proud of her showstopping hair “that grows up toward the sun like a flower.” But people keep confusing admiration with acquiescence: strangers, she laments, “are so curious about my hair that they try to touch it without even asking for permission!” It feels like the entire universe has lost its sense of boundaries. Then she resolves to set limits, and, in speaking up for herself, she begins to feel free, respected, and in charge of her own body again. See our full starred review.
by Jerry Craft (HarperCollins/Quill Tree, 2019, $21.99, 9780062691200, ages 8-12)
In this Newbery-winning graphic novel, African American new kid Jordan Banks would rather go to art school, but his parents have enrolled him at the rigorous Riverdale Academy Day School, so he dutifully commutes to the Bronx from his home in Washington Heights, Manhattan. When he’s not being confused with the few other students of color, he is spoken to in slang, receives looks when financial aid is mentioned, or is forced to navigate many more micro-aggressions. This story captures the tensions that come with being a person of color in a traditionally white space. See our full starred review.
The Only Black Girls in Town
by Brandy Colbert (Little, Brown, Mar. 10, $16.99, 9780316456388, ages 8-12)
In this middle grade debut from Colbert, 12-year-old surfing fanatic Alberta and her fathers are the only Black family in their California neighborhood, until the Whitmans, including 12-year-old goth Edie, buy the B&B across the street. Despite their differences, the two become fast friends just as Alberta’s lifelong best friend, who is white, begins drifting toward the popular girl who has bullied Alberta with racist taunts for years. See our full starred review.
Black Brother, Black Brother
by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Little, Brown, Mar. 3, $16.99, 9780316493802, ages 8-12)
In this middle grade novel, Rhodes tells the story of two biracial brothers, Donte and Trey, navigating racism, colorism, and bullying. This novel offers relatable, three-dimensional characters considering identity, who will teach readers about colorism’s effects. See our full review.
by Sharon M. Draper (Atheneum/Dlouhy, 2018, $16.99, 9781442495005, ages 8-12)
After her parents’ divorce, competitive pianist Isabella, 11, divides her time between her white diner-waitress mother and her wealthy Black father. When a history class discussion about student protests and the history of lynching ends with a noose being placed in a black classmate’s locker, Isabella’s awareness of racist behavior skyrockets, as does her need to define who she is for herself. Draper (Out of My Mind) doesn’t shy away from challenging or uncomfortable topics; police aggression, gun violence, the complicated nature of divorce, and socioeconomic imbalances are all candidly addressed as real and important parts of Isabella’s experience. See our full starred review and Draper’s conversation about the book with Jason Reynolds.
For Black Girls Like Me
by Mariama J. Lockington (FSG, 2019, $16.99, 9780374308049, ages 9-11)
In this middle grade debut (told without commas in a mix of narration, letters, and poetry), Lockington introduces budding poet Makeda Kirkland, 11, a Black girl adopted by a white family. With intimate authenticity, she explores how fierce but “colorblind” familial love can result in erasure and sensitively delineates the pain of facing casual racism, as well as the disconcerting experience of being the child of a mentally ill parent. See our full starred review.
Genesis Begins Again
by Alicia D. Williams (Atheneum/Dlouhy, 2019, $17.99, 9781481465809, ages 9-13)
Forced to start over time and again because of a series of evictions, Genesis Anderson has a dearth of self-confidence (and a list of 96 reasons that she hates herself), and trouble making new friends. That slowly begins to change when her African American family moves to an upscale white suburb, and Genesis begins questioning the colorism that has seeped into her own psyche. See our full starred review.
by Torrey Maldonado (Penguin/Paulsen, Apr. 14, $16.99, 9780525518433, ages 10 and up)
Sixth grader Stephen is growing up in Brooklyn; he loves “superheroes, fantasy, sci-fi” and basketball, as well as hanging out with his best friend Dan, the same as he always has. But though his white mother calls him “mixed,” since he’s half Black and half white, Stephen’s beginning to realize the world now sees him as “what they imagine or what the media teaches them to think about Black men.” In relatively few words, Maldonado elucidates matters related to racial profiling, police violence against Black people, and allyship. See our full starred review.
by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Little, Brown, 2018, $16.99, 9780316262286, ages 10 and up)
In this novel from Rhodes, Jerome Rogers, a Black 12-year-old, is playing outside in his Chicago neighborhood with a toy gun when he is shot and killed by a white policeman who views him as a threat. Now Jerome wanders the earth with other “ghost boys” whose deaths are all connected to bigotry, including the ghost of Emmett Till. The only person who can see him is Sarah, the daughter of the policeman who killed him. See our full starred review and Galley Talk feature.
The Voting Booth
by Brandy Colbert (Disney-Hyperion, July 7, $18.99, 9781368053297, ages 12 and up)
African American teens Marva Sheridan and Duke Crenshaw, both 18, meet at their local polling station after Duke is turned away. Over the course of a day, the teens team up to beat a rigged system that uses voter suppression, and make sure Duke’s vote is counted.
by Brittney Morris (Simon Pulse, 2019, $18.99, 9781534445420, ages 12 and up)
This debut from Flying Starts author Morris explores gaming culture and the diversity of the African diaspora. Black teen Kiera Johnson has created a virtual reality game called SLAY as a safe space for Black gamers, but must keep her identity as its developer secret from her family and friends. See our full starred review.
Long Way Down
by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum/Dlouhy, 2017, $18.99, 9781481438254, ages 12 and up)
In this award-winning novel in verse by Reynolds, Will, 15, is following his neighborhood’s well-established rules—don’t cry, don’t snitch, but do get revenge “if someone you love/ gets killed”—when he leaves his apartment, intent on killing whoever murdered his older brother, emboldened by the gun tucked into his waistband. As Will makes his way to the ground floor of his building, the elevator stops to accept passengers, each an important figure from his past, all victims of gun violence. Are these ghosts? Or is it Will’s subconscious at work, forcing him to think about what he intends to do and what it will accomplish? See our full starred review.
Piecing Me Together
by Renée Watson (Bloomsbury, 2017, $17.99, 9781681191058, ages 12 and up)
In Watson's award-winning novel, Jade Butler, an African American artist-in-the-making, lives with her mother in Portland, Ore., and travels by bus to private school, where she is both grateful for and resentful of the opportunities presented to her. Jade’s narrative voice offers compelling reflections on the complexities of race and gender, class and privilege, and fear and courage, while conveying the conflicted emotions of an ambitious, loyal girl. See our full starred review.
All American Boys
by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (Atheneum/Dlouhy, 2015, $19.99, 9781481463331, ages 12 and up)
In this collaborative book, two authors—one Black, one white—present a story of police brutality: Reynolds voices Rashad, the innocent victim of a police beating; Kiely writes Quinn, a horrified witness. The book moves quickly, starting on a Friday night with the boys—classmates who don't know each other—preparing for a party, and ending with a social-media-inspired protest march one week later. The scenario that Reynolds and Kiely depict is as timely as ever. See our full starred review.
