By Laura Veirs, Illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
Chronicle Books, 2018
Picture book, non-fiction
Ages 5-8, Grades K – 3
ISBN 10: 1452139962
Additional Format: e-book
Honors: Junior Library Guild Selection
Libba celebrates the life and accomplishments of acclaimed African-American singer-songwriter and folk musician, Elizabeth Cotten, whose childhood curiosity and determination ignited a lifelong love of music and desire to create. Left-handed, she taught herself to play her older brother’s guitar by strumming the instrument upside down and backwards. She wrote one of the most famous American folk songs of her era, Freight Train, when she was just eleven years old and performed the song (and many other original songs) all across the globe. Growing up in the segregated South, she faced many obstacles in her life and overcame barriers and prejudices to pursue her craft. A believer in lifelong learning, Libba Cotten knew her life’s purpose was to play, and she won a Grammy when she was in her nineties!
This picture book biography is an infectious work of love and devotion by author and singer-songwriter Laura Veirs and artist-activist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. A gentle, magical reminder to never give up, Libba will inspire and uplift early bloomers, late bloomers, and bloomers of every sort. – GA
By Tanya Lee Stone in association with Girl Rising
Wendy Lamb Books, 2017
Non Fiction, Young Adult
Ages 14 and up, grades 8 and up
Additional formats: Kindle
Honors: A Junior Library Guild Selection
Worldwide, over 62 million girls are not in school. This staggering statistic was the catalyst for the 2013 documentary entitled Girl Rising, a film that profiled the stories of nine exceptional girls fighting to be educated. In the follow-up to this film, Tanya Lee Stone takes us deeper into this issue by exploring, in-depth, the barriers many girls face, illustrating the importance of investing in girls around the world and calling to action current and future activists alike.
In Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time, Stone captures the readers with full-color photographs and moving portraits of young girls in developing countries such as Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Nepal, Peru, Sierra Leone, and others. She provides a framework for understanding their lack of education, highlighting barriers such as modern-day slavery, child marriage, poverty, human trafficking, gender discrimination, and lack of access. What results is a vivid and heart-wrenching look at the challenges many young girls face.
But Stone does not leave us without hope. Each profile is not just a story of adversity; it is also a story of hope and perseverance. Each of these girls has prevailed over their circumstances and attended school. This is an important feat, not only for them and for their community, but also for the world. “Why? Because education girls literally changes how nations behave. Educating girls changes how governments function. It changes economies and jobs….It can change entire cultures.”
This inspiring book ends with a call-to-action. Readers from first-world cultures may not experience these barriers first hand, but there are ways they can still help. Stone highlights several examples including writing for your school or local newspaper, supporting Fair Trade, or using what you’re passionate about to raise money for a non-profit organization.
Around the world, there may be many obstacles to educating girls, but there are also many people willing to fight for their rights to be educated. Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time shines a light on this issue and rallies readers to the cause. – JD
By Linda Urban, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Chronicle Books, 2018
Ages 4-8, Grades K – 3
Additional Format: e-book
“I am in command and we are safe,” Mabel assures her little brother on their first day in their new home. In this three-in-one Moving Day adventure, Mabel and her little brother, Sam, dig deep and face their fears and uncertainty in a new home, where even the same old things are different. Big sis Mabel takes charge, using her imagination to help Sam settle into the new environment.
Play acting on the high seas, in the gallery of the New House Museum, and in outer space Mabel is the kind of older sibling every little brother or sister deserves – a dash of bossy, a dollop of bold, and heaping serving of sisterly devotion. Mabel takes the helm as she and Sam adjust to the new place. With tenderness and humor, Linda Urban’s clever and funny text combine with Hadley Hooper’s cheerful color illustrations to create an endearing portrait of a lovable, creative big sister. – GA
By N.H. Senzai
Paula Wiseman Books, 2018
Contemporary middle grade
Additional formats: ebook
Nadia’s family knows what they need to do when the bombs start falling in their neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria. After all, this isn’t the first time they’ve been caught in the violence. They pack quickly and begin to head for their predetermined meeting point in the city–but Nadia panics, hiding under a car as a bomb hits her building, forcing her family to leave her behind, possibly for dead. When Nadia wakes up, she is alone.
Thus begins a young girl’s trek through the dangerous city of Aleppo in search of her family. She makes it to the store where they were supposed to meet and finds a message from them in case she is alive: they have survived, and will wait for her at the Turkish border. Nadia, one of the most fearless and street-smart kids I’ve ever read, doesn’t hesitate to begin her journey to Turkey, a small girl facing the dangers from both rebels and government soldiers, as well as exposure and starvation.
