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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Columns & Features > BlogBeat > Diversifying the “Best of” Lists in Books from Young Adult to Picture Books to Graphic Novels

Diversifying the “Best of” Lists in Books from Young Adult to Picture Books to Graphic Novels

By Antonio Gonzalez
CBC Diversity

Every year, various publications and organizations will post their “Best of” lists and editor’s choice round-ups. Here are a few diversity titles that we spotted among the crème de la crème.

Young Adult

ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE
by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

A School Library Journal Best book of the Year
A Junior Library Guild Selection

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.–From Simon & Schuster

ENDANGERED
by Eliot Schrefer
Scholastic

A National Book Award Finalist
A Junior Library Guild Selection

The compelling tale of a girl who must save a group of bonobos–and herself–from a violent coup.

The Congo is a dangerous place, even for people who are trying to do good.

When one girl has to follow her mother to her sancuary for bonobos, she’s not thrilled to be there. It’s her mother’s passion, and she’d rather have nothing to do with it. But when revolution breaks out and their sanctuary is attacked, she must rescue the bonobos and hide in the jungle. Together, they will fight to keep safe, to eat, and to survive.

Eliot Schrefer asks readers what safety means, how one sacrifices to help others, and what it means to be human in this new compelling adventure.–From Scholastic

 

THE GOOD BRAIDER
by Terry Farish
Amazon Publishing

A School Library Journal Best book of the Year

In spare free verse laced with unforgettable images, Viola’s strikingly original voice sings out the story of her family’s journey from war-torn Sudan, to Cairo, and finally to Portland, Maine. Here, in the sometimes too close embrace of the local Southern Sudanese Community, she dreams of South Sudan while she tries to navigate the strange world of America – a world where a girl can wear a short skirt, get a tattoo or even date a boy; a world that puts her into sharp conflict with her traditional mother who, like Viola, is struggling to braid together the strands of a displaced life. Terry Farish’s haunting novel is not only a riveting story of escape and survival, but the universal tale of a young immigrant’s struggle to build a life on the cusp of two cultures.–From Amazon

 

THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST
by Emily M. Danforth
Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins

School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship—one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self—even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.–From HarperCollins

 

NEVER FALL DOWN
by Patricia McCormick
Balzer + Bray/Harper­Collins

A New York Times Notable Children’s Book of the Year
A National Book Award Finalist
A Junior Library Guild Selection
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

When soldiers arrive at his hometown in Cambodia, Arn is just a kid, dancing to rock ‘n’ roll, hustling for spare change, and selling ice cream with his brother. But after the soldiers march the entire population into the countryside, his life is changed forever. Arn is separated from his family and assigned to a labor camp: working in the rice paddies under a blazing sun, he sees the other children, weak from hunger, malaria, or sheer exhaustion, dying before his eyes. He sees prisoners marched to a nearby mango grove, never to return. And he learns to be invisible to the sadistic Khmer Rouge, who can give or take away life on a whim.

One day, the soldiers ask if any of the kids can play an instrument. Arn’s never played a note in his life, but he volunteers. In order to survive, he must quickly master the strange revolutionary songs the soldiers demand—and steal food to keep the other kids alive. This decision will save his life, but it will pull him into the very center of what we know today as the Killing Fields. And just as the country is about to be liberated from the Khmer Rouge, Arn is handed a gun and forced to become a soldier. He lives by the simple credo: Over and over I tell myself one thing: never fall down.

Based on the true story of Arn Chorn-Pond, this is an achingly raw and powerful novel about a child of war who becomes a man of peace, from National Book Award finalist Patricia McCormick.–From HarperCollins

 

PINNED
by Sharon Flake
Scholastic


A Junior Library Guild Selection

Award-winning author Sharon G. Flake presents a powerful novel about a teen boy and girl, each tackling disabilities.Autumn and Adonis have nothing in common and everything in common. Autumn is outgoing and has lots of friends. Adonis is shy and not so eager to connect with people. But even with their differences, the two have one thing in common: They’re each dealing with a handicap. For Autumn, who has a learning disability, reading is a painful struggle that makes it hard to focus in class. But as her school’s most aggressive team wrestler, Autumn can take down any problem. Adonis is confined to a wheelchair. He has no legs. He can’t walk or dance. But he’s a strong reader who loves books. Even so, Adonis has a secret he knows someone like Autumn can heal.In time, Autumn and Adonis are forced to see that our greatest weaknesses can turn into the assets that forever change us and those we love.Told in alternating voices, Pinned explores issues of self-discovery, friendship, and what it means to be different.–From Scholastic

