Today In Books

Community Supports Boutique Following Drag Story Time Backlash: Today in Books

Nimona Books Sell Out Following Release of Adaptation

Nimona creator ND Stevenson announced on Twitter that copies of his graphic novel were sold out on Amazon. Nimona was published in 2015 but its Netflix adaptation released on the streaming platform late last month. Stevenson helped out fans new and old with a link to Barnes & Noble where the book was, at the time of posting, available to purchase.

There’s a New Translation Book Prize in Town

Booksellers have launched the Cercador Prize for Translation. Ten finalists for the prize of $1,000, awarded to a translator or translators, will be announced in October with a winner selected in November. The nomination committee consists of five independent booksellers based in the U.S. The prize is “about drawing an explicit connection between the work of independent booksellers and literary translators whose contributions to our reading culture are often similarly obscured,” Justin Walls, the coeditor of Du Mois Monthly, said in a press release.

Boutique Receives Community Support for Drag Story Time

A boutique in Chaka, Minnesota expects an overflow crowd at their drag story time event after “top favorite haters” videos posted by owner Marissa Heid-Nordling garnered attention and support from the city and beyond. The videos featured critics of their decision to host a local drag queen for story time. “There are a lot of people in the LGBTQ community in Carver County, in Chaska, in the surrounding cities…sometimes, the negative people can be really loud, but the positive do come out in the end,” said Heid-Nordling.

Discover the Foundation of Manga Art Styles

Curious about manga art styles and the different types of art you’ll encounter in the format? Get to know some of the most common styles.

Today In Books

The Newest Viral BookTok Sensation: Today in Books

The Onion Lampoons Credibility of Goodreads Reviews

“Any review showing evidence of in-depth knowledge of a book’s characters, plot, or thematic elements would be immediately deleted from the site,” a fictionalized version of Goodreads’ CEO explains in the satirical piece. In “Goodreads Now Only Permitting Reviews From People Who Haven’t Read The Book,”The Onion played off of a trending topic about the popular book database and community and, specifically, reviews written by users who have not read the books they’re commenting on.

The Newest Viral BookTok Sensation is the Outdated Dating Book

Books like Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and He’s Just Not That Into You are seeing a comeback on TikTok. A piece from i-D attempts to explain the return to dating advice from books now commonly critiqued for promoting toxic and misogynistic ideals. Among other things, the piece points to parallels between this trend and that of the tradwife figure and “high-value” dating. “All might be seen as part of a wider rise in online misogyny, which has been fuelled by figures like Andrew Tate.”

Milwaukee Celebrates the Typewriter’s Local History

The Milwaukee-born typewriter was celebrated in the city by way of a weekend-long 150th birthday celebration. The inaugural QWERTYFEST was held in June, following National Typewriter Day, and included the typewriter as a musical instrument, typewriter workshops, and a scripted “Clackathon” performance featuring a ChatGPT villain.

Hoopla, Overdrive/Libby Banned for Those Under 18 in Mississippi

Public libraries in Mississippi have cut off access to digital platforms like Overdrive and Hoopla to those under 18.

The Kids Are All Right

The Best Children’s Books of 2020

This post by Kelly Jensen was originally published on Book Riot.

What a wonderful year for children’s books. Once again, a roster of standout titles became the stories we could turn to as adults looking for great reading for ourselves, in addition to being the books we are eager to hand to the young readers in our lives. If you were perusing our Best Books of 2020 list and wondering where the books for middle grade readers and younger may have been, never fret. They’re here!

Find below an incredible treasure trove of the best children’s books of 2020. There’s something here for every kind of reader.

The Best Children’s Books of 2020

Anya and the Nightingale by Sofiya Pasternack

I loved the first book about Anya, Ivan, and their dragon friend Håkon—and I might love this sequel even more.The characters are wonderful and endearing, and on top of that there is a male bisexual character who actually gets to have a male love interest and it’s reciprocal. The adventure itself is engaging and described perfectly: vivid, imaginative, and almost cinematic. I also appreciate that Anya is Jewish, as I still find it rare to see my own holidays and traditions represented in books. This adventure tale deftly balances its screwball humor with darker moments.

