by Sonia Manzano
Scholastic Press, 2015
Ages 14 and older (Some sensitive adult content)
Additional formats: ebook
This is a compelling memoir about one of our cultural icons, Sonia Manzano, known to many as Maria on Sesame Street. For an entire generation of children, she was the face of their own family, foods, and language. But sometimes a girl’s rise to success is much harder than it appears.
Sonia Manzano grew up in the Bronx to parents who were Puerto Rican immigrants struggling economically and socially in New York. Themes of domestic abuse, sexism, and alcoholism run throughout, but above all, this is a story of a girl, blessed with her own gifts and imagination, who carves out a place for her dreams.
by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2014
Ages 5-8, Grades K-3
ISBN: 13: 978-0399166150
2015 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award * 2015 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award New Writer Honor * NPR Best Book of 2014 * Amazon Best Book of 2014 – Ages 6-8 * Amazon Best Book of the Month, September 2014 * Essence Magazine Best Children’s Book of 2014
In a stirring love letter to young dancers, author and ballerina Misty Copeland welds the seeming divide between the impossible and possible. “The space between you and me is longer than forever,” a young girl bewails about the distance between her own dance dream and the achievements of prima ballerina, Copeland.
Copeland, who began ballet at age thirteen, shares how she struggled to find her place in the world, even within her own family. Through dance she connected to her true self – body, spirit, and soul. What ballet books reflected back to her, however, was that ballerinas weren’t “me, brown with tendrils.” With mentorship from African American ballerina Raven Wilkinson, Copeland forged her own path and transformed ballet.
Firebird speaks to girls (and boys!) who dance under starlight and moonbeams, who hold a dream in their hearts and souls, yet do not yet believe they can cross the divide. Here, Copeland shows them that “forever is not so far away.”
by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings,
Illustrated by Shelagh McNichols
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014
Picture book, Memoir
ISBN-10: 0803741073/ ISBN-13: 978-0803741072
Additional formats: E-book
Honors: ALA’s Rainbow List
This is the story of Jazz Jennings, a girl who loves pink and silver and green. A girl who likes to dance and sing and do back flips. A girl who likes to pretend she’s a pop star or a mermaid. A strong girl who was born with the body of a boy. I Am Jazz recounts the early childhood experience of Jazz Jennings, a teen advocate and co-founder of the Transkids Purple Rainbow Foundation, who felt like a girl born into a boy’s body from the time she was two-years-old.
“Pretending I was a boy felt like a lie,” Jazz writes. At first, her parents are confused when Jazz tells them of her feelings. But when the family meets a doctor who teaches them the word “transgender,” everything starts to change.
“Be who you are. We love you no matter what,” are words every child deserves to hear. I Am Jazz is a perfect title to discuss concepts such as acceptance and belonging and will make an important addition to the family or school library. – Gigi
by Cece Bell
Amulet Books, 2014
Middle grade, graphic novel
Additional formats: paperback
Awards: Newbery Honor Award 2015
It’s a documented fact that you need a special power to be a superhero. It has to be something no one else can do. Something so impressive that it earns us instant respect.
How about being able to hear your teachers while they gossip in the lounge or if they pass gas in the restroom?
This year’s Newbery Honor-winning book, El Deafo by Cece Bell, is a hilarious graphic novel about a young girl (well, sort of a rabbit) coming to terms with being deaf in a hearing world.
The list of inconveniences is long for a kid who has to wear a cumbersome device called the “Phonic Ear.” And it’s almost impossible to make everyone understand why turning up the TV louder will not help or why whispering in the dark at a sleep over is maddening.
But there is always a silver lining if you have a hero’s heart. In this case, the silver lining is an ability to use your “Phonic Ear” to hear your teacher’s every movement—including those inside a bathroom stall.