Monday’s Not Coming
by Tiffany Jackson (HarperCollins/Tegen, 2018, $17.99, 9780062422675, ages 13 and up)
Jackson’s sophomore novel, following 2017’s acclaimed Allegedly, features another ripped-from-the-headlines premise that will keep readers guessing through the final pages. After a summer in Georgia with her grandmother, Claudia returns to Washington, D.C., ready to take on eighth grade with her best friend, Monday, even though Monday didn’t respond to any of Claudia’s letters. Claudia soon finds, though, that Monday is gone. Jackson’s characters and their heartwrenching story linger long after the final page, urging readers to advocate for those who are disenfranchised and forgotten by society and the system. See our full starred review.
Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard
by Echo Brown (Henry Holt, Jan. 14, $17.99, 9781250309853, ages 14+)
Echo is a Black teen growing up on Cleveland’s East Side, where adults worship the “white rock,” and she is learning how to control her newfound powers as a “quantum wizard.” Using wizardry as a way to explore making something out of nothing and developing the skills it takes to survive traumatic events, Brown’s novel gives readers a potent glimpse into heartbreaking, unjust experiences and profound resilience in the face of wrongs perpetrated both systemically and interpersonally. The novel never shies from tough subject matter, as it deftly integrates magically realistic components and allegory into contemporary scenes. See our full review.
Who Put This Song On?
by Morgan Parker (Delacorte, 2019, $18.99, 9780525707516, ages 14 and up)
Set against the backdrop of the 2008 presidential election, this novel stars 17-year-old Morgan Parker, a self-proclaimed “super-emo” kid living with anxiety and depression in Southern California and one of the only Black kids at her conservative Christian school. After regularly experiencing racist microaggressions from her teachers and peers and a devastating event the previous summer landed her in therapy and on antidepressants, Morgan is determined to “get happy” and learn to love herself and her Blackness, whatever it takes. See our full starred review.
Tyler Johnson Was Here
by Jay Coles (Little, Brown, 2018, $17.99, 9780316440776, ages 14 and up)
Cole’s debut novel, based on events in his own life, follows Marvin Johnson, a college-bound senior in Alabama. From the opening pages, Marvin and his twin brother, Tyler, navigate racism, drug dealers, and police violence, their lives governed by the “talk that all decent black mothers and fathers give to their children at least once a month. The You-Live-in-a-White-Man’s-World-So-Be-Careful talk.” A distressing yet empowering portrait of a Black teenager confronting relentless racism, brutality, and tragedy. See our full review.
by Nic Stone (Crown, 2017, $17.99, 9781101939499, ages 14 and up)
Written as a mixture of script-style dialogues, third-person narrative, and letters to Martin Luther King Jr., Stone’s debut novel is a portrait of a young man reckoning with the ugly, persistent violence of social injustice. After nearly getting arrested while trying to help his white ex-girlfriend, who’s “stone drunk” and trying to drive herself home, high school senior Justyce McAllister confronts racism and racial profiling while searching for identity at a prestigious prep school, where he is one of only eight Black students. Pushed to the brink of despair when a close friend is shot by a white off-duty police officer, Justyce doesn’t know what to do with his anger. See our full review.
How It Went Down
by Kekla Magoon (Henry Holt, 2014, $18.99, 9780805098693, ages 14 and up)
Set in a neighborhood ruled by gangs, this novel offers multiple, contradictory perspectives on the shooting of an African American youth. No one disputes that 16-year-old Tariq Johnson was shot on the street by Jack Franklin, a white gang member, but the motives of both killer and victim remain fuzzy, as do the circumstances surrounding the shooting. Through a resonant chorus of voices, Magoon masterfully captures the cycle of urban violence and the raw emotions of the young people who can’t escape its impact. See our full starred review.
Raise Your Voice: Activism and Protest
A Is for Activist
by Innosanto Nagara (Triangle Square, 2012, $11.95, 9781609805395, ages 3-7)
This ABC board book is written for families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and more. Alliteration, rhyming, and bright colors appeal to young readers, while the issues it brings up will resonate with parents’ values of community, equality, and justice.
Counting on Community
by Innosanto Nagara (Triangle Square, 2015, $11.95, 9781609806323, ages 3-7)
Building on the success of A Is for Activist, this counting book celebrates active communities, devoting pages to everything from urban farming and chalk drawing to potlucks and protests. Digital collages and woodgrain-style textures lend an organic feel to the images, while radiating lines in the backgrounds emphasize the idea that close-knit communities have real power. See our full review
The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read
by Rita Lorraine-Hubbard, illus. by Oge Mora (Random House/Schwartz & Wade, Jan. 7, $17.99, 9781524768287, ages 4-8)
Mary Walker, born enslaved in 1848 Alabama, knew the first rule of her plantation (“Keep working!”) and the second: “Slaves should not be taught to read or write.” When she was 114 and had outlived her entire family, she entered a reading class, practiced writing until “pages and letters and words swirled in her head,” and at last achieved her goal. Walker’s determination and her long, long life—she died at 121—offer genuine inspiration. See our full starred review.
What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton, illus. by Ekua Holmes (S&S/Beach Lane, 2018, $18.99, 9781481465618, ages 4-8)
This celebration of Congresswoman Barbara Jordan follows her as a child growing up in the Fifth Ward in Houston, where she commanded attention through her powerful voice, and tells how her intellectual curiosity and desire to be civically engaged led her to become a lawyer, then a politician, “to make change from within.” See our full review.
by Shane W. Evans (Roaring Brook, 2012, $17.99, 9781596435391, ages 4-8)
This account of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—identified only in a concluding note—drives home the emotion and the drama of that event. Evans spotlights a family of four, joining the march that culminates in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Though the day unfolds through the family’s perspective, what emerges is a communal voice that conveys a strong sense of solidarity and purpose. See our full review.
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down
by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illus. by Brian Pinkney (Little, Brown, 2010, $18.99, 9780316070164, ages 6 and up)
In this collaboration, the Pinkneys recreate the renowned 1960 sit-in staged by four Black college students at a Greensboro “whites only” lunch counter. The narrative incorporates a steady stream of food metaphors, noting that the students ignored the law’s “recipe” for segregation (“a bitter mix”) replacing it the “new brew” of integration. A civil rights timeline and additional facts and suggested reading about the topic round out this account. See our full review.
Someday Is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-ins
by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, illus. by Jade Johnson (Seagrass, 2019, $17.95, 9781633224988, ages 6-9)
In this sensitive story based on African American educator and activist Clara Luper, who, in 1958, organized students to take part in a lunch counter sit-in in Oklahoma City, Rhuday-Perkovich depicts Luper’s early awakening to racial inequity that led her to channel her energies into teaching Black children about history and the power of nonviolent demonstration. An authentic tribute to a brave and compassionate activist. See our full review.
by Kwame Alexander, illus. by Kadir Nelson (HMH/Versify, 2019, $17.99, 9781328780966, ages 6-9)
An anthem to the courage and genius of Black Americans, the figures featured in this Caldecott-winning volume are not just well-known; Alexander writes about nameless heroes and unsung martyrs. Acknowledging deep wounds, repeating the phrase “This is for the unspeakable” over successive portraits of infamous atrocities committed against Americans of African descent and remembering peaceful civil rights activists, Alexander communicates clearly that when Black lives matter, America is stronger. See our full starred review.