—Rachel Rosenberg

The Arabic Quilt by Aya Khalil and Anait Semirdzhyan

This beautifully illustrated picture book follows Egyptian Kanzi at her new school, where she worries about fitting in. She finds comfort in Teita’s Arabic quilt, and with the help of her teacher, she shares her love for her language and culture with fellow classmates. A powerful and moving story with stunning illustrations that highlights the importance of all languages. 

—Adiba Jaigirdar

Boy, Everywhere by A.M. Dassu

Sami is a boy who has his life torn apart by the civil war in Syria. Now he and his family find themselves on the run in a desperate attempt to make it to the UK. On the way he witnesses trauma, heartache, madness and also hope and love. Essential reading for middle grade students and anyone hoping to gain insight into the plight of refugees. 

—Lucas Maxwell

Class Act by Jerry Craft

I absolutely inhaled this companion graphic novel to Craft’s Newbery-winning New Kid. Class Act digs even deeper into what it’s like to be one of the handful of nonwhite kids at a fancy school—not just the micro- and macroaggressions those students are hit with on the daily, but also the ways they have to decide whom to trust and reserve judgment about. This time, instead of just visiting the McMansions of their classmates, Jordan and Drew cautiously invite their white friend Liam back to their neighborhood. While careful not to draw a false equivalence between racism and assuming the worst about wealthy people, Craft does make a great point about giving sincere and kind friends the benefit of the doubt. 

—Sarah Hannah Gómez

Diana and the Island of No Return by Aisha Saeed

This middle grade novel packs a powerful punch as it explores Wonder Woman as a tween. In the book, Diana wishes to train with the rest of the Amazons in Themiscyra, as she truly looks up to them and their powers. Diana also hopes her mother, Queen Hippolyta, will let her learn how to fight in the festival in Themiscyra, one that discovers and explores their diverse cultures. But, when a visitor—a boy—arrives in the area to warn them of some imminent danger, it’s up to Diana to help save the day with her best friend, Princess Sakina. This book is perfect for those seeking pure girl power and a touching story. And the good news? It’s the first in a series of Diana middle grade novels to come.

—Aurora Lydia Dominguez

Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe

This middle grade fantasy was pitched to me as a read-alike for Kiki’s Delivery Service, and I’m happy to report that assessment is accurate. I imagine most children can identify with Eva, on the cusp of turning 13 and constantly fretting about her spotty magical powers. She’s determined to earn the rank of Novice Witch but constantly doubtful she’ll pass the test. But Eva is one of the most determined young witches out there and hatches a plan to help the town of Auteri through “semi-magical fixes.” I loved her, and I loved the charming, whimsical world Abe has sketched for this planned series. It’s a feel-good read for just about any age, truth be told. 

—Nicole Hill

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

In this middle grade novel, Zoe Washington has just turned 12 and inadvertently started a penpal relationship with the biological father she’s never met, Marcus. Marcus is in prison for murder, but as Zoe gets to know him for the first time (under the supervision of her grandma, but unbeknownst to her mother), she begins to learn about the inequalities of the justice system and she becomes determined to clear his name. This is a timely and age-appropriate novel that deftly tackles big issues, and it never wavers from Zoe’s big-hearted perspective.

—Tirzah Price

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega

This adorably spooky book about best friends Lucely and Syd who accidentally awaken a graveyard full of dangerous spirits is the perfect mixture of ghosts, magic, friendship, and fun. As if that wasn’t enough, Lucely has to save the firefly spirits of her family’s ancestors AND rustle up more tourists for her dad’s ghost tour before they lose their house. This book is just the right amount of spooky for middle grade readers and mixes supernatural shenanigans with so much heart and humor that you just can’t help but love it. 

—Rachel Brittain

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost by Flavia Z. Drago

As the title suggests, Gustavo is a shy ghost, but he desperately wants to make friends. Only there’s another problem: no one can see him! This whimsical, heartfelt picture book follows our translucent hero as he tries to overcome his struggles in time to plan a party for the Day of the Dead. Each page is vibrantly illustrated and full of color, with plenty of charming details for readers to discover on a second, third, or 15th read.

