This Thanksgiving weekend, I am thankful for many things -- my wonderful family, my supportive school community, and of course, BOOKS! I’ve read so many good books lately, and I can’t place orders for my school libraries quickly enough. Here are a few of my favorite recent reads, all published this year, that I highly recommend!!
The picture book Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung warmed my heart with an important message for children about embracing differences. Reds, yellows, and blues live in harmony until one day a dispute causes them to segregate. But what happens when a yellow and a blue fall in love? Suddenly the world is once again full of possibilities. The simple words and illustrations make the message of tolerance and acceptance that much more powerful.
Another picture book that captivated my attention is Dreamers by Yuyi Morales. The illustrations are stunningly gorgeous, with a variety of unique textures and layers that make objects jump off the page. Based on the author’s own experience of bringing her infant son to America in 1994 when they didn’t speak any English, this story is about love, hope, and the power of libraries! A Spanish-language edition, Soñadores, is also available.
In middle grade titles, I finally got around to reading Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy and Ali Fadhil, published earlier this year, and I loved it. The book is described as a “slightly fictionalized biography” of Ali Fadhil’s childhood growing up in Iran during Operation Desert Storm. It was eye-opening about the terrors of growing up during war, but with the innocent optimism of a child narrator. A powerful and quick read for ages 10 and up.
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson is one I had on my list for months before its release toward the start of this school year, and I wasn’t disappointed. Written in Jacqueline Woodson’s classic lyrical style, Harbor Me tackles some heavy topics facing American kids today: race relations, death of a parent, imprisonment, and deportation. I challenge you to hold back tears when Haley finally finds her voice at the end of the book! An important read for ages 9 and up.
The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden was another middle grade read that stuck with me long after I finished reading it. Zoey and her siblings live in her mom's boyfriend's trailer, and he reminds them every day how lucky they are to have him. When Zoey's teacher suggests she join the debate club, she learns how to gather evidence to support her argument, and finally feels equipped to help her mom realize that she deserves more. An eye-opening portrayal of poverty, verbal/emotional abuse, and gun culture. Ages 10 and up.
Finally, in young adult literature, Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman just came out a few weeks ago. This multiple perspectives account explores what would happen to civilized society if the water ran out without warning -- it was absolutely TERRIFYING, and all too possible. I found myself fiercely clutching my Nalgene bottle while reading. I’d recommend for ages 13 and up due to violence and some mature situations.