A Place to Land
by Barry Wittenstein, illus. by Jerry Pinkney (Holiday House/Porter, 2019, $18.99, 9780823443314, ages 7-10)
Wittenstein and Pinkney come together for a deep dive into the speech that galvanized the 1963 March on Washington. The book stars not only Martin Luther King Jr. but also the colleagues whose support was crucial to him, showing that historical moments—and movements—are not inevitable; they’re shaped and changed by many hands and voices. In emphatic phrases and art alternatingly warm and tense, the creators’ portrait of the civil rights leader in consultation with others is an invaluable addition to the shelf of King biographies. See our full starred review.
Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History
by Vashti Harrison (Little, Brown, 2019, $16.99, 9780316475143, ages 8-12)
This illustrated volume from Harrison compiles stories of notable Black men in history, including aviators, artists, politicians, pop stars, athletes, and activists, spanning centuries and continents, all of whom blazed a trail for future generations.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
by Vashti Harrison (Little, Brown, 2017, $16.99, 9780316475112, ages 8-12)
Featuring trailblazing Black women in American history, this collection includes women from various points in history with diverse backgrounds, all of whom take a stand against a world that doesn’t always accept them.
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer
by Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by Ekua Holmas (Candlewick, 2015, $17.99, 9780763665319, ages 9-12)
In this multi-award winning volume, Weatherford shares the story of Fannie Lou Hamer, a champion of civil rights from the 1950s until her death in 1977. Integral to the Freedom Summer of 1964, Hamer gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention that, despite President Johnson’s interference, aired on national TV news and spurred the nation to support the Freedom Democrats.
This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality
by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy (Bloomsbury, 2019, $17.99, 9781681198521, ages 10-12)
Boyce, one of 12 Black students who integrated Clinton, Tenn.’s public high school in August 1956, following racial desegregation, relays the story of that harrowing experience in verse. Addressing the duplicity of the court-ordered integration, Boyce poignantly describes the cruelty of white students, while never losing hope in the belief that racial equality is attainable and that she can help make it happen. See our full starred review.
Say Her Name
by Zetta Elliott, illus. by Loveis Wise (Little, Brown, Jan. 14, $18.99, 9781368045247, ages 12 and up)
Inspired by the #SayHerName campaign launched by the African American Policy Forum, this collection of 49 poems pays tribute to victims of police brutality and the activists insisting that Black Lives Matter. Elliott engages poets from the past two centuries to create a chorus of voices celebrating the creativity, resilience, and courage of Black women and girls.
March (Books 1-3)
by John Lewis, illus. by Nate Powell (Top Shelf, 2016, $49.99, 9781603093958, ages 13-16)
In three volumes, the third of which earned a National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, Georgia Congressman John Lewis frames his story as a flashback told to a few inquisitive visitors in his Washington office as he is getting ready to attend the inauguration of President Barack Obama, beginning with his hardscrabble childhood on a remote Georgia farm to his gradual awakening to the pernicious evil of segregation and his growing leadership role in Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent resistance movement. See our full starred review of Book 1.
by Mahogany L. Browne, illus, by Theodore Taylor III (Roaring Brook, 2018, $7.99, 9781250308986, ages up to 3)
From educator and activist Browne, this board book celebrates what it means be woke, or “aware of and actively working against racial, political, and social injustices.” Woke babies get up early, raise their fists in the air, cry for justice, and grow up to change the world.
A Sweet Smell of Roses
by Angela Johnson, illus. by Eric Velasquez (Simon & Schuster, 2015, $19.99, 9780689832529, ages 5-8)
This collaboration between Johnson and Velasquez pays tribute to the children who played a role in the civil rights movement, the "brave boys and girls who—like their adult counterparts—could not resist the scent of freedom carried aloft by the winds of change." Together, text and art evoke the gumption of two spirited sisters who sneak out of their home one day to participate in a march led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. See our full review.
Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson, illus. by Frank Morrison (HMH, 2018, $17.99, 9780544704527, ages 6-9)
Unfolding through the resolute voice of a fictional African American girl participating in the 1963 Children’s Crusade, Clark-Robinson’s story follows young residents of Birmingham, Ala., marching to protest segregation. With her parents unable to risk losing their jobs, the girl, her brother, and thousands of their peers volunteer to serve as “Dr. King’s army.” Refrains (“Singing the songs of freedom, one thousand strong we came”) are displayed like banners across the pages, emphasizing collective strength in the face of brutal violence. See our full review.
Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice
by Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Olivia Gatewood, illus. by Theodore Taylor III (Roaring Brook, Mar. 10, $18.99, 9781250311207, ages 8-12)
Following an introduction that defines what it means to be woke, Browne’s poems combine clear declarations with easy-to-grasp metaphors to convey progressive values. Privilege is compared to a toolbox (“We can choose/ to use it to help people who don’t have what we do”) and gender to a rainbow (“There are so many shades between boy and girl”). With its references to figures such as Janet Mock and Trayvon Martin, this volume is a useful conversation-starter. See our full review.
A Good Kind of Trouble
by Lisa Moore Ramee (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, 2019, $16.99, 9780062836687, ages 8-12)
Twelve-year-old Shay’s palms itch when she senses trouble coming, and this year, they seem to be itching more than ever. She and her elementary school besties had dubbed themselves “the United Nations”—Isabella is Puerto Rican, Julia is Japanese American, and Shay is African American—but everyone begins moving in different directions as junior high begins. Meanwhile, in their city of Los Angeles, tensions are high over the trial of a police officer who shot an unarmed Black man. When the officer is set free, and Shay goes with her family to a silent protest, she starts to see that some trouble is worth making. See our full starred review.
We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices
edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson (Crown, 2018, $18.99, 9780525580423, ages 8-12)
Wade and Cheryl Willis Hudson, founders of Just Us Books, offer this empowering anthology to counter today’s often-unsettling political climate for children of varying ethnicities, faiths, identities, and abilities, presenting 30 illustrated essays, poems, stories, and letters from more than 50 diverse children’s book creators. Contributions aim to calm, sustain, and inspire children. See our full starred review.
Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968
by Alice Faye Duncan, illus. by R. Gregory Christie (Calkins Creek, 2018, $17.99, 9781629797182, ages 9-12)
In this story of the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike, triggered after two Black sanitation workers died when their poorly maintained truck malfunctioned, Duncan writes in fervent free verse from the perspective of Lorraine Jackson, a fictional girl whose father joins the strike and who is loosely based on Almella Starks-Umoja, a teacher who marched in strike protests with her parents as a child. Gouache paintings by Christie feature a montage of panoramas and portraits, including those of the protesters, King, and Lorraine’s family. See our full review.
by Tanya Bolden (Bloomsbury, Jan. 14, $17.99, 9781681198040, ages 13 and up)
Following Inventing Victoria, Bolden returns to the world of upper-class African American society in historical Washington, D.C., where she explores the tumultuous changes of 1919—the fight for women’s suffrage, the New Negro movement, the growth of anarchism—through the eyes of 17-year-old Savannah Riddle, who has grown increasingly embarrassed, even repulsed, by her privileged life. Enhanced by a comprehensive author’s note, this is a valuable portrayal of affluent African American society and of post-WWI life. See our full review.