 

THE REVOLUTION OF EVELYN SERRANO
by Sonia Manzano
Scholastic Press

A Kirkus Reviews, Best Children’s Book of the Year

There are two secrets Evelyn Serrano is keeping from her Mami and Papo? her true feelings about growing up in her Spanish Harlem neighborhood, and her attitude about Abuela, her sassy grandmother who’s come from Puerto Rico to live with them. Then, like an urgent ticking clock, events erupt that change everything. The Young Lords, a Puerto Rican activist group, dump garbage in the street and set it on fire, igniting a powerful protest. When Abuela steps in to take charge, Evelyn is thrust into the action. Tempers flare, loyalties are tested. Through it all, Evelyn learns important truths about her Latino heritage and the history makers who shaped a nation. Infused with actual news accounts from the time period, Sonia Manzano has crafted a gripping work of fiction based on her own life growing up during a fiery, unforgettable time in America, when young Latinos took control of their destinies.–From Scholastic

 

WE’VE GOT A JOB
The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March
by Cynthia Y Levinson
Peachtree

ABA New Voices
ALSC Notable Children’s Book Nominee
California Reading Association, Gold Medal for Nonfiction
A Junior Library Guild Selection
A Kirkus Reviews, Best Children’s Book of the Year
Parents’ Choice, Gold Medal
Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice

In 1963, the Civil Rights movement was falling apart. After a series of setbacks across the south, the movement was losing direction and momentum. No southern city was more divided than Birmingham, Alabama, home of the infamous Bull Connor. Dr. Martin Luther King conceived an ingenious plan: fill the Birmingham jails by arranging a series of public protests at which participants would be arrested as a result of their nonviolent action, paralyzing the city and drawing national and world attention to the horrors and injustices of segregation. But the stakes were too high for much adult participant in the movementjob loss, jailing, and quite possibly even death. Instead, against Dr. Kings better judgment, young people led the protests.–From Goodreads

 

THE WILD BOOK
by Margarita Engle
Harcourt Children’s Books

A Kirkus Reviews, Best Children’s Book the Year

Fefa struggles with words. She has word blindness, or dyslexia, and the doctor says she will never read or write. Every time she tries, the letters jumble and spill off the page, leaping and hopping away like bullfrogs. How will she ever understand them?

But her mother has an idea. She gives Fefa a blank book filled with clean white pages. “Think of it as a garden,” she says. Soon Fefa starts to sprinkle words across the pages of her wild book. She lets her words sprout like seedlings, shaky at first, then growing stronger and surer with each new day. And when her family is threatened, it is what Fefa has learned from her wild book that saves them.–From Houghton Mifflin Harcout

 

Middle Grade

ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND FREDERICK DOUGLASS
The Story Behind an American Friendship
by Russell Freedman
Clarion/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A Kirkus Reviews, Best Children’s Book of the Year
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

From the author of Lincoln: A Photobiography, comes a clear-sighted, carefully researched account of two surprisingly parallel lives and how they intersected at a critical moment in U.S. history. Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were both selftaught, both great readers and believers in the importance of literacy, both men born poor who by their own efforts reached positions of power and prominence–Lincoln as president of the United States and Douglass as the most famous and influential African American of his time. Though their meetings were few and brief, their exchange of ideas helped to end the Civil War, reunite the nation, and abolish slavery. Bibliography, source notes, index.–From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

 

BEYOND COURAGE
The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust
by Doreen Rappaport
Candlewick

A Junior Library Guild Selection
A New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2012
Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year

Under the noses of the military, Georges Loinger smuggles thousands of children out of occupied France into Switzerland. In Belgium, three resisters ambush a train, allowing scores of Jews to flee from the cattle cars. In Poland, four brothers lead more than 1,200 ghetto refugees into the forest to build a guerilla force and self-sufficient village. And twelve-year-old Motele Shlayan entertains German officers with his violin moments before setting off a bomb. Through twenty-one meticulously researched accounts — some chronicled in book form for the first time — Doreen Rappaport illuminates the defiance of tens of thousands of Jews across eleven Nazi-occupied countries during World War II. In answer to the genocidal madness that was Hitler’s Holocaust, the only response they could abide was resistance, and their greatest weapons were courage, ingenuity, the will to survive, and the resolve to save others or to die trying.–From Candlewick