—Emily Polson

I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott and Sydney Smith

In this #OwnVoices picture book, a child with a stutter struggles to respond to a teacher’s prompt in class to describe his favorite place. His father picks him up early from school, and takes him to the river, where the two explore the riverbank, and his father tells him he talks like a river. When the child returns to school, he explains that his favorite place is the river, and describes how his voice is like the river. This picture book is stunning. The illustrations are gorgeous, and the prose is lyrical and beautiful. I wish I’d had a book like this as a child.

—Margaret Kingsbury

If You Come by Earth by Sophie Blackall

Sophie Blackall’s picture books are always gorgeous to look at—my favorite spread in this book is the library, which has diverse representation, and contains multiple wordless stories within. There is no real narrative, other than a child named Quinn pens a letter to visitors from space. Through it, we are given basic facts about the world (types of animals and homes, for instance, and what makes people unique). Enjoy the lovely art and the overall message about kindness.

—Rachel Rosenberg

A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll

Addie is autistic in a world where many people don’t understand or care to understand her challenges. Living in Scotland, she discovers that the village she lives in executed witches many hundreds of years ago. She embarks on a mission to get the local government to build a memorial for them, a task that will test her patience and will. A Kind of Spark is an #OwnVoices novel that will change the way you view those on the autism spectrum. It’s a powerful story about being yourself and standing unflinching in the face of adversity. 

—Lucas Maxwell

Magic on the Map: Escape from Camp California by Courtney Sheinmel & Bianca Turetsky and Steve Lewis

With many young readers stuck at home this year, it’s the perfect time to dive into this chapter book series about the twins Finn and Molly and their magical RV camper. In this book, the twins are magically transported to California where they must help refugees from the wildfires before the camper lets them return to their home in Ohio. This is one of the less glamorous state stories in the series. But Finn and Molly’s humorous sibling dynamic lightens the mood. And it felt like a great way to begin discussions about the environment and current events with young readers, while potentially learning about a new state. 

—Alison Doherty

Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron

Maya and the Rising Dark is a thrilling middle grade read! Maya lives in the South Side of Chicago, where strange occurrences take place in her modern world. Together, Maya and her companions set out to rescue her father when he disappears. In her adventures, she discovers a world where she witnesses sinister shadows and negative energy in dreams. It’s indeed a riveting story for both young and older readers.

—Cathleen Perez Brenycz

The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

You know an author has immense talent when they can dip in and out of writing for different ages without missing a beat. Colbert’s debut middle grade follows 13-year-old Alberta, who has been the only Black girl in her seaside town for years. When the bed and breakfast across the street is purchase by new owners and one of the inhabitants will be a 12-year-old Black girl, she’s eager to make fast friends with Edie. But it won’t be that easy, as the girls are very different. Thanks to a discovery of old journals in the attic of the bed and breakfast, though, the girls uncover a wealth of secrets from the past that bring them together.

—Kelly Jensen

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

Thirteen-year-old Hanna loses her Chinese mother and must grow into a young woman amidst the adversity she faces in De Smet, where her white father has decided to set up a textiles shop. The story takes place in Dakota Territory in the 1880s contemporaneous with Laura Ingalls Wilder. In this version of Little House on the Prairie, however, the protagonist confronts prejudice in school and in her town, an unfortunate situation which she meets with courage, kindness, and resourcefulness. Great historical fiction from an untold and unusual perspective.

—Jean Kuo Lee

Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley

Jen is not at all thrilled when her mom moves her from the city to a farm in the country in order to live with her new boyfriend. Jen’s assigned chores and has to learn how to acclimate with a new family, which include two step-sisters who only visit on weekends. Knisley’s artwork captures the excitement, angst, and humor of farm living, and beautifully portrays the small moments that turn strangers into family.

