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 Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Laura Carlin
Candlewick Press, 2014
Ages 5 and up
ISBN-10: 0763666335 /13: 978-076366633
Honors: English Association Picture Book Award Best Fiction
Can one heart and two hands change the world?
In The Promise, a little girl has become hardened and cold like the city she lives in. Her heart had “shriveled as the dead trees in the park.” Isolated and disconnected from people and from nature, the girl turns to thievery. She steals for her food; she never smiles. One night the girl spots an old lady walking alone, easy pickings for the seasoned young thief. So she thinks! The girl grabs ahold of the woman’s purse, a struggle ensues, until finally the old lady says, “If you promise to plant them, I’ll let go.”
Alas, the bag is not full of money or food or anything useful, but rather it’s crammed full of acorns.
“I held a forest in my arms, and my heart was changed,” the girl says.
A girl must keep her promises. She plants the acorns everywhere—abandoned buildings, bus stops, and factories. Soon, the city is flourishing with green and bursting with tiny oaklings and, best of all, the people are smiling and planting trees and flowers of their own.
This simple story, a retelling of Jean Giono’s 1953 story, L’homme qui plantait des arbres, is a strong message about conservation and action that emphasizes our human belonging to the natural world. It’s also an uplifting call to action for each reader to give their own heart and hands over to the stewardship of our earth by planting something green! – Gigi
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014
Picture book, ages 5 – adult
Honors: Pura Belpré Honor book 2015 * Robert Seibert Honor Book, 2015 * Amèricas Book Award, 2015
When we think of Civil Rights in this country, it’s easy to overlook the role of Latinos in that struggle. Yet in 1944, when California schools were still segregated, Sylvia Mendez and her siblings were forced to enroll in a school for Mexicans. Despite the fact that they were natural American citizens, the Mendez children were required to attend a school that was farther from home and lacking in the same amenities as the school designated for white students.
Thus began the Mendez family fight to integrate schools for Latinos.
Separate Is Never Equal by award-winning author/illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh is the perfect blend of picture book, history, and a strong-girl story. It’s about everyday people fighting injustice with conviction. Readers can follow the court proceedings and meet the essential people who joined the lawsuit. It’s a revealing look at the thinking of the time, such as the ideas that Mexicans had deficient language skills, poor social skills, head lice, impetigo, and other illnesses.
With distinctive art based on the Mixtec Codex, an excellent glossary, photographs, and list of resources, this is a rich picture book for all ages. I love this book for Girls of Summer in particular because strong girls do, in fact, help change history. ~MM
by Abby Hanlon
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014
Chapter book, ages 5 – 8
Additional formats: paperback
Golden Kite honor title, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
You’ll recognize Dory.
She’s that youngest child who is always begging to play no matter how much her brother and sister try to keep her away. She’s the one who eats napkins, the one who acts like a dog for a whole day, the one who won’t go to bed and who sees villains where no one else does, the who asks questions— a lot of annoying questions.
Abby Hanlon, author of Ralph Tells a Story (Two Lions, 2012), has created a pest that you can’t help but root for because she is one hundred percent enthusiasm and imagination. It would be easy to leave the story at slapstick, but in Hanlon’s able hands, we get more. Sprinkled into the hilarious scenarios are also the quiet moments of hurt and love we see in families. Dory is a handful, but one that no one can resist. ~MM
by Yuyi Morales
Roaring Brook Press, 2014
Picture book, ages 4 – 8
Additional formats: bilingual edition
Awards: Caldecott Honor 2015 * Pura Belpré Award 2015 for illustration
I can’t stop looking at the pictures in this lovely book that earned Yuyi Morales a Caldecott honor, the first for a Latino illustrator, this year.
It’s the story of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo whose life has been well covered. However, that has made absolutely no impact on this book’s originality and freshness. Each page is a beautifully photographed tableau of Kahlo’s life—in painting, in puppets, in collage. There are sophisticated references to her husband, Diego Rivera, and images that would find themselves into her art, which make it especially fun for adult readers, too. The details are charming—everything from those signature eyebrows down to the jewelry and embroidered skirts. Most impressive, though, is that the simple words capture how an artist discovers her voice and passion—two essentials for strong girls everywhere. Bravo! ~MM
By Amrita Das
Tara Books, 2014
Ages 10 and up
ISBN-10: 9383145021/13: 978-9383145027
Additional formats: La esperanza es una niña vendiendo fruta (Spanish edition)
Honors: ALA Outstanding International Book
In Hope is a Girl Selling Fruit, a young artist travels by train from her village in India to a small town in a different region to study art with a new teacher. In her work, she struggles to find inspiration until she remembers a poor girl on the train.
“I knew at that moment, how I was going to tell my story. It is her story, too,” Das writes.
In this visual and narrative study of a young woman watching a young girl, hopes and dreams and constraints and threats unite the travelers in the experience of being female.
“Freedom. What does that word mean to us? Going to school? Learning? And then? Marriage? Does that set you free?”
With drawings rooted in a folk art style called Mithila, Das explores the world of women and girls in northern India and invites readers to scale the boundaries of tradition and culture in their lives, too. -Gigi
Poems by Haitian Schoolchildren
Illustrated by Rogé, Translated by Solange Messier
Fifth House, 2014
Picture book, poetry
Ages 6 and up
ISBN-10: 1927083230/13: 978-1927083239
Honors: New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books
When I was just out of college, I visited Haiti for a couple of weeks with a group from my city, Richmond. We stayed in Port-au-Prince, the capital, and in Hinche, the capital of the central plateau.
How I remember the people in Port-au-Prince is that they shouted at me on the boldly painted taxi-trucks, called tap taps, about very specific policy issues related to the U.S. that I knew nothing about and cannot now recall. I will never forget how that experience redefined my understanding of citizenship and human rights.
In all the places of the world I have visited, there is no place where the clouds have felt so close or the stars so crystal as in Hinche, Haiti. We visited in the dry season, but even so, water tumbled down from the mountains into clear, deep pools. The people in Hinche shared goat stew and plantains and pumpkin soup on the Feast of the Epiphany. They sat down with us and talked about all people working together, sharing the heavy load, making change one step at a time, and never giving up.
I believe that some of the strongest girls in all of the world must be Haitian girls. Some of these girls are poets, praising their homeland in Haiti My Country, a collection of fifteen poems by Haitian teenagers, all from the village of Camp-Perrin in the southern part of the country.
The young poets bring the beauty and hardship of Haiti into focus, and Rogè’s introspective portraits of them reveals youth full of generosity, joy, skepticism, inquisitiveness, and determination.
They write lovingly of trees—mango, soursop, papaya, avocado, pomegranate, mahogany, and giant oak. Of red birds and hibiscus. Of honey and hard labor. Of course, they write of roosters! And, they write of lost smiles and worries and better tomorrows to come. – Gigi