Extensive end matter includes:
timeline of important events
index
pronunciation guide
source notes
maps integrated throughout text

 

BUFFALO BIRD GIRL
A Hidatsa Story
Retold by S. D.Nelson
Abrams Books for Young Readers

School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

This fascinating picture book biography tells the childhood story of Buffalo Bird Woman, a Hidatsa Indian born around 1839. Through her true story, readers will learn what it was like to be part of this Native American community that lived along the Missouri River in the Dakotas, a society that depended more on agriculture for food and survival than on hunting. Children will relate to Buffalo Bird Girl’s routine of chores and playing with friends, and they will also be captivated by her lifestyle and the dangers that came with it.

Using as a resource the works of Gilbert L. Wilson, who met Buffalo Bird Woman and transcribed her life’s story in the early 20th century, award-winning author-illustrator S. D. Nelson has captured the spirit of Buffalo Bird Girl and her lost way of life. The book includes a historical timeline.–From Abrams

 

GLORY BE
by Augusta Scattergood
Scholastic

ABC Best Books for Children
ABA New Voices

Changes and difficult choices abound in this incisive portrait of a girl trying to make sense of the tumultuous era of the Civil Rights Movement.It’s the summer of 1964 in a small Mississippi town, and Glory, who’s about to turn 12, wishes she could turn back the clock a year. Her sister Jesslyn is entering high school and no longer has any time, and things have suddenly gotten awkward with Glory’s best friend, Frankie. Plus, a new girl from the North has arrived, and everyone is riled up about what to do about the town’s segregated pool. Whether she wants to or not, Glory has to make some big decisions.–From Scholastic

 

HAND IN HAND
Ten Black Men Who Changed America
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Disney-Jump at the Sun

A New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2012
A Kirkus Reviews, Best Children’s Book of 2012

Hand in Hand presents the stories of ten men from different eras in American history, organized chronologically to provide a scope from slavery to the modern day. The stories are accessible, fully-drawn narratives offering the subjects’ childhood influences, the time and place in which they lived, their accomplishments and motivations, and the legacies they left for future generations as links in the “freedom chain.” This book will be the definitive family volume on the subject, punctuated with dynamic full color portraits and spot illustrations by two-time Caldecott Honor winner and multiple Coretta Scott King Book Award recipient Brian Pinkney. Backmatter includes a civil rights timeline, sources, and further reading.–From Goodreads

Profiled:
Benjamin Banneker
Frederick Douglass
Booker T. Washington
W.E.B. DuBois
A. Philip Randolph
Thurgood Marshall
Jackie Robinson
Malcolm X
Martin Luther King, Jr
Barack H. Obama II

 

LULU AND THE DUCK IN THE PARK
From the “Lulu” series, volume 1
by Hilary McKay
Illustrated by Priscilla Lamont
Albert Whitman

A Junior Library Guild Selection
A Kirkus Reviews, Best Children’s Book of 2012

Lulu loves animals. When Lulu finds a duck egg that has rolled out of its nest, she takes it to class to keep it safe. Lulu isn’t allowed to bring pets to school. But she’s not really breaking the rules because it’s just an egg. Surely nothing bad will happen… A fun-filled new series for early readers and animal lovers alike.–From Amazon

 

THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE
by Christopher Paul Curtis
Random House

A Kirkus Reviews, Best Children’s Book of 2012
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
ALSC Notable Children’s Book Nominee

“We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful” is the motto of Deza Malone’s family. Deza is the smartest girl in her class in Gary, Indiana, singled out by teachers for a special path in life. But the Great Depression hit Gary hard, and there are no jobs for black men. When her beloved father leaves to find work, Deza, Mother, and her older brother Jimmie go in search of him, and end up in a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan. Jimmie’s beautiful voice inspires him to leave the camp to be a performer, while Deza and Mother find a new home, and cling to the hope that they will find Father. The twists and turns of their story reveal the devastation of the Depression and prove that Deza truly is the Mighty Miss Malone.–From Random House

