We’re the People Summer Reading 2015
Many schools have already ended for the summer, and others finish in the next few weeks. For some of us, summer is a time to read all those books that we didn’t have time to read during the year because of all our other schoolwork and activities. For others, it’s a time to do anything but read.
There are a lot of reasons to avoid reading in the summer. Now that I’m reading a lot of books in languages other than English, I’ve come to appreciate how hard it is for young people who struggle with reading. The solution may be reading an easier book — and not shaming youngsters who choose books below their grade level.
There’s also the question of what to choose. It’s hard when so many books are out there. A famous study found that diners at a restaurant were more likely to order dessert when they had fewer choices. That’s where a reading list becomes useful; it makes choosing a lot easier.
Unfortunately, many of our young people have had too few choices over the years. Children of color, especially, have failed to see protagonists who look like them or share their experiences. They don’t know that authors who look like them have written and published books. And this kind of thing matters. Kiara, my semi-autobiographical protagonist of Rogue, cherishes a book written by Temple Grandin even though she finds the book difficult to read. Kiara has Asperger’s and has gotten into trouble in school, but when she reads about Grandin’s problems growing up, she thinks, “if Temple Grandin wrote a book, she must have turned out all right.” And Jacqueline Woodson’s multiple award-winning verse memoir Brown Girl Dreaming offers a moving tribute to John Steptoe’s picture book Stevie, which inspired her to become, first, a reader and, then, a writer. (Her poem about Stevie in Brown Girl Dreaming, by the way, is a powerful argument for letting young readers choose any book they want, regardless of age or grade level.)
For these reasons, librarian and Crazy Quilts blogger Edith Campbell invited a group of colleagues passionate about literacy, diversity, and children’s and young adult literature to put together a reading list. Over the next few months, Edi, Sarah Park Dahlen, Sujei Lugo, Nathalie Mvondo, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and I assembled a list of approximately 60 books, divided by picture books, middle grade, and young adult. Our books were written and/or illustrated by authors and artists of color — African American, Asian American, Latino, and Native American. Some include LGBTQIA protagonists or protagonists with disabilities. They include contemporary, historical, and speculative fiction as well as graphic novels and nonfiction.
Below is the list of titles, where for the books for older readers I’ve also included the genre for those who are interested in specific genres. The annotated list is available here and here; it gives more information about both the books and their authors. And check out the annotated 2016 list here, with my commentary on the process here.
Picture Books, Chapter Books, and Early Readers:
A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara. (Also available in Spanish and Swedish) Triangle Square, 2013. 32 pgs.
Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan and Sophie Blackall. Viking, 2010. 40 pgs.
Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki and Qin Leng. Kids Can Press, 2014. 32 pgs.
Hungry Johnny by Cheryl Minnema and Wesley Ballinger. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2014. 32 pgs.
I Love Ugali and Sukuma by Kwame Nyong’o. CreateSpace, 2013. 36 pgs.
Imani’s Moon by Janay Brown-Wood and Hazel Mitchell. Mackinac Island Press, 2014. 32 pgs.
Jazz by Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers. Holiday House, 2008. 48 pgs.
Jonathan and His Mommy by Irene Smalls and Michael Hays. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 1994. 32 pgs.
Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales. Chronicle Books, 2003. 32 pgs.
Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story by Reem Faruqi and Lea Lyon. Tilbury House Publishers, 2015. 32 pgs.
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald No Combina by Monica Brown Ph.D. and Sara Palacios. Children’s Book Press, 2013. 32 pgs.
My Colors, My World/Mis Colores, Mi Mundo by Maya Christina Gonzalez. Children’s Book Press, 2013. 32 pgs.
My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best and Vanessa Brantley Newton. Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2015. 40 pgs.
Tía Isa Wants A Car by Meg Medina and Claudio Muñoz. Candlewick, 2011. 32 pgs.
The Phoenix on Barkley Street by Zetta Elliott. Rosetta Press, 2014. 32 pgs.