I’m Not Dying with You Tonight
by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal (Sourcebooks Fire, 2019, $17.99, 9781492678892, ages 14 and up)
Debut authors Segal and Jones deliver split points of view in this drama that follows two teens: Lena, who is Black, and Campbell, who is white, two teens who must rely on one another after a racially charged fight breaks out during a football game, school resource officers become involved, gunshots are fired and a riot erupts. An accessible look at urgent issues of racial justice. See our full review.
The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, 2017, $18.99, 9780062498533, ages 14 and up)
At home in a neighborhood riven with gang strife, Starr Carter, 16, is both the grocer’s daughter and an outsider, because she attends private school many miles away. At Williamson Prep, where she’s among a handful of Black students, she can’t be herself either: no slang, no anger, no attitude. Already wrestling with what Du Bois called “double consciousness,” she accepts a ride home from Khalil, a childhood friend, who is then pulled over and shot dead by a white cop. Thomas authentically depicts a teenage girl, her loving family, and her attempts to reconcile what she knows to be true about their lives with the way those lives are represented—and completely undervalued—by society at large. See our full starred review and Flying Starts interview with Thomas.
Windows and Mirrors from Black #OwnVoices Creators
Brown Baby Lullaby
by Tameka Fryer Brown, illus. by AG Ford (FSG, Jan. 14, $16.99, 9780374307523, ages 2-6)
This lyrical bedtime picture book follows two brown-skinned parents from sunset to bedtime as they lovingly care for their beautiful brown baby: first, they play outside, then it is time for dinner and a bath, and finally a warm snuggle before bed.
The King of Kindergarten
by Derrick Barnes, illus. by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Penguin/Paulsen, 2019, $17.99, 9781524740740, ages 3-6)
When a mother gives her son the titular nickname, it inspires him throughout his first day of school. Affirming text and energizing drawings by Brantley-Newton skillfully balance bright colors, patterns, and textures, putting a spring in the step of any reluctant kindergartner. Who wouldn’t want to be thought of as “the charming, the wonderful and the kind” class sovereign? See our full starred review.
Honeysmoke: A Story of Finding Your Color
by Monique Fields, illus. by Yesenia Moises (Imprint, 2019, $17.99, 9781250115829, ages 3-6)
A biracial girl searches for the perfect color word to describe herself in this empowering picture book with a universal theme of self-identity, eventually creating a special word to describe the combination of her mother’s dark and her father’s light skin colors: honeysmoke.
by Nancy Amanda Redd, illus. by Nneka Myers (Random House, Apr. 7, $17.99, 9781984895240, ages 3-7)
In this story about an intergenerational Black family’s nighttime hair routines, the youngest, an expressive girl sporting two Afro puffs, introduces readers to her family as they begin readying for bed. Discovering that her bedtime bonnet is missing, a search ensues, with the whole family pitching in to help. Redd’s family represents a range of varying hair textures and care routines, while Myers’s illustrations bring the close-knit crew and their daily rituals to affectionate life. See our full review.
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut
by Derrick Barnes, illus. by Gordon C. Jones (Bolden/Milner, 2017, $18.95, 9781572842243, ages 3-8)
How good can a haircut make a person feel? In this powerfully moving tribute to barbershop culture, Barnes addresses readers directly—and it’s safe to say his audience is primarily boys of color—using hyperbole to boost their confidence and help them recognize their own value. Pride, confidence, and joy radiate from the pages, both in the Black and brown faces of men, women, boys, and girls featured in James’s paintings, and in writing that celebrates human worth with every syllable. See our full review.
by Christian Robinson (Atheneum, June 2, $17.99, 9781534421691, ages 4-8)
Simple and heartfelt, the refrain of Caldecott Honoree Robinson’s poem speaks directly to readers: “You matter.” In a neat rhetorical twist, the line also refers to the Earth itself, whose evolutionary history flashes by in gently comic collages made with blocky forms and bold paint strokes, human concerns receding in geological time, then coming into focus as a brown-skinned astronaut orbits Earth while holding a photo of a child. A page turn shows the child back on Earth looking wistfully out an apartment window: “Sometimes, someone you love says goodbye.” Robinson represents life as both interconnected and precious. See our full starred review and read our interview with Robinson on “Creating Art That Matters.”
Just Like Me
by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Knopf, Jan. 14, $17.99, 9780525582090, ages 4-8)
In this picture-book poetry collection, Brantley-Newton writes in the voices of various girls, exploring themes such as community and identity (“I Am a Canvas”), simple pleasures (“Summer Loves”), and unavoidable troubles (“Pimples”). Ranging from a few lines to the length of a page, the poems are matched with bright, textured, mixed-media illustrations featuring a variety of girls—curly and straight haired, ethnically diverse, blemish-dotted, glasses-wearing, spunky, shy, lonely, and empowered—in highly relatable moments. See our full review.
by Lupita Nyong’o, illus. by Vashti Harrison (Simon & Schuster, 2019, $17.99, 9781534425361, ages 4-8)
In this picture book by Academy Award-winning actor Nyong’o, when Sulwe’s schoolmates call her names, she endeavors to lighten her skin, and even her mother’s wisdom cannot convince her of her inherent worth. A nested fable shows Sulwe what happens when Night and Day, two magnificent sisters, react to peoples’ initial preference for Day’s light. By turns beguiling and magical, this volume clearly conveys the pain of colorism, confronting it head-on. See our full starred review.
by Matthew A. Cherry, illus. by Vashti Harrison (Kokila, 2019, $17.99, 9780525553366, ages 4-8)
Based on Cherry’s animated short film of the same title, this picture book is about Zuri, a Black girl who is proud of her hair, which “kinks, coils, and curls every which way.” In need of a spectacular coif on a special day, her devoted father tackles the task, at first underestimating the challenge, then rallying to save the day. A bighearted ode to individuality and father-daughter collaboration. See our full review.
by Breanna J. McDaniel, illus. by Shane W. Evans (Dial, 2019, $17.99, 9780525552314, ages 4-8)
A brown-skinned girl’s day begins with a stretch to “greet the sun, bold and bright,” and additional hands-up motions follow as she lifts her hands to let her parents pull on her shirt, enthusiastically gestures to her teacher (“Please pick me, Ms. B!”), reaches for a book on a high shelf, lifts hands “in praise and worship,” and jumps to score during a basketball game—and then triumphantly raises a trophy above her head. An uplifting celebration of advocating for oneself, aiding those in need, and connecting with community. See our full review.
I Am Enough
by Grace Byers, illus. by Keturah A. Bobo (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, 2018, $18.99, 9780062667120, ages 4-8)
An ode to self-confidence and kindness from actor and activist Grace Byers, this picture book depicts girls of diverse body shapes and skin tones.
What Is Given from the Heart
by Patricia C. McKissack, illus. by April Harrison (Random House/Schwartz & Wade, 2018, $17.99, 9780375836152, ages 4-8)
James Otis and his mother don’t have much. Daddy died last April and the family farm is gone, so the two of them now live in a “run-down shotgun house” that floods when it rains, but when their pastor asks the congregation to help a family who lost everything in a fire, Mama does her part, sewing an apron made from her cherished white tablecloth, and expects James to find “a li’l bit of something” for the girl, Sarah. After giving it much thought, he creates a book for and about Sarah herself—a gift the girl presses to her heart. See our full starred review.
