It's that time of year again! The time when lists of the best books for kids start sprouting up like the crocuses of May. With the big Newbery and Caldecott Awards looming on the horizon, now is a good time to step back and consider those books that may have fallen under the radar but are magnificent just the same.
The Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature (CSMCL) recently chose the Best Multicultural Children's Books of 2013. So be sure to add some of these titles to your children's reading lists pronto!
Kenta and the Big Wave by Ruth Ohi - When a devastating tsunami strikes Kenta's village, his beloved soccer ball is swept away and washes up on a beach on the other side of the world. A great little readaloud that takes a big scary event and makes it kid-friendly.
Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson - Not only is this the most beautiful picture book biography you'll find of Nelson Mandela's life but the book recently appeared on the New York Times Best Illustrated list of 2013. Reserve your copy today!
Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore - Did you know the green parrots of Puerto Rico are the only native parrots in the Americas? Enjoy this combined history of the Puerto Rican parrot and the island of Puerto Rico, highlighting current efforts to save the Puerto Rican parrot by protecting and managing this endangered species.
Tito Puente, Mambo King by Monica Brown, illustrated by Rafael Lopez - A celebration of the life and music of the man known as the "King of the Mambo" and the "Godfather of Salsa" covers his boyhood in New York and his years as a musician and bandleader, and highlights the pleasure he gave listeners. Horn Book called this one a, "brash, joyous outing".
When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fendon and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton - School Library Journal says, "This book is a small but powerful reminder of the freedom that literacy brings." Looks at the experiences of a strong-willed young Inuit girl who receives permission from her father to travel to a residential religious school run by non-Inuit outsiders, where she struggles to adapt to the new way of living.
Middle Grade Books for Kids 9-12
Diego Rivera: An Artist for the People by Susan Rubin Goldman - In this in-depth and enticing biography, Rubin tracks not just Diego’s life and commissions but also his thought process and where he heart lay as an artist. No library (personal or public) is complete without this book!
How I Became a Ghost: A Choctaw Trail of Tears Story by Tim Tingle - A Trail of Tears story that's exciting and fun? It can be done. A Choctaw boy tells the story of his tribe's removal from the only land its people had ever known, and how their journey to Oklahoma led him to become a ghost—one with the ability to help those he left behind.
P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia - A sequel to the Newbery Honor winning book One Crazy Summer. Delphine's a different kind of person since her time with the Black Panther Party of Oakland, CA. But the one thing that doesn't change? Big Ma still expects Delphine to keep everything together. That's even harder now that her sisters refuse to be bossed around, and now that Pa's girlfriend voices her own opinions about things. Through letters, Delphine confides in her mother, who reminds her not to grow up too fast. To be eleven while she can.
The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata - This recent National Book Award winner in the Young People's category is a delight. Just when twelve-year-old Summer thinks nothing else can possibly go wrong in a year of bad luck, an emergency takes her parents to Japan, leaving Summer to care for her little brother while helping her grandmother cook and do laundry for harvest workers. Heartfelt, funny, and hopeful.
Yes, We Are Latinos by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, illustrated by David Diaz - This collection of poems and essays about young Latino's immigrant experiences in the United States brings fact and fiction together in an eclectic, lively and lovely book.
Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang - These are two National Book Award nominees you do NOT want to miss. A graphically rendered account of China's Boxer Rebellion in 1898 is told from the perspective of Little Bao, who joins an army of kung fu-trained commoners who fight for freedom from the oppression inflicted by foreign missionaries and soldiers and a young Christian convert and neglected fourth daughter who struggles with divided loyalties that compel her to make the ultimate sacrifice for her faith. Opposing viewpoints galore!
Darius & Twig by Walter Dean Myers - In their starred review Booklist called this a "gritty, suspenseful, street-smart novel with a viscerally real setting in which young men must struggle to overcome obstacles by finding the best within themselves." Two best friends, a writer and a runner, deal with bullies, family issues, social pressures, and their quest for success coming out of Harlem.
If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric L. Gansworth - Love The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and want something to follow it up? Try this! Seventh-grader Lewis "Shoe" Blake from the Tuscarora Reservation has a new friend, George Haddonfield from the local Air Force base, but in 1975 upstate New York there is a lot of tension and hatred between Native Americans and Whites—and Lewis is not sure that he can rely on friendship.
Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac - A little something for the sci-fi lovers out there. In a world that has barely survived an apocalypse that leaves it with pre-twentieth century technology, Lozen is a monster hunter for four tyrants who are holding her family hostage. Like nothing else you'll read this year.
The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle - Nobody discusses Cuba better than Margarita Engle. Nobody. In free verse, evokes the voice of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, a book-loving writer, feminist, and abolitionist who courageously fought injustice in nineteenth-century Cuba. Includes historical notes, excerpts from her writings, biographical information, and source notes.
Looks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids, edited by Deborah Ellis - Sometimes nothing beats reality. For two years, Ellis traveled across the United States and Canada interviewing Native children. The result is a compelling collection of interviews with children aged nine to eighteen. They come from all over the continent, from Iqaluit to Texas, Haida Gwaai to North Carolina, and their stories run the gamut; some heartbreaking; many others full of pride and hope.
March, Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell - One of the most highly praised graphic novels of 2013, regardless of age level. A first-hand account of the author's lifelong struggle for civil and human rights spans his youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the birth of the Nashville Student Movement. "Superbly told history," saysPublishers Weekly.