 

SAME SUN HERE
by Silas House and Neela Vaswani
Candlewick Press

ABC Best Books for Children

Meena and River have a lot in common: fathers forced to work away from home to make ends meet, grandmothers who mean the world to them, and faithful dogs. But Meena is an Indian immigrant girl living in New York City’s Chinatown, while River is a Kentucky coal miner’s son. As Meena’s family studies for citizenship exams and River’s town faces devastating mountaintop removal, this unlikely pair become pen pals, sharing thoughts and, as their camaraderie deepens, discovering common ground in their disparate experiences. With honesty and humor, Meena and River bridge the miles between them, creating a friendship that inspires bravery and defeats cultural misconceptions. Narrated in two voices, each voice distinctly articulated by a separate gifted author, this chronicle of two lives powerfully conveys the great value of being and having a friend and the joys of opening our lives to others who live beneath the same sun.

In this extraordinary novel in two voices, an Indian immigrant girl in New York City and a Kentucky coal miner’s son find strength and perspective by sharing their true selves across the miles.–From Candlewick

 

SPIRIT SEEKER
John Coltrane’s Musical Journey
by Gary Golio
Illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez
Clarion/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A Kirkus Reviews, Best Children’s Book of the Year

Growing up, John was a seeker. He wondered about spirit, and the meaning of life. And whether music could be a key to unlocking those mysteries. Like his grandfather’s preaching and his parents’ songs, could John’s music bring people closer to God?

Told in moving prose and powerfully illustrated, this is the story of a shy, curious boy from a deeply religious family who grew up to find solace and inspiration in his own unique approach to both spirituality and music. John Coltrane—a legendary jazz musician whose work shattered boundaries and continues to influence countless artists to this day.–From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

 

STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY
by Grace Lin
Little, Brown

Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year
A Junior Library Guild Selection

The moon is missing from the remote Village of Clear Sky, but only a young boy named Rendi seems to notice! Rendi has run away from home and is now working as a chore boy at the village inn. He can’t help but notice the village’s peculiar inhabitants and their problems-where has the innkeeper’s son gone? Why are Master Chao and Widow Yan always arguing? What is the crying sound Rendi keeps hearing? And how can crazy, old Mr. Shan not know if his pet is a toad or a rabbit?

But one day, a mysterious lady arrives at the Inn with the gift of storytelling, and slowly transforms the villagers and Rendi himself. As she tells more stories and the days pass in the Village of Clear Sky, Rendi begins to realize that perhaps it is his own story that holds the answers to all those questions.–From Little, Brown

Picture Books

EACH KINDNESS
by Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Penguin

A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Junior Library Guild Selection
Parents’ Choice Silver Honor

Each kindness makes the world a little better

Chloe and her friends won’t play with the new girl, Maya. Maya is different–she wears hand-me-downs and plays with old-fashioned toys. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her gang, they reject her. Eventually, Maya plays alone, and then stops coming to school altogether. When Chloe’s teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she’d shown a little kindness toward Maya.

This unforgettable book is written and illustrated by the award-winning team that created The Other Side and the Caldecott Honor winner Coming On Home Soon. With its powerful message and striking art, it will resonate with readers long after they’ve put it down.–From Goodreads

 

FIFTY CENTS AND A DREAM
Young Booker T. Washington
by Jabari Asim
Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Little, Brown

A Kirkus Reviews, Best Children’s Book of the Year
A School Library Journal Best book of the Year
Parents’ Choice Sliver Honor

Booker dreamed
of making friends with words,
setting free the secrets
that lived in books.

Born into slavery, young Booker T. Washington could only dream of learning to read and write. After emancipation, Booker began a five-hundred-mile journey, mostly on foot, to Hampton Institute, taking his first of many steps towards a college degree. When he arrived, he had just fifty cents in his pocket and a dream about to come true. The young slave who once waited outside of the schoolhouse would one day become a legendary educator of freedmen.