Mae Among the Stars
by Roda Ahmed, illus. by Stasia Burrington (HarperCollins, 2017, $17.99, 9780062651730, ages 4-8)
Ahmed’s first children’s book presents a fictional portrait of a young Mae Jemison, whose parents support her dream of becoming an astronaut; their advice (“If you can dream it, if you believe it and work hard for it, anything is possible”) becomes the book’s refrain. An afterword provides some details about Jemison’s career and various firsts she accomplished, including becoming the first African American woman in space. See our full review.
Hey Black Child
by Useni Eugene Perkins, illus. by Bryan Collier (Little, Brown, 2017, $18.99, 9780316360302, ages 4-8)
Perkins’s 1975 poem features compact, rhythmic language that’s both avuncular and commandingly rhetorical (“Hey Black Child/ Do you know who you are/ Who you really are”). Each stanza begins with a close, almost photorealistic portrait of a confident, happy child, with subsequent pages showing how the child’s passion, coupled with a proud sense of heritage, leads him or her to become someone who helps make “your nation/ what you want it to be.” See our full starred review.
by Oge Mora (Little, Brown, 2019, $18.99, 9780316431279, ages 4-8)
Ava’s mother works six days a week, so Saturday, their only day together, “was the day they cherished,” but, despite a practiced plan and tickets to a “one-night-only puppet show,” this one isn’t going particularly well. But they face each setback the same way: “They paused, closed their eyes, and—whew!—let out a deep breath,” then Ava’s mother reassures her that “today will be special. Today will be splendid. Today is SATURDAY!” Carefully paced repetition structures the family’s experiences, and brilliantly colored collages by Mora convey their trip through the city with elegant energy. Read our full starred review.
My Hair Is a Garden
by Cozbi A. Cabrera (Albert Whitman, 2018, $16.99, 9780807509234, ages 5-7)
After being bullied by classmates about her unruly hair, Mackenzie seeks guidance from her wise and comforting neighbor, Miss Tillie. Using the garden in the backyard as a metaphor, Miss Tillie shows Mackenzie that Black hair is beautiful and that maintaining healthy hair is not a chore nor is it something to fear.
The Day You Begin
by Jacqueline Woodson, illus. by Rafael López (Penguin/Paulsen, 2018, $18.99, 9780399246531, ages 5-8)
In this picture book, former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Woodson imagines being “an only” in the classroom—what it’s like to be the only one with an accent (“No one understands the way words curl from your mouth”), the only one who stayed home during summer vacation (“What good is this/ when other students were flying/ and sailing”), the only one whose lunch box is filled with food “too strange or too unfamiliar for others to love as you do.” Without prescribing sympathy, Woodson’s poetic lines give power to each child’s experience. See our full starred review.
Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration
by Samara Cole Doyon, illus. by Kaylani Juanita (Tilbury House, Jan. 7, $16.95, 9780884487975, ages 6-8)
Browns of all kinds are lauded through a natural lens in this celebration of community and belonging. Inclusive mixed media art by Juanita portrays scenes of comfort and abundance: families laughing and cuddling; women enjoying bounty; children engaging in leaping, lively play. Throughout, the creators draw the beauty of the natural world—a forest, a snowstorm—into relationship with the characters until the twined concepts become part of a quilted family tree. A magnificent paean to a varied hue. See our full starred review.
Ways to Make Sunshine
by Renée Watson (Bloomsbury, Ap.l 28, $16.99, 9781547600564, ages 7-10)
In this series opener, a loose reimagining of Ramona Quimby’s exploits, Watson adroitly captures the uncertainty of growing up amid change through the eyes of an irrepressible Black girl. In vignette-style chapters, Watson warmly weaves together slice-of-life moments that capture youthful doubt alongside moments of loss and joy, showing a tight-knit family navigating difficulties with plenty of courage and plenty of love. Occasional illustrations by Mata (She’s Got This) emphasize the story’s vibrant realism. See our full starred review and Watson’s essay on “Holding On to Sunshine” in difficult times.
King and the Dragonflies
by Kacen Callender (Scholastic Press, Feb. 4, $17.99, 9781338129335, ages 8-12)
In this tale of grief, intersectional identity, and love, 12-year-old Kingston “King” Reginald James has lost his beloved older brother, Khalid, 16, three months before the story starts, though King believes Khalid has become a dragonfly and visits nightly in his dreams. When Charles “Sandy” Sanders—the son of the racist sheriff and King’s former friend—disappears, and King realizes he was the last to see Sandy, he ponders his obligation to tell anyone; King knows Sandy is a victim of domestic abuse and suspects Sandy’s father is the perpetrator. King shines wholly real as a Black child learning to negotiate shifting interpersonal relationships and navigate sociocultural pressures and expectations. See our full starred review.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington
by Janae Marks (HarperCollins/Tegen, Jan. 14, $16.99, 9780062875853, ages 8-12)
On her 12th birthday, aspiring pastry chef Zoe Washington receives a letter from Marcus, the biological father she’s never met, who has been serving time for murder since just before Zoe’s birth. Zoe’s mother and stepfather don’t want her in touch with Marcus, but Zoe, curious, strikes up a correspondence with the help of her maternal grandmother, who believes Marcus to be “a good person at heart.” When Marcus tells Zoe he is innocent, and her grandmother agrees, Zoe begins to learn about inequality in the criminal justice system, and she sets out to find the alibi witness who can prove his innocence. See our full starred review.
by Nic Stone (Crown, Jan. 7, $16.99, 9781984892973, ages 8-12)
Part history lesson, part road trip, this middle grade debut by the YA author stars William “Scoob” Lamar, a biracial, Black-presenting 12-year-old, as he heads off on a road trip with his beloved grandmother, G’ma, who is white. He mostly goes to escape a punishment from his father, but as the two make their way through the South, Scoob learns more about the grandfather whom he never met, the interracial couple’s 1963 road trip, which G’ma aims to complete, and the ways in which the world has changed and remained the same. A heartwarming, family-centered adventure that will leave readers guessing until the end. See our full starred review.
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky
by Kwame Mbalia (Disney/Riordan, 2019, $17.99, 9781368039932, ages 8-12)
In this triumphant middle grade debut inspired by West African mythology and African-American folk tales, Black seventh grader Tristan Strong accidentally tears a hole between his grandparent’s Alabama farm and the myriad lands of Alke, where he encounters legendary folk heroes such as hammer-swinging John Henry and wily Brer Fox. To mend the rift, save the day, and return home, Tristan and his allies must seek out the missing trickster god Anansi, a journey that takes them to regions inhabited by ancient gods. Flying Starts author Mbalia expertly weaves a meaningful portrayal of family and community with folklore, myth, and history—including the legacy of the slave trade—creating a fast-paced, heroic series starter. See our full starred review and our interview with Mbalia about his forthcoming sequel.
Some Places More Than Others
by Renée Watson (Bloomsbury, 2019, $16.99, 9781681191089, ages 8-12)
When “sneaker-head” Amara Baker wants to visit her father’s childhood home in Harlem for her upcoming 12th birthday, her mother, eight months pregnant with a baby sister Amara is less than thrilled about, isn’t too keen on the idea. But when her humanities teacher assigns a project requiring Amara to delve into her family history, her father agrees to take her to visit his family, including Grandpa Earl, with whom her dad hasn’t spoken in 12 years. See our full review.