—Tirzah Price

Sugar in Milk by Thrity Umrigar and Khoa Le

This gorgeous picture book layers two stories in one. The first is contemporary: a young girl moves to a new country to live with her aunt and uncle, but she doesn’t speak the language and struggles to make friends. Her aunt tells her a story she was told as a child about a group of refugees who come to a new country’s shore seeking to settle. The country’s king doesn’t want them to settle there, and since they speak different languages and can’t understand one another, he shows his refusal by filling a cup with milk. The refugees respond by adding sugar to the milk, which dissolves and makes the milk sweeter, symbolizing that accepting people into the country can only make the country sweeter. Emboldened by the story, the girl makes more of an effort to communicate. She smiles at people, makes eye contact, and soon she makes friends. The folktale comes from the author’s Zoroastrian upbringing as a Parsi child in India. Not only is the story beautiful, and the illustrations gorgeous, but the design of the book is amazing too. The thickness and slightly grainy texture of the pages, the sturdiness of the cover, the layers of color in the art, all make it a luxurious reading experience. I wish more picture books were this well made!

—Margaret Kingsbury

Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru

This was my most anticipated book of 2020 and it absolutely lived up to my expectations. Set in 1946, the story—inspired by a similar plot line from the 1940s Adventures of Superman radio show—centers around Chinese American siblings Roberta and Tommy Lee, whose family has been targeted by the bigoted Klan of the Fiery Cross. Superman is there to help, of course, but he’s also busy coming to grips with his own extraterrestrial origins. This action-packed, thoughtful, gorgeously illustrated comic tackles complex and scary issues in a way kids can understand without talking down to them, gives the Lee kids a chance to shine and be heroes without disappearing in Superman’s shadow, and reinforces the too-often-forgotten fact that the world’s most iconic superhero is an immigrant and a refugee—something just as relevant now as it was in 1946.

—Jess Plummer

Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry and Juana Martinez-Neal

I picked up Swashby and the Sea because I will read anything Juana Martinez-Neal has had her hands on, and I was not disappointed. Curmudgeonly Swashby can’t stand his new neighbors, an active little girl and her grandmother, but every time he tries to draw a note in the sand asking them to quiet down or go away, the sea comes in and erases bits and pieces of the messages until they look inviting and friendly instead (for example, NO TRESPASSING becomes SING). And his little neighbor is only too happy to oblige. Not only is it a lovely story about bonding and a great chance to practice your letters, but what makes the little girl inside me happiest is that Swashby’s neighbor has rich, brown skin, wild curls, and huge glasses. No Big Racial Issues, no stereotypes, just a regular book about a regular girl who happens to be brown that everybody will love to read.

—Sarah Hannah Gómez

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade

In this #OwnVoices picture book inspired by Standing Rock, a young girl learns from her elders about the black snake that threatens to come to their land and poison their water. She has been taught that water is sacred and is an integral part of life, and takes a stand to be a water protector, fighting for the Earth, the animals, and her people. The prose of the book is artfully crafted and the gorgeous artwork, with its watercolor-like brushstrokes, complements it perfectly. It is a favorite of mine (and my son’s), and is a great way to introduce topics like Standing Rock, Indigenous-led movements, and the issue of clean water. 

—Jaime Herndon

We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly

This moving book follows a family in January 1986 on the precipice of so much—siblings Bird, Fitch, and Cash are all in the same grade, and Mom and Dad have a rocky relationship, which comes out again and again in unsettling ways. It impacts each of the kids, and the only way that the siblings are hanging on is through their shared science teacher who applied for the Teacher in Space program but didn’t get accepted. This slice-of-life book is aching and hard, and when the Challenger launches, all of the pain built up in each of the siblings explodes. Readers who want feelings-heavy books will be enraptured with this one. All of the characters are compelling, complex, and sympathetic, and they all experience those really painful moments of what it is to be in 7th grade.

—Kelly Jensen

When Life Gives You Mangos by Kereen Getten

Thanks to the stunning cover, this was one of my most anticipated reads of 2020, and it absolutely lived up to my expectations. It actually surpassed them! When Life Gives You Mangos follows 12-year-old Clara, who has lost her memories of the previous summer. When this summer, a new girl arrives in her village, Clara knows that things are about to change. This is a beautiful novel about friendship, family, community, and grief. 

—Adiba Jaigirdar

What's Up in YA

Cozy Up to YA Ebook Deals This Week

Hey YA Readers!

Cozy up to the fall weather and get stack some great reads in your blanket for with this roundup of excellent YA Ebook deals.

