Take the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, place it in the Bronx in 2020, add the post-traumatic stress of having survived two catastrophic hurricanes in Puerto Rico and an imaginary friend/demon who takes toxic love to a whole new level, and you enter the world of Rivera’s new book. Prepare, however, to encounter both the best of literary traditions and the richness of that retelling steeped in the folktales of Afro-Caribbean myth with some solid feminist twists to remind young women who, ultimately, will save them. There is something in this for every young adult!
When Nnmadi's father, the police chief of a town in Nigeria, is murdered, Nnmadi vows to exact revenge, but what is a twelve-year-old boy to do? Desperate for answers, he follows a mysterious man into the shadows of the night and is given the Ikenga, an ancient statue that gives Nnmadi great strength, but with the Ikenga come only the instructions that he must be calm and focused when using its powers. Quickly Nnamadi learns that making the world better is more complex than it seemed, and responsibility walks with power. An intimate, exciting vision of modern Nigeria and what it means to come of age all wrapped up in a wonderful adventure story for kids who love superheroes!
Part historical fiction, part girl empowerment, this is the utterly engaging story of four girls living in a "school for the feeble-minded" in 1920's Massachusetts. London has been in and out of the foster care system since she was discovered wandering in the streets as a toddler, but she's found shelter with a tough old woman, Thelma, until the cops take her away to the home, deem her an imbecile, and condemn her to life within the school. Maxine's mother placed both she and her sister Rose into the school because of something Maxine did, but Maxine's purpose now is to protect Rose at all costs and hope that her mother comes to get them. Alice has a club foot, and her brother could not afford to keep her. Prepare to enter the wards of this school, with all of its prejudices and completely incorrect diagnosis, through the eyes of four girls who, like everyone else, wish for purpose, love, and freedom. Incredible, empowering and enlightening!
Stamped From the Beginning is the brilliant, courageous history of racism in the U.S., and Ibram X. Kendi has put it into the hands of Jason Reynolds, a writer whose respect for kids and young adults draws readers powerfully to him. Reynolds has remixed Stamped so that kids can understand, define, and explain the racism they swim through daily as well as the historical framework that makes it so powerful. In order to fight racism we need to understand it, not as rooted in ignorance and hatred, but as an insidiously woven justification of some of the ugliest policies and perceptions rearing their scaly heads continuously throughout United States history. Read this book (it's not just for kids!); then gift it to a friend, a student, a teacher, a principal, a school board member. Go to your school board, suggest it - no, demand it - as a One Community/One Read. Then continue on to our City Council. There is hope within these pages but only with a commitment to understand, acknowledge, and work to change.
Within these pages, Cisneros offers us a gift. He intended the gift for his daughter who asked why people in this country don't want people like her here, but this book is a gift to parents, to educators, to children who in seeing the "issue" of immigration through the eyes of a middle school kid may finally understand the depth of the crisis. Efren navigates the halls of middle school as does any other bright, kind student, but his family is poor and his parents are undocumented, so when his mother is caught in an ICE raid at a local market and sent back to Mexico, everything changes, and Efren and his family struggle to find a way to be whole again. No matter what you think you know, please read this book. It is a beautifully told story powerfully relevant to conversations and actions we must have to regain our humanity.