Our book reviews can help you keep your practice fresh and informed.
Nine-year-old Maddy wants to be a hero, but her strength has never been tested like it is the summer she spends on the bayou with her mysterious grandmother. Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Bayou Magic tells the story of Maddy’s first adventure away from her family in the big city of New Orleans. As she learns more about her bayou family and community, Maddy gains the opportunity to become the hero she’s always known she could be. In the process, she expands her hopes and dreams and learns to cherish the environment.
upper elementary school
“A magical celebration of community, imagination, friendship and nature.”
–Monita K. Bell
Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan is about two kids trying to make the best of a bad situation. Ravi recently moved to the United States from India and is having a hard time adjusting and making new friends. Joe is a U.S. native who is being bullied by the popular kids. Their experiences are different but related in ways that matter to both boys. This book illustrates a profound truth: Be ready to listen to others because you never know how a situation affects someone else.
“A good reminder to see things from more than your own point of view.”
With the backdrop of social media and the internet as the great unifier, Mychal Denzel Smith’s Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education highlights the struggle of a generation to change the world. His central argument: The more we focus only on the most “respectable” black Americans, the more we make others invisible. The more we celebrate representation without systemic change, the more deeply we reinforce white supremacy.
“A raw look at the disparate influences high-profile African Americans have on millennials at a time when many young people fear for their lives.”
–D. Scott McDaniel
Myths surrounding American Indian history abound, from “Thanksgiving proves the Indians welcomed the Pilgrims” to “Columbus discovered America.” In “All the Real Indians Died Off”: And 20 Other Myths About Native Americans, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker tackle and disprove commonly held, inaccurate and limited understandings of indigenous peoples. In the process, they expose the origins of these myths and examine the broader landscape of Native people in our country—past and present.
“An important and necessary book that sets the record straight.”
Many young readers will relate to Annie in Annie’s Plaid Shirt by Stacy B. Davids, illustrated by Rachael Balsaitis. Annie loves her plaid shirt and doesn’t want to wear anything else. When she has to dress up for her uncle’s wedding, Annie and her mom go toe to toe about what she should wear—until Annie has a brilliant solution. Will her mom agree?
“Encourages students to think about—and possibly rethink—personal expression and gender norms.”
Same But Different tells the story of 15-year-old twins: Charlie, who is on the autism spectrum, and Callie, who isn’t. Shifting back and forth between the twins’ perspectives, this novel lends humor, heart, courage and honesty to its disparate depictions of everyday experiences—meals and shopping trips, vacations and movie dates. The book is loosely based on the real-life experiences of twins RJ and Ryan Elizabeth Peete, who coauthored it with their mother, actress Holly Robinson Peete.
“An honest, funny and uplifting story of a family’s journey with autism.”
Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad offers a piercing look at the lived experience of slavery. It’s written from the perspective of Cora, a young woman whose escape from a Georgia plantation takes her through different states, where she (and the reader) get different points of view on “the peculiar institution” and its effects. Whitehead’s fierce and unflinching prose draws readers into Cora’s world, which—although imaginary—holds important lessons.
“A must read for those seeking to deepen their understanding of American slavery.”
In For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood … and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education, Christopher Emdin reframes today’s urban youth as “neoindigenous,” kids with a shared history of being silenced. As the title implies, Emdin’s book challenges educators to forge new paths to reach and teach their students and, through his reality pedagogy lens, outlines transformative practices that have the potential to spark a revolution of empowerment and learning.
“Indispensable guidance for those teaching youth who are part of traditionally oppressed groups—urban or not.”
–Hoyt J. Phillips III
The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros
Middle & High School
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
Ira’s Shakespeare Dream by Glenda Armand, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
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