All of these deals are current as of Friday, October 2. Snap ’em up before they’re gone.

pumpkinheadsKick off October with a great fall read: Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks is $3!

Music fans, Marie Lu’s YA historical fantasy, The Kingdom of Back, is $3.

Vera Brosgol’s ghostly graphic novel, Anya’s Ghost, is also $3.

Rick Riordan’s The Trials of Apollo books 1-4 are all $1! That’s The Hidden Oracle, Dark Prophecy, The Burning Maze, and Tyrant’s Tomb. The finale, The Tower of Nero, is available for preorder.

If you’re an Edgar Allan Poe fan, pick up His Hideous Heart: 13 of Edgar Allan Poe’s Most Unsettling Tales Reimagined, a YA anthology edited by Dahlia Adler, for $3.

Explore a day and night world in Rin Chupeco’s The Never Tilting World, available for $2.

Get witchy with Shea Ernshaw’s revenge tale, The Wicked Deep, for $2.

Find a coming-of-age adventure in Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi for only $3.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone is still $2 — read it for the first time or revisit it before the companion Dear Justyce comes out later this month.

A humorous book about basketball and Islamophobia, Sara Farizan’s Here To Stay is a must-read and still $2.

Thanks for hanging out, and we’ll see you on Monday!

— Sharifah

What's Up in YA

YA Book News and New YA Releases: October 1, 2020

Hey YA Readers!

This is Sharifah filling in for Kelly while she’s on vacation.

Welcome to October! I don’t know about you, but I’m treating every day of this month like it’s Halloween.

I’ve got some YA news and new releases for you.

YA Book News

New YA Books This Week

Aftershocks by Marisa Reichardt

All This Time by Mikki Daughtry, Rachael Lippincott

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones (paperback)

Breathless by Jennifer Niven

Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone

Disclose by Joelle Charbonneau

Fence: Striking Distance by Sarah Rees Brennan, Johanna The Mad (Illustrated by), C.S. Pacat (Created by)

Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez

The Glass Queen by Gena Showalter (series)

The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen (paperback, series)

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Jackpot by Nic Stone (paperback)

A Neon Darkness by Lauren Shippen (series)

Permanent Record by Mary H. K. Choi (paperback)

Rebel by Marie Lu (paperback, series)

Shine by Jessica Jung

Silent As a Grave by Zoe Aarsen (paperback, series)

Skyhunter by Marie Lu

Suggested Reading by Dave Connis (paperback)

Thoughts and Prayers by Bryan Bliss

Under Shifting Stars by Alexandra Latos

This Week at Book Riot

Thanks for hanging out, and Kelly will be back next week.

Happy reading!

— Sharifah

The Kids Are All Right

New Children’s Book Releases for August 4, 2020

Hello Readers,

I hope you’re having the best first week of August, so far, and getting some sun and summer fun in where you can. I’m Sharifah, subbing in for this week’s edition of new releases, highlighting some of this week’s fabulous kidlit titles. Take a gander:

The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow (5 – 8 years)

Time for a gorgeous picture book featuring a free diving grandmother and intergenerational bonds! Dayeon aspires to be a haenyeo–a free diver–just like her grandmother and so many generations of Korean women. Dayeon practices and practices, but when the time comes to give it a go, a scary memory of the sea halts her progress. With Gradma’s help, Dayeon might be able to overcome her fears and connect with the natural world.

A Journey Toward Hope by Victor Hinojosa, Coert Voorhees, and illustrated by Susan Guevara (6 – 8 years)

This book sounds like an excellent starting point for conversations about migration. A Journey Toward Hope follows four unaccompanied migrant children journeying from Central America to the United States through Mexico. The kids, coming from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, each making the journey for unique reasons, band together to get across the border safely. The book is written in collaboration with Baylor University’s Social Innovation Collaborative, and even includes additional information and resources created by Baylor University’s Global Hunger and Migration Project.

Birrarung Wilam: A Story from Aboriginal Australia by Aunty Joy Murphy, Andrew Kelly, and illustrated by Lisa Kennedy (6 – 9 years)

Just look at this beautiful picture book featuring an Aboriginal story. Aunty Joy Murphy is a Senior Wurundjeri elder of the Kulin Nation who, along with Andrew Kelly, brings us a celebration of Indigenous culture and Australia’s ecology. Birrarung Wilam tells the Indigenous and geographical story of Melbourne’s Yarra River through both poetic descriptions of the region’s flora and fauna and stunning illustrations by Lisa Kennedy. You also get a glossary of the Woiwurrung words used in the story.