The Last Last-Day-of-Summer
by Lamar Giles (HMH/Versify, 2019, $16.99, 9781328460837, ages 8-12)
In the Virginia county that’s home to African American cousins and renowned sleuths Otto and Sheed Alston, curious goings-on are commonplace, but on the last day of summer vacation, things “get stranger than usual”—by a lot. A fantastical time war plays out at a dizzying pace as Giles interjects affecting realism with themes of reconciliation, family, identity, and destiny. See our full starred review.
by Paula Chase (Greenwillow, 2018, $16.99, 9780062691781, ages 8-12)
Growing up together in a housing project, 13-year-olds Tai and Mila are longtime best friends, but they couldn’t be more opposite, and their differences only increase after Mila spends the summer in the suburbs with her aunt and older sister. When she returns home, Tai senses that something in Mila has changed, and it causes a rift, leaving only their mutual love of dance and the upcoming audition for a program designed for fine arts students. Chase vividly conjures the triumphs, tensions, and worries percolating in the girls’ low-income neighborhood alongside the growing anticipation about who will be chosen for the program and whether Mila will divulge her secret. See our full starred review.
The Parker Inheritance
by Varian Johnson (Scholastic, 2018, $16.99, 9780545946179, ages 8-12)
Twelve-year-old Candice Miller begrudgingly moves with her mother from Atlanta to the small town of Lambert, S.C., for the summer, where in her late grandmother’s house she finds a letter addressed to her grandmother, which promises treasure to the city if the letter’s puzzle can be solved. Candice then learns that her grandmother’s efforts to do so years earlier cost her both her reputation and her job as the first African American city manager in Lambert and digs into the mystery along with Brandon, an 11-year-old neighbor who is being bullied. Johnson addresses important issues gracefully, particularly having the freedom to live a life of one’s choosing and the long-lasting effects of discrimination. See our our full review and interview with Johnson.
by Tracey Baptiste (Algonquin, 2015, $15.95, 9781616204143, ages 9-12)
Jumbies are ancient, shape-shifting spirits living amid old-growth mahogany forests, feared and whispered about by humans, but 11-year-old Corinne and her father, Pierre, don’t care; they live in a cottage under the forest eaves and tend the richest garden in the village, which is dominated by an orange tree planted by Corinne’s mother before her untimely death. It’s a happy household, but her father is lonely, and gradually falls under the spell of Severine, a jumbie in human disguise, embittered and seeking revenge. See our full review and our Q&A with Baptiste.
by Ronald L. Smith (Clarion, Feb. 11, $16.99, 9781328841612, ages 10 and up)
In this quirky dark fantasy set in a small seaside town known as Gloom, a biracial 12-year-old boy is desperate to help his mother pay the rent on the cottage they share and takes a job as a gentleman’s valet, only to discover that his frightening new master may be an ancient inhuman entity with a sinister agenda. See our full review.
My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich
by Ibi Zoboi (Dutton, 2019, $16.99, 9780399187353, ages 10 and up)
Neurodiverse, rising seventh-grader Ebony-Grace Norfleet Freeman (or, as she prefers, Cadet E-Grace Starfleet) is obsessed with all manner of science fiction, much preferring her internal life to the real world. When her aging grandfather, who was among the first Black NASA engineers, is beset by unspecified trouble, Ebony is sent from her affluent Alabama family to stay with her working-class father in Harlem. Homesick, Ebony finds it impossible to fit in with neighborhood girls interested in Double Dutch and Dapper Dan’s and instead uses her “imagination location” to create tales about rescuing her grandfather, the audacious Captain Fleet. See our full review.
by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum/Dlouhy, 2016, $17.99, 9781481450157, ages 10 and up)
In this compelling series opener, seventh-grader Castle Cranshaw, nicknamed Ghost, knows nothing about track when a former Olympian recruits him as a sprinter for one of the city's youth teams. As far as Ghost is concerned, "whoever invented track got the whole gun means go thing right," something he learned firsthand when his father tried to shoot Ghost and his mother in their apartment three years prior. The track team provides friends, goals, and an opportunity for Ghost to move beyond his past. Reynolds uses a light hand to delve into topics that include gun violence, class disparity, and bullying. Read our full starred review.
Novels for Teens
You Should See Me in a Crown
by Leah Johnson (Scholastic Press, June 2, $17.99, 9781338503265, ages 12 and up)
Indiana high school senior Liz Lighty has two goals: attend prestigious Pennington College like her late mother, and become a doctor to study the disease that ended her mother’s life. When the music scholarship she’s counting on falls through, Liz’s brother persuades her to do the unthinkable as one of the only Black girls at wealthy, majority-white, and sometimes racist Campbell County High—run for prom queen and win the $10,000 scholarship that accompanies the prom-obsessed town’s crown. See our full starred review.
A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope
edited by Patrice Caldwell (Viking, Mar. 10, $18.99, 9781984835659, ages 12 and up)
In this anthology of 16 short stories that center Black female and gender-nonconforming characters within fantasy and speculative fiction, authors of varying backgrounds, including Elizabeth Acevedo, Justina Ireland, and Rebecca Roanhorse, cover timely themes such as colorism, mental health, ancestry and tradition, and sexual and gender identity, exploring the beauty, bravery, fear, history, and empowerment of being Black. See our full starred review.
by Akwaeke Emezi (Random House/Make Me a World, 2019, $17.99, 9780525647072, ages 12 and up)
Carnegie Medal nominee Emezi makes their young adult debut in this story of a transgender, selectively nonverbal girl named Jam, and the monster that finds its way into their universe. Emezi’s direct but tacit story of injustice, unconditional acceptance, and the evil perpetuated by humankind forms a compelling, nuanced tale that fans of speculative horror will quickly devour. See our full starred review.
I Wanna Be Where You Are
by Kristina Forest (Roaring Brook, 2019, $17.99, 9781250294883, ages 12 and up)
When Chloe Pierce decides to go against her mother’s wishes to audition at the conservatory of her dreams, her annoying neighbor Eli demands to come with her, threatening to ruin her plan if she refuses. This road trip rom-com about an African American ballerina finding love en route to an audition will appeal to fans of Jenny Han and Sandhya Menon.
Beasts Made of Night
by Tochi Onyebuchi (Razorbill, 2017, $17.99, 9780448493909, ages 12 and up)
Themes of belonging, self-discovery, and inequity round out the world of Onyebuchi’s debut, where war and dark magic are around every corner, and the main character, Taj is an ak—a sin eater; important yet reviled, aki battle and consume the sins of others, which take on the physical form of beasts. Onyebuchi’s worldbuilding is vivid and beguiling, and Taj’s outward cockiness hides a core of vulnerability. See our full review.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
by Roseanne A. Brown (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, June 2, $18.99, 9780062891495, ages 13 and up)
Magic creates a centuries-long divide between peoples in this stunning debut novel inspired by North African and West African folklore. An action-packed tale of injustice, magic, and romance, this novel immerses readers in a thrilling world and narrative reminiscent of Children of Blood and Bone. See our full starred review.