The Third Gift by Linda Sue Park and Bagram Ibatoulline. Clarion Books, 2011. 32 pgs.
We March by Shane Evans. Roaring Brook Press, 2012. 32 pgs.
Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda. Ash Mistry Chronicles. HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2012. 320 pgs. (Fantasy)
Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2015. 256 pgs. (Magic realism)
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014. 336 pgs. (Nonfiction, memoir in verse)
Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities by Mike Jung and Mike Maihack. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2012. 320 pgs. (Contemporary realism, humor)
How I Became A Ghost by Tim Tingle. How I Became a Ghost Series. RoadRunner Press, 2013. 160 pgs. (Historical fiction)
I Lived On Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosín and Lee White. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015. 464 pgs. (Alternative history, magic realism)
March Book 1 by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. March Trilogy. Top Shelf Productions, 2013. 128 pgs. (Graphic novel memoir)
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia. Amistad, 2011. 240 pgs. (Historical fiction)
Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine. Henry Holt and Co., 2007. 249 pgs. (Historical fiction)
Shooting Kabul by N. M. Senzai. Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2011. 288 pgs. (Contemporary realism)
The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrick Henry Bass and Jerry Craft. Scholastic, 2014. 144 pgs. (Fantasy)
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. Viking Books for Young Readers, 2011. 368 pgs. (Fantasy)
Antigoddess by Kendare Blake. The Goddess War series. Tor Teen, 2014. 352 pgs. (Fantasy)
Ash by Malinda Lo. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010. 272 pgs. (Fantasy)
Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013. 224 pgs. (Contemporary realism)
Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi and Craig Phillips. Knopf Books For Young Readers, 2013. 320 pgs. (Contemporary, thriller)
Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend by Erika Wurth. Curbside Splendor Publishing, 2014.
288 pgs. (Contemporary realism)
Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. Cinco Puntos Press, 2014. 208 pgs. (Contemporary realism)
How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon. Henry Holt and Co., 2014. 336 pgs. (Contemporary realism)
If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth. Arthur A. Levine, 2014. 368 pgs. (Historical fiction)
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan. Algonquin Young Readers, 2013. 256 pgs. (Contemporary realism)
Jumped In by Patrick Scott Flores. Henry Holt and Co., 2013. 304 pgs. (Contemporary realism)
Legend by Marie Lu. Legend series. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2011. 336 pgs. (Dystopian)
The Living by Matt de la Peña. Delacorte Press, 2013. 320 pgs. (Dystopian)
Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis. Companion to Elijah of Buxton. Scholastic Press; 2014. 384 pgs. (Historical fiction)
Money Boy by Paul Yee. Ray Liu. Groundwood Books, 2013. 184 pgs. (Contemporary realism)
Pig Park by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez. Cinco Puntos Press, 2014. 246 pgs. (Contemporary realism)
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older. Arthur A. Levine, 2015. 304 pgs. (Fantasy)
Silver People by Margarita Engle. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2014. 272 pgs. (Historical fiction)
Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Tantalize series. Candlewick, 2007. 336 pgs. (Fantasy)
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015, 304 pgs. (Contemporary realism)
Zero Fade by Chris L. Terry. Curbside Splendor, 2013. 294 pgs. (Historical fiction)
With list in hand, what’s next?
This may be your chance to become an activist, too. Each one of us has the power to change the world!
I hope your local bookstore carries these books, but if you don’t find them on the shelves, order them. If the bookstore’s owners and staff notice increased demand, they’ll pay more attention when they see diverse books in publishers’ catalogs, when publishers’ representatives visit the store, and when reviews of the books are published.
I also hope your local library stocks these books. If you don’t see them, order them on interlibrary loan and put a request in for your library to purchase them. Libraries exist to serve the community, and that means…YOU!
Note: All book covers are from books I’ve reviewed for The Pirate Tree and the “Waging Peace” column of the Albany Times-Union.