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia (8 – 12 years)

Fans of the Rick Riordan Presents series of books and the We Set the Dark on Fire author, rejoice! Here’s a new middle grade fantasy adventure based on the Mexican legend of La Llorona (a truly frightening story, in case you haven’t heard it). Twelve-year-old Paola Santiago is all about science, and is totally embarrassed by her mom’s superstitions. She knows better than to venture to the river where a schoolmate was drowned, and where, she’s been warned, La Llorona lurks. But a mysterious sighting by the Gila will test Pao’s assumptions about the legend and send her on a journey into a frightening realm to find her friend.

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf (8 – 12 years)

Here’s a middle grade debut based on a chilling Malaysian folk tale. A dark spirit appears with the announcement that it’s Suraya’s inheritance and hers to command. Suraya and the pelesit, a gift from her grandmother, become inseparable. But when Pink’s dark side surfaces, the friends have to find a way to defeat the darkness. Sounds like this is a good one for conversations about jealousy and overcoming obstacles in friendships. I love seeing lesser-known mythologies and ghost stories in books.

All Together Now by Hope Larson (10 – 14 years)

If you loved Hope Larson’s All Summer Long, don’t miss this middle grade graphic novel and standalone sequel. This one sounds like an especially good pick for the musically inclined. Bina is in a band with her friends, and things are going splendidly until Darcy and Enzo start dating. Nobody likes being the third wheel, and things get even more complicated when Bina’s bestie starts developing a crush on her and she can’t return the feelings. Navigating friendships isn’t always easy; All Together Now might be the relatable content someone out there needs.

The Kids Are All Right

Anti-Racist Middle Grade Books

We’re taking a quick break from the usual new releases format today to highlight a piece by Book Riot Editor Kelly Jensen, “Anti-Racist Middle Grade Books To Help Young Readers Challenge White Supremacy,” originally published on the site. We’ll be back with new releases next Tuesday!

Amid the protests across America following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a white police officer, an incredible outpouring of resources emerged. They featured books that don’t just highlight the struggle for rights by Black people and other people of color, but how it is white people can push past calling themselves not racist and participate in real anti-racist work.

This anti-racist work goes beyond adults. It’s work that children not only understand and can participate in, but that is vital for their futures as anti-racists.

There have been a number of anti-racist picture books and anti-racist YA books published in the last few years. These are meant to engage young readers in these conversations and do so in a way that doesn’t depend upon them—or their adults—to ask people of marginalized groups to do the work for them.

What’s been talked about a little less, though, are anti-racist middle grade books. This is a tricky life stage: many readers can read books that fall in the YA category, but when it comes to big, meaty topics, they absorb some of what they grasp, but not everything. In no way is this a bad thing. It’s an opportunity to revisit these works as they grow up and can pick up more along the way.

But there are a number of excellent anti-racist middle grade books out there, perfect for readers in that 8–12 year old category that are ideal to be read alone, as well as with an adult who can have open, frank, and maybe even uncomfortable conversations with them.

A book is anti-racist when it showcases more than just racism on the micro and macro levels; it’s anti-racist when it highlights how those systems of oppression and discrimination are dismantled. These books identify racism and racist beliefs and explore how those systems of white supremacy are disrupted, challenged, and changed.

Becoming Kareem: Growing Up on and off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Abdul-Jabbar continues to be a leader in the fight for justice and equality, and this memoir is about his youth, his career, and how experiences with racism and prejudice helped him become the person he is today. Especially good for readers who love sports, as well as those who are familiar with his name (it’s been in the news again lately, so chances are even if young readers don’t know his basketball career, they know he’s important).

Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Renée Watson

Shabazz is the daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, and she’s written a fictional story based on the real-life activism of her mother in the years before she met and married Malcolm X. The story begins when she is 11 and covers four years of her life—the same period of time middle grade readers are in as they read the book—and highlight how she found purpose and her activism.