A Song Below Water
by Bethany C. Morrow (Tor Teen, June 2, $17.99, 9781250315328, ages 13 and up)
Play-sisters Tavia and Effie are both Black teens in Portland, Ore., with secrets: Tavia, who is selectively nonverbal, is a siren in a world that persecutes sirens and seeks to silence their mythic voices, and Effie, who plays a mermaid at Renaissance fairs, doesn’t know what brand of mythical creature she is, only that she’s changing day by day. When the recent murder of a Black girl is tacitly justified by rumor that she may have been a siren, Tavia’s heavily insulated world is turned upside down, with Effie as her only constant. Morrow excels at grounding her fantastical reimagining of the modern world through depictions of marginalized experiences. See our full review.
All the Things We Never Knew
by Liara Tamani (Greenwillow, May 13, $18.99, 9780062656919, ages 13 and up)
Texas high school junior basketball star Rex Carrington has a tradition at the free-throw line: blowing a kiss to his mother, who died giving birth to him. On the day his kiss happens to land on 16-year-old Carli, another basketball champion from another school, she passes out, he catches her, and the two form a bond that eventually turns into love. Readers will be easily swept away by this tale exploring the hearts and souls of two emotionally vulnerable athletes. See our full starred review.
The Sound of Stars
by Alechia Dow (Inkyard, Feb. 25, $18.99, 9781335911551, ages 13 and up)
Debut author Dow combines alien invasion, dystopian romance, and road trip tropes in this story of an alien occupation of Earth. Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker, who is African American and suffers from anxiety and hypothyroidism, operates a contraband library in her New York City apartment building, where 1,000 people, including her family, are being held by the alien Ilori. Amid references to popular media, Dow paints a moving picture of two teenagers’ defiance and the power of song and story to combat despair. See our full review.
Not So Pure and Simple
by Lamar Giles (HarperCollins/Quill Tree, Jan. 21, $17.99, 9780062349194, ages 13 and up)
High schooler Del Rainey has had a crush on Kiera Westing since kindergarten, but Kiera has never been single. When she suddenly becomes single, he’s determined to give things a go, inadvertently signing up for their church’s Purity Pledge group alongside her, an eight-week program offering “a thorough review of why Jesus wants me to abstain.” With true-to-life characters and a straightforward handling of sex, including often ignored aspects of male sexuality, Giles’s thoughtful, hilarious read offers a timely viewpoint on religion, toxic masculinity, and teen sexuality. See our full starred review.
A Love Hate Thing
by Whitney D. Grandison (Inkyard, Jan. 7, $18.99, 9781335016041, ages 13 and up)
Despite having been shot, Tyson Trice has survived the mean streets of Lindenwood, so nothing can faze him—not even being tossed into the affluent coastal community of Pacific Hills. Nandy Smith is not pleased when she hears her parents are taking in a troubled teen boy, fearing her summer plans and reputation will be ruined. Will one house be big enough for their hate—or love?
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine
by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite (Inkyard, 2019, $18.99, 9781335777096, ages 13 and up)
Alaine Beauparlant, 17, is the ambitious, impulsive, and highly opinionated first-generation Haitian-American daughter of divorced parents whose future plans hit turbulence months shy of her graduation after an incident involving her journalist mother and an overfamiliar politician. After a poorly executed plot to defend her mother leaves Alaine suspended, she’s sent to Haiti to volunteer with a charity app created by her aunt, the Haitian Minister of Tourism. The Moulite sisters’ debut is a funny, bittersweet story of loss, regret, love, and sacrifice, centered on the fictional female descendants of real-life Haitian queen Marie-Louise Coidavid. See our full starred review.
With the Fire on High
by Elizabeth Acevedo (HarperCollins/Quill Tree, 2019, $17.99, 9780062662835, ages 13 and up)
In this novel from National Book Award and Printz winner Acevedo, Afro–Puerto Rican and African-American high school senior Emoni Santiago lives in Philadelphia with her two-year-old daughter, Emma and paternal grandmother. A talented cook, Emoni balances school, work at a local burger joint, and motherhood—including shared custody with her ex-boyfriend, Tyrone—with moments in the kitchen, where her “magical hands” create dishes that allow the eater to access deep, surprising memories. But she’s not sure what to do with her passion, or after high school, until enrolling in a culinary arts elective. Acevedo’s unvarnished depiction of young adulthood is at once universal and intensely specific. See our full starred review.
The Voice in My Head
by Dana L. Davis (Inkyard, 2019, $18.99, 9781335008497, ages 13 and up)
Indigo Phillips has always lived in the shadow of her popular, perfect identical twin, Violet, but when Violet becomes terminally ill and plans to die via medically assisted death, Indigo spirals into desperation in her efforts to cope, beginning to hear a mysterious voice claiming to be God. As she deals with outrageous mishaps, strange lodgings and even stranger folks along the way, Indigo will figure out how to come to terms with her sister, her family, and the voice in her head.
Let Me Hear a Rhyme
by Tiffany D. Jackson (HarperCollins/Tegen, 2019, $17.99, 9780062840325, ages 13 and up)
Jackson deftly chronicles the timely story of bold young talent gone too soon and the survivors who struggle to keep it alive. Aspiring teen rap artist Stephon Davis Jr. is dead in Brooklyn, the victim of an apparent street shooting perpetrated by persons unknown. Determined not to let his musical genius die with him, Steph’s heartbroken best friends, Quadir and Jarrell, and his grief-stricken sister, Jasmine, hatch a plan to pretend that Steph is still alive in order to turn him into a rap superstar like his recently slain idol, Biggie Smalls. Jackson scores a bullseye with her passionate homage to Black city life in the late ’90s. See our full starred review.
Watch Us Rise
by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan (Bloomsbury, 2019, $18.99, 9781547600083, ages 13 and up)
From poets Watson and Hagan comes a complex and socially conscious coming-of-age tale featuring Jasmine, a plus-size African American girl with a passion for acting, and her best friend Chelsea, a white girl and budding feminist. As the two struggle with the racism and sexism that are thriving even in seemingly progressive spaces, they come into their own as young activists pushing back against injustice. See our full review.
by Ibi Zoboi (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, 2018, $17.99, 9780062564047, ages 13 and up)
“It’s a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood... the first thing they want to do is clean it up,” begins this Haitian-Dominican Pride and Prejudice retelling that stands on its own while paralleling Austen’s classic, in a story about five economically challenged sisters. Zoboi skillfully depicts the vicissitudes of teenage relationships, and Zuri’s outsize pride and poetic sensibility make her a sympathetic teenager in a contemporary story about race, gentrification, and young love. See our full starred review and Flying Starts interview with Zoboi.
by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess (Blink, 2017, $17.99, 9780310761839, ages 13 and up)
Betrayed by those closest to him and stunned by a family secret, 17-year-old Blade Morrison flees his comfortable but chaotic life as the son of a drug-addicted rock star. Seeking answers and closure, Blade travels to the Ghanaian village of Konko, where he gains new perspective on family and belonging. Readers will identify with Blade’s struggle to find his place in a family where he feels like an outsider. See our full review.
The Black Flamingo
by Dean Atta (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, May 26, $18.99, 9780062990297, ages 14 and up)
In this uplifting coming-of-age novel told in accessible verse, Atta chronicles the growth and glory of Michael Angeli, a mixed-race kid from London, as he navigates his cultural identity as Cypriot and Jamaican as well as his emerging sexuality. Atta expounds on matters of identity and the struggle to find love and community as a gay Black man in a majority-white space—Michael feels neither Greek nor Black enough, nor, in his estimation, queer enough to fit in. Atta’s story uplifts as it informs and entertains as it affirms. See our full starred review and Q&A with Atta.