Nadia is accompanied by a collection of heart-warming side characters, all of whom have their own stories and secrets. She never gives up, never gets hopeless, and never thinks she won’t make it. And along the way, through flashbacks and character conversations, the reader develops Syria’s background photo: how violence broke out during the Arab Spring, how it has spread and how other countries have inserted themselves into the conflict, how normal civilians in Syria have been affected and displaced, forced to flee their homes.
At its heart, this is an adventure story: a young girl must beat the odds to find her family. But it also provides the historical background on a conflict we’re all watching unfold on the news every night. It’s the best of both worlds: informative and educational, but also just a plain engrossing, unputdownable story. – AN
By Judy Schachner
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017
Picture Book, ages 4 – 8, grades PK – 2
Additional formats: Kindle
“Sarabella had no time for small talk. In fact, she never talked much at all…because she was too busy thinking.”
Sarabella is a dreamer. Her days are filled with fascinating thoughts dancing through her imagination—doodles of poodles, painted ponies racing across the sky, a garden growing animals, and even a bear with a good head for numbers. Her family, daydreamers themselves, see no issue with Sarabella’s way of thinking. Yet, there are times Sarabella’s imagination prevents her from concentrating on other important things, such as her schoolwork.
But one Friday, Mr. Fantozzi, Sarabella’s teacher, sends the class home with the following task:
“A Penny for Your Thoughts: Draw a picture of your favorite daydreams.”
Sarabella is immediately excited by the assignment, but upon returning home, she realizes the challenge in trying to fit all of her ideas onto a piece of paper. With the help of an imagined whale, that suggests “to share it, you’ve just got to wear it,” Sarabella comes up with a solution. With only a brown paper bag and a few craft supplies, Sarabella creates a her thinking cap, “a spectacular collection of doodles and daydreams right on top of her head.”
With whimsical mixed-media collages, Judy Schachner brings us a heartwarming story of a little girl with a big imagination. Sarabella’s Thinking Cap shows the reader the value imagination and sends the message that creativity should be cultivated and nurtured. -JD
By Erika L. Sánchez
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017
Contemporary Young Adult
Additional formats: ebook, audiobook
Honors: National Book Award Finalist
Julia is the black sheep of the family. She wants to go away to college, she loves loud music and wearing black and writing. Her sister, Olga, graduated from high school and stayed home with her parents in their Chicago apartment like a good Mexican daughter, attending part-time community college and maintaining a complete disinterest in boys. But now Olga is dead, and Julia has to handle both her own grief and the full brunt of her parents’ expectations.
In the midst of these tears and arguments, Julia discovers that Olga wasn’t as “perfect” as she pretended to be. Her sister had secrets, loves, dreams, and flaws. As Julia tries to get to the truth of who her sister was, she struggles with her own mental health, falls in love for the first time, and plans her future far, far away from her parents. The pressure becomes too great to bear alone, and Julia finds herself in Mexico for a “break,” where she discovers that her parents are also more complicated than she thought.
This is a powerful novel about the experience of being the child of an immigrant—never American enough, never Mexican enough—and also about how so much of growing up is about realizing that people with whom you think you have little in common are just as interesting and complicated as you are.
But it’s also just the story of a smart, funny, flawed girl having her first kiss, discovering books she loves, and living her life with her friends. There’s so much to relate to here for any reader, no matter where you are from or what age you are. – AN
By Mitali Perkins
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017
Ages 14 and up, Grades 9 and up
Other formats: e-book, audio
Honors: Long list for the National Book Award 2017 * Walter Award Honor for Teen Literature * Multiple “Best Book” lists (PW, SLJ, Horn Book Fanfare, NYPL, Boston Globe, ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults)
I have always loved being transported by books, especially by sweeping tales that span the globe and pull me into lives of people who love and sacrifice over time.
You Bring the Distant Near is nearly perfect for my appetite. In lush and poetic language, Perkins opens the novel in 1965 Ghana, with the imperious Ranee Das and her two daughters, Tara and Sonia, already locked in the pattern of what will be their lifelong battle of wills.
Told in alternating voices, we follow three generations of the Das family women as the family emigrated to the US. Reunited with their father, the girls begin the long and convoluted process of reimagining themselves in a new country. Deaths, secret loves, and the maddening complexities of race and culture are all explored as the girls move through high school and college, clashing with each other and with their parents along the way. Finally, in the last section of the book, it is Tara and Sonia as adults—an activist and a film star—who are mothers struggling to raise their own American daughters.
Nuanced, historically accurate, and populated with unforgettable characters, it’s a YA novel with easy crossover appeal. Perkins is at her best as she draws the intricate realities of immigrant families: how we stay connected, how our thinking changes, and how we struggle to remain a family when our identities pull from different sources. But mostly, I love that You Bring the Distant Near is a testament to how strong girls are forged over time with love and suffering, each generation drawing strength from the one before. MM