Our book reviews can help you keep your practice fresh and informed.
“Treat people like they are people, people.” Those are some closing words of advice from Brad Montague and Robby Novak (aka Kid President) in Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome. In this case, being awesome means making the world a better place. That may sound like a lot for children—and adults!—to chew on, but 100 tips included in this guide focus on using what you have to do what you can.
“A nonstop party that will have kids embracing their awesomeness and changing the world.” –Monita K. Bell
In her autobiography, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, Malala Yousafzai (with support from co-writer Christina Lamb) reveals the heartache of seeing her beloved Pakistan overtaken by the Taliban. She takes readers on a compelling journey showing how she—an average girl worried about grades, friends and boys—became an international spokesperson for girls’ education. Readers will love Malala’s humanity and sense of humor. Most important, they will see that faith, love and courage are stronger than hate.
“A powerful story that every young person should read.” –Jarah Botello
Ally struggles to keep her reading difficulties a secret, but her teacher soon notices that Ally always has an excuse to avoid reading and writing assignments. Once Ally admits her struggle, she gets over her fear and opens the path to conquer it. Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt is an example of hope for students who struggle with learning differences and a lesson for all students: With patience and hard work, you can do anything.
“Ally shows that the ‘impossible’ is possible.” –Cecile Jones
In Fire Shut Up in My Bones, Charles M. Blow recounts a life of dramatic highs and lows that led him to a successful career with The New York Times. While Blow’s past was often painful (among other obstacles, he endured grinding poverty, abusive relatives and brutal hazing while pledging a fraternity), it was also filled with inspiration and the love of a tireless mother who never allowed the world to underestimate him. The resulting tale is a beautiful story about coming into oneself.
“Honest, raw and so inspiring!” –Sara Wicht
Urban educators eager to understand their students’ lives will do well to grab a copy of Unequal City: Race, Schools, and Perceptions of Injustice. Sociologist Carla Shedd studies how race and place—schools, neighborhoods and gang turf—interact in Chicago high school students’ lives to produce either opportunity or reinforce inequality. Student voices put heart and life into this informative book. The result is a richly drawn picture of how students’ experiences with police, neighborhood and gang borders, and “carceral” schools teach them to see the world as either unjust or full of possibilities.
“Shedd writes about Chicago, but the borders and contrasts exist in every city.” –Maureen Costello
Saya’s Haitian mother is imprisoned for being “without papers” in Edwidge Danticat’s Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation. Saya misses her mother terribly and listens to her voice on the family answering machine to feel close to her. But soon, Saya receives cassette tapes in the mail of her mother’s recorded stories. Inspired to act, Saya decides to send her own story to every news outlet she can find, garnering media attention and a hearing that changes the course of their lives.
“A brave tale for children about the real-life struggles many families face.” –Margaret Sasser
In Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, Sonia Manzano remembers a childhood marked by poverty and uncertainty that—while often frightening—fed her creative development as an actress and writer. The memoir is both heart-wrenching and hilarious, offering a crystal-clear window into the life of a young Latina woman struggling with identity, friendship and a family that could be at once nurturing and terrifying.
“Whether or not students watched Sesame Street, they will fall in love with Manzano's storytelling. A cover-to-cover read.” –Adrienne van der Valk
Deepa Iyer’s We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future is a timely read. Iyer writes that the United States “has yet to fully confront the scope and effects of racial anxiety, Islamophobia, and xenophobia that have permeated our national narratives and policies in the years since 9/11.” Iyer addresses the scope and effects—and she brings the experiences of her titular subjects, particularly young activists and leaders, to the forefront.
“An important discussion of racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia in post-9/11 America.” –Maya Lindberg
The Emotional Politics of Racism: How Feelings Trump Facts in an Era of Colorblindness by Paula Ioanide
Middle & High School
Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani
The Remembering Day / El Día de los Muertos by Pat Mora, illustrated by Robert Casill