Felix Ever After
by Kacen Callender (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, May 5, $18.99, 9780062820259, ages 14 and up)
Black trans artist Felix Love, 17, has never been in love. His mostly supportive single father still struggles to call him by his name and pronouns, and Felix is convinced that nobody except his ride-or-die bestie, wealthy Ezra Patel, can appreciate him for who he is. Felix is attending an ultracompetitive arts summer program to have a better shot at a full scholarship to Brown when someone posts Felix’s dead name beside photos of him, pre-transition, in the school’s lobby. As Ezra begins dating a new guy and the competition for Brown heats up, Felix’s plot to get revenge throws him onto the path of love and self-discovery. See our full starred review and Q&A with Callender.
When You Were Everything
by Ashley Woodfolk (Delacorte, Mar. 10, $17.99, 9781524715915, ages 14 and up)
Ever since she and her best friend stopped speaking, Cleo has felt “haunted” by the past; things started going wrong sophomore year, when Layla, who stutters except when she’s singing, auditioned for chorus. The girls in chorus don’t think much of dreamy, Shakespeare-loving, decidedly casual Cleo, and as the girls grow apart, they both behave badly, exchanging harsh words and spreading tit-for-tat rumors. In this satisfying coming-of-age friendship story Cleo learns to stop seeing people as all good (her father, past Layla) or all bad (her mother, current Layla), and realizes that change can be exhilarating rather than disastrous. See our full starred review.
by Camryn Garrett (Knopf, 2019, $18.99, 9781984829955, ages 14 and up)
Simone Garcia-Hampton, a Black 17-year-old, is HIV-positive and, though she’s healthy, she knows how people react when they find out; bullying and other negative reactions are why she left her old school. But just as she’s settling in, directing the school play and maybe starting a relationship, she starts getting notes threatening to reveal her HIV status. Readers will root for sympathetic Simone in this frankly sex-positive debut. See our full review.
by Nic Stone (Crown, 2019, $17.99, 9781984829627, ages 14 and up)
On Christmas Eve, Gas ’n’ Go employee Rico Danger, 17, sells two lottery tickets to a woman with memory troubles and, when she realizes that one of the tickets may be worth $106 million, she begins obsessing about its whereabouts. When no one claims the jackpot after several days, Rico enlists classmate Zan Macklin, a wealthy computer whiz, to help her track down the customer. As they work together, she and Zan careen toward a romance layered with intersectional issues: multiethnic Rico is believably resentful about her family’s situation; Zan, part white and part Latinx, is often oblivious to his privilege and high-handed with his wealth; and neither believes they have much choice for their future. Stone authentically portrays the precarious, terrifying act of living with far less than is needed to survive, and its financial and emotional fallout. See our full review and our profile on Stone.
Opposite of Always
by Justin A. Reynolds (HarperCollins/Tegen, 2019, $17.99, 9780062748379, ages 14 and up)
Ask African American high school senior Jack who he is and he’ll tell you: he’s an only child, and the king of “nice try” and “almost.” Unlike his best friend Franny, he never makes the team. And he doesn’t get the girl because he’s in love with his other best friend, Jillian, who’s dating Franny. But Jack does learn from his mistakes, and he has lots of opportunities to try again when he finds himself in a time loop. See our full review.
On the Come Up
by Angie Thomas (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, 2019, $18.99, 9780062498564, ages 14 and up)
Sixteen-year-old aspiring rapper Brianna Jackson contends with her mother Jayda’s addiction, which has cost Jayda her job, leading to their rent being late, their heat being shut off, and Jayda being forced to choose between staying in college and feeding her kids, because welfare benefits don’t include food stamps for unemployed students. When Bri begins to gain notice in the local music scene, her success draws the unwanted attention of the gang suspected of killing her father, while, at the same time, an incident at school connects her with activists. Thomas introduces readers to an unforgettable cast of characters who seek to thrive in close-knit neighborhoods that are also shaped by violence and systemic racism. See our full starred review.
A Blade So Black
by L.L. McKinney (Imprint, 2018, $18.99, 9781250153906, ages 14 and up)
Ever since police in Atlanta killed an unarmed Black girl at a school football game, Alice Kingston’s mother has watched Alice like a hawk. The attention is proving problematic for the 17-year-old Black Dreamwalker, who secretly guards the city’s Gateway to Wonderland (the “collective unconscious of the entire world”) and slays any monsters (aka “Nightmares”) that attempt to cross over. Alice is pondering retirement when her mentor, Addison Hatta, contracts a mysterious disease dubbed the Madness. Relentless action, spiraling stakes, and a fierce heroine distinguish debut author McKinney’s fantasy update of Alice in Wonderland. See our full review.
Children of Blood and Bone
by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt, 2018, $18.99, 9781250170972, ages 14 and up)
Eleven years ago, King Saran cemented his grip on the throne by banishing magic from Orïsha and slaughtering the realm’s maji—Zélie Adebola’s mother included. The maji’s descendants—dark-skinned, white-haired people called divîners—have lived under tyranny ever since, but now there is cause for hope. Thanks to information gleaned from Saran’s kindhearted daughter, Amari, 17-year-old Zélie has a chance to restore magic to Orïsha and activate a new generation of maji. First, though, Zélie, Amari, and Zélie’s brother Tzain must outrun the crown prince, Inan, who is determined to finish what his father started by eradicating magic for good. By making tangible the power that comes from embracing one’s heritage, Adeyemi conjures a story that resonates with magic both literal and figurative while condemning apathy in the face of injustice. See our full starred review and interview with Flying Starts author Adeyemi.
by Justina Ireland (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, 2018, $17.99, 9780062570604, ages 14 and up)
Shortly after Jane McKeene was born, the dead rose and attacked the living, effectively ending the Civil War. A reunified army fought the shambling hordes until Congress passed the Negro and Native Reeducation Act, requiring adolescent children of color to train for battle. At age 14, Jane—who is mixed race—enrolled at Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls, hoping to avoid conscription by becoming a socialite’s bodyguard. Three years later, Jane is close to earning her attendant certificate when she, her ex, and her rival stumble across a dastardly plot hatched by Baltimore’s elite. Abundant action, thoughtful worldbuilding, and a brave, smart, and skillfully drawn cast entertain as Ireland illustrates the ignorance and immorality of racial discrimination and examines the relationship between equality and freedom. See our full starred review.
by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform, 2018, $17.99, 9781484728499, ages 14 and up)
Sixteen-year-old sisters Camellia, Edelweiss, Ambrosia, Padma, Valeria, and Hana are the new generation of Belles, young women who are responsible for keeping the citizens of Orléans beautiful, magically transforming their appearances to align with the latest trends. Talented Camellia believes that she will be selected as the Queen’s favorite, a role the sisters covet deeply, but when another Belle is chosen and Camellia is assigned to a teahouse to perform beauty rituals on the wealthy, she begins to wonder if what she has always believed about the Belles is true. Readers will be left with much to consider about morality, individuality, and the malleability and artificiality of beauty. See our full review.