Blended by Sharon Draper

Isabella is mixed race, with a Black father and a white mother. She’s used to being called all kinds of names for this—she’s exotic, unusual, and easily targeted for questions about what her true identity is. With her parents divorce, she’s now forced to confront and understands both of her identities and what it really means for her to be who she is.

This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell and Aurelia Durand

In this guide Jewell not only breaks down what it means to be anti-racist and what racism looks like and sounds like, but also offers 20 lessons on how young people can take action and ensure a more just future. Durand illustrates the book and makes it extremely approachable, even for more timid middle grade readers. An outstanding primer for helping build language and understanding around what anti-racist work really is.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Woodson’s highly decorated memoir in verse is vital reading for any age, but it’s powerfully resonant for middle grade readers. This book takes them through Woodson’s youth, growing up Black in America, and how what she experienced and learned at home and in the world around her helped shape her into the writer—the human—she is today. This one not only will build empathy but offers opportunities for readers to see what it means to fight for justice and equality.

Count Me In by Varsha Bajaj

Neighbors Karina and Chris have never really been friends, but when Karina’s grandfather starts to tutor Chris, she discovers he is a fabulous person. After a horrific attack on the three of them, fueled by racism—Karina and her grandfather are Indian American—Karina shares photos of the attack on social media, wherein her community rallies around them and other marginalized people in their area in support of change.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

12-year-old Jerome was shot and killed by a police officer who mistook his toy gun for a real weapon. Now, as a ghost, he sees what happens to his family and community in the wake of his murder. He also meets in his afterlife Emmett Till, who guides him through a history of racism, police brutality, and ultimately, comfort.

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée

Shayla is just starting middle school and, along with her best friends, hopes she’ll have a smooth and painless year. She likes to ride the middle, being a good kid and staying away from any trouble. But she soon finds her friends pulling away from her, and little by little she begins to wonder what it is she’s done to see the friendships fracturing and changing. Shayla’s big sister is involved in local activism, and specifically the Black Lives Matter movement. Shayla’s never wanted to get involved, but after another police-involved shooting of an innocent black person, she’s beginning to have more and more discussions at home about why it is she might want to speak up and out. So she begins a small movement within her school, as inspired by her sister, bringing black arm bands for her friends to wear in support of black lives. This, however, gets her in trouble. But it’s the kind of trouble that, as much as she fears being part of, she understands as powerful, as necessary, and as something that her parents will approve of.

Into The Streets: A Young People’s Visual History of Protest in the United States by Marke Bieschke (August 4)

Though marketed for young adult readers, given the visual nature of this book, it’s one that will likely do well with upper middle grade readers as well. Bieschke’s book explores the history of protests—peaceful and violent—throughout time in the U.S. It includes those who drive those protests, what the outcomes were, and related ephemera including photos, protest signs, and more. An outstanding reminder of how protests have shaped policy and reform in this country.

Making It Right: Building Peace, Settling Conflict by Marilee Peters

This nonfiction book explores the ways young people throughout the world are working toward eliminating the prison system. A primer to restorative justice, and since it features young people, it should inspire a lot of hard conversations—and actions—about reforming another aspect of White Supremacy in the U.S.

New Kid by Jerry Craft

This award winning graphic novel, which will have a companion in October, is about not only being the new kid in a new school but about the ways privilege, bias, and racism—both overt and subtle—play out. Jordan attends a wealthy school on financial aid and is one of the few kids of color there; he experiences incredible micro and macro aggressions, and as a light skinned black boy, he sees racism play out in a variety of horrifying ways.

The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

Alberta’s always been the only Black girl in her class. But when a new girl moves into the old Bed and Breakfast across the street, she quickly wants to befriend her as she, too, is Black. It’s not a quick friendship, but it is one which evolves through the discovery of old journals in Edie’s attic. The journals reveal to them a history of their small town and its not-great relationship with race.

Shuri by Nic Stone

The first in a duology about Shuri from Marvel’s Black Panther. Shuri is T’Challa’s younger sister, and no big deal but she’s tasked with saving Wakanda from whatever it is that’s killing the Heart-Shaped Herb which powers Wakanda’s Chieftain. Stone, of course, incorporates plenty about racism, power, and white supremacy. Readers who love this world will take away much more than a story of a younger sister.