Award-winning artist Bryan Collier captures the hardship and the spirit of one of the most inspiring figures in American history, bringing to life Booker T. Washington’s journey to learn, to read, and to realize a dream.–From Little, Brown

 

I HAVE A DREAM
by Martin Luther King
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Schwartz & Wade/Random House

ABC Best Book for Children
A Junior Library Guild Selection
A Kirkus Reviews, Best Children’s Book of the Year
Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

From Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s daughter, Dr. Bernice A. King: “My father’s dream continues to live on from generation to generation, and this beautiful and powerful illustrated edition of his world-changing “I Have a Dream” speech brings his inspiring message of freedom, equality, and peace to the youngest among us—those who will one day carry his dream forward for everyone.”

On August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, Martin Luther King gave one of the most powerful and memorable speeches in our nation’s history. His words, paired with Caldecott Honor winner Kadir Nelson’s magificent paintings, make for a picture book certain to be treasured by children and adults alike. The themes of equality and freedom for all are not only relevant today, 50 years later, but also provide young readers with an important introduction to our nation’s past.–From Random House

 

I, TOO, AM AMERICA
by Langston Hughes
Illustrated by by Brian Collier
Simon & Schuster

Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year

I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Langston Hughes was a courageous voice of his time, and his authentic call for equality still rings true today. Beautiful paintings from Barack Obama illustrator Bryan Collier accompany and reinvent the celebrated lines of the poem “I, Too,” creating a breathtaking reminder to all Americans that we are united despite our differences.–From Simon & Schuster

 

NIGHTTIME NINJA
by Barbara DaCosta
Illustrated by Ed Young
Little, Brown

Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year
A Junior Library Guild Selection
Parents’ Choice Book Award winner, special recognition

Late at night, when all is quiet and everyone is asleep, a ninja creeps silently through the house in search of treasure. Soon he reaches his ultimate goal…and gets a big surprise! Will the nighttime ninja complete his mission?

With spare text and lush illustrations, Nighttime Ninja is a fun, adventure-filled story about the power of play and imagination.–From Little, Brown

 

RED, WHITE AND BOOM!
by Lee Wardlaw
Illustrated by Huy Voun Lee
Henry Holt and Co/Macmillan Publishers

Parent’s Choice Approved

Fireflies flit
Sparklers spit

Pinwheels spin
Goosebump skin

It’s the Fourth of July! Travel across the country for a city parade, a beach picnic, and fireworks in the park in this poetic celebration of the many cultures and traditions that make America’s birthday BOOM!–From Macmillan

 

UNSPOKEN
A Story From the Underground Railroad
by Henry Cole
Scholastic Press

A New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year
Parents’ Choice Gold Award
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

A young girl’s courage is tested in this haunting, wordless story. When a farm girl discovers a runaway slave hiding in the barn, she is at once startled and frightened. But the stranger’s fearful eyes weigh upon her conscience, and she must make a difficult choice. Illustrations. —From Scholastic

 

WHO BUILT THE STABLE?
A Nativity Poem
by Ashley Bryan
Atheneum

A Kirkus Reviews, Best Children’s Book of 2012

Riding in an open Jeep across the plains of Africa, beloved and nationally acclaimed author and illustrator Ashley Bryan found himself comparing the terrain to Jerusalem, and the bumpy journey to that of Mary’s travel on a donkey. And he came up with a question: Who built the manger where Mary and Joseph found shelter?

The answer is conveyed in this beautifully crafted picture book that envisions a young boy, a shepherd and carpenter both who, out of love and kindness, cleared the way for another shepherd and carpenter to be born on Christmas day.

The boy looked in the infant’s eyes
And in his heart he knew
The babe would be a carpenter
He’d be a shepherd too.

Told in gentle rhyme and illustrated with Ashley Bryan’s enormous talent, this is a picture book that captures the reason for the season in all its wonder and beauty. Who Built the Stable? is a celebration of Christmas, of the kindness of children, and of the new hope born with each new baby.–From Simon & Schuster

Graphic Novels

 

DRAMA
by Raina Telgemeier
Scholastic/Graphix

ABC Best Books for Children
Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year

Callie loves theater. and while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of “Moon over Mississippi,” she’s a terrible singer. Instead she’s the set designer for the stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage and offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen, and when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!Following the success of Smile, Raina Telgemeier brings us another graphic novel featuring a diverse set of characters that humorously explores friendship, crushes, and all-around drama!–From Scholastic

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    Christina Castro
    January 3, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    thank you, this is awesome

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