There is so much to love here: the funny illustrations, the wacky characters, the wise look inside the dynamics of friendship. But what I admire most are the many moments in the pages when Bell helps us reflect on how we all make room for each other in this world. ~MM
by Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014
Middle grade, memoir, poetry
Ages 10 and up
Honors: National Book Award for Young People’s Literature * Newbery Honor * Coretta Scott King Author Book Award * Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature * NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature
Jacqueline Woodson recalls a childhood spanning Ohio, South Carolina, and New York toward the end of the Jim Crow era and the rise of the Civil Rights movement.
Through a child’s eyes, the story revisits a grandmother’s tired feet and strong faith, downtown sit-ins, and lingering WHITES ONLY signs. This memoir-in-verse summons the reliable tonality of her maternal grandfather’s daily return from work and his grandchildren’s wild, loving sprint to greet him. The pages reminisce over a familial landscape where the Greenville air speaks to a thoughtful child through the twinkle of lightning bugs, scents of pine, and wet grass and a never-ending serenade of crickets.
Brown Girl Dreaming illuminates how deeply childhood is shaped by history, family, faith, and place and how often children are called upon to build bridges between the past and the future, trials and triumphs. – Gigi
By Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb
Little Brown & Company, 2013
Memoir, Ages 14 and up
ISBN: 10: 0316322407
Additional formats: e-book, audio book
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban is a poignant, educational, and surprisingly humorous memoir by Malala Yousafzai, the young woman who, at only fifteen, became one of the most heralded women’s rights activists in the world, when she was shot by a member of the Taliban on her way home from school with her friends.
The book provides extensive political, religious, and environmental history of the world Malala grew up in: the Swat region of Pakistan, Islam, and a family who raised Malala as an outspoken, educated girl. Malala describes the rich and, at times, turbulent culture and politics of Pakistan. She also expresses her love and admiration for Pakistan’s first female Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007. The memoir also offers an in-depth examination of Islam and the myriad sects that are a part of the world’s second-largest religion. The time spent delving into these topics is critically important to understanding what happened to Malala and also serves as a reminder of how the deeply personal parts of our lives are quite often the most political.
Most remarkably, however, are the revelations about Malala’s own family, who strongly support education, especially the education of women. Malala tenderly writes of her father and mother who encouraged her to learn, think, and question in a world that suppresses and the minds and bodies of women and often violently so. Beautiful and articulate, I Am Malala tells the story of a family with unimaginably fierce courage and their fight for the education of women in the face of oppression. – Gigi
By Lila Quintero Weaver
Young adult/non-fiction/graphic format
The University of Alabama Press, 2012
I am so very proud to include this debut work in Girls of Summer. I had the pleasure of meeting the author at this year’s national Latino Children’s Literature Conference, where I sat utterly amazed by her talent and grace.
Set in Marion Alabama during the 1960s, Darkroom is a memoir in graphic novel format. It’s about growing up as the only Hispanic family in a town where racial tensions erupted into violence and murder during the Civil Rights era. Weaver, daughter of an amateur Argentine photographer, gives us an unflinching account of what she saw and how she grew to make sense of all that surrounded her.
Neither black nor white in the eyes of her neighbors, she felt shame at her own heritage, especially as she became increasingly conscious of the appalling racial injustice against blacks at the time. The memoir hinges on the events of a single night that ended in the death of a peaceful marcher, an event that would change her thinking forever.
We all know that children have never been exempt from history’s horrors. What’s remarkable here is how expertly Weaver has found an honest way to talk about this awful chapter in our country’s history – and how well she keeps us in the perspective of the young girl she once was. Her black and white illustrations are especially clever in partnerships with spare, elegant text. This is a writer who has depth and knows that her readers do, too.
I think young women reading this will find a doorway into history. So many of the events are disturbing. (The snapshot of the fourth grade history book is particularly alarming. And be warned: Weaver keeps true to ugly slurs of the time.) But I think strong girls will love this book because it’s a story of a girl who didn’t give in to the pressures around her. Instead, she learned to open her eyes to what was really around her and inside her. It’s a story of a shy, unsure girl finding her voice at a dangerous time. MM