We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes The World by Todd Hasak-Lowy

What is “non-violence” and where has it been effective for change? This book answers that question, highlighting leaders of non-violent activism throughout history. Although there is much about U.S. non-violent activism here, Hasak-Lowy offers a global scope.

What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado

Stephen wants to do everything that his friends do, and he feels like he should be able to. But he’s mixed race, and the realities of his life look different than those of his white friends. He’s treated differently by people than his friends are, and is it really safe for him to do the same kind of exploring of his town his friends do? Maldonado has written a number of excellent anti-racist books for middle grade readers, and this one is especially important for understanding the unique challenges experienced by people who are mixed race.

Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice by Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Olivia Gatwood

Pairing poetry with beautiful art, this book is a reminder of the value in speaking up and out. These are all poems by women about social justice, discrimination, acceptance, and so much more. An appropriate book for all ages, it’s especially powerful for younger middle grade readers for whom art will really resonate.

Today In Books

Colson Whitehead On Protests And Politics: Today in Books

Colson Whitehead On Protests And Politics

“In terms of legislation, the people who might be moved by a work of art and then be further moved to enact some law, are not usually the people who read or listen to music. On an individual level, art elevates and nourishes and revitalises, but in terms of legislation it is a long time since the novel had that centrality in the culture in America.” Colson Whitehead talked about the ongoing protests, politics, and his books.

Black Bookstagrammers Recommend Great Reads

From epic fantasy to queer memoir, Black bookstagrammers highlighted some of their favorite reads by Black authors. They also talked about some of the Black owned bookstores they frequent. Put these grammers in your feed.

Rare Book Thieves Sentenced To House Arrest

The duo who stole and trafficked rare books from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh received their sentence. The former librarian and a bookseller, who both plead guilty, will be under house arrest, serve 12 years of probation, and one has been ordered to pay $55,000 in restitution.

Today In Books

Fairy Tales for Muslim Kids: Today in Books

She’s Rewriting Western Fairy Tales For Muslim Children

Fawzia Gilani-Williams is an educator with a PhD in children’s literature, and a passion for helping Muslim kids see themselves reflected in books. So she decided to rewrite classic Western fairy tales starring Muslim characters, reflecting Muslim values. This is an important step forward, as the UK is seriously lagging in their efforts to diversify children’s literature.

Leslie Marmon Silko Wins $100,000 Arts Academy Prize; Alex Kotlowitz Also Recognized

Leslie Marmon Silko has won the Christopher Lightfoot Walker Award for her significant achievement to American literature. The award is given biannually, and Silko is the second writer to receive it. Her work aims to prove that Indigenous people have contributed just as much to world culture and history as the Greeks, Romans, and Scandinavians.

Why These Nipsey Hussle Fans Started a Book Club

Maria Gates and Joe Gardina are continuing Nipsey Hussle’s legacy by founding a book club that reads some of the rapper’s favorite and recommended books. Gates and Gardina are hoping to give fans a productive way to mourn and heal, while also continuing with the work that he started in giving back to his community. They hope that members will become more literate–in business, history, and in social action–and that together they can build stronger ties in their community.

What's Up in YA

YA Book News and New Releases

Hey YA Readers!

Sharifah here again! Kelly will be back soon but, in the meantime, let’s peep the latest in YA news, and topple that TBR with some of the great new books hitting shelves this week.

YA Book News

Here’s what’s up from this week’s YA news.

New YA Book Releases

Look out for these books on the shelves this week.

28 Days by David Safier

Harley In The Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Most Likely by Sarah Watson

The Small Crimes of Tiffany Templeton by Richard Fifield

Spindle and Dagger by J. Anderson Coats

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi

The Survivor by Bridget Tyler

The Vinyl Underground by Rob Rufus

We Are All His Creatures: Tales of PT Barnum, Greatest Showman by Deborah Noyes

When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk

This Week at Book Riot

Don’t miss the great talk over on Book Riot this week about YA, either.


Thanks for hanging out! You can find me on Instagram at @szainabwilliams.