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LEE 120 & LEE 214: Author Study

The course, 120/214 Literature for Children and Young Adolescents, is an undergraduate & graduate class offered every spring. The course goals are to explore the use and value of literature to enrich children’s and adolescents’ reading experiences across the curriculum. As such, the course provides students with an opportunity to read, enjoy, analyze, and discuss a wide variety of authors, illustrators, genres, formats, and themes of children’s and young adult (YA) literature. Following is the final course assignment whereby students were asked to present one well-known young adult author, their life story, and two of their most well-known YA books and include reviews of these books in their slide presentation.

Loung Ung By Sarah Pech
Grace Lin By Sarah Mukai
Grace Lin is a Taiwanese American children’s book author. She considers herself an artist and it was always her dream to write children’s books. When she was in 7th grade, she entered a national book contest and won fourth place. She graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in children’s book illustration. She has written over 25 children’s books, most featuring Asian and Asian-American characters. Her first husband, Robert Mercer was diagnosed with cancer and she wrote the book “Robert’s Snowflakes” with him after he was diagnosed with cancer. She and her late husband raised $200,000 dollars together in fundraising. Her illustrations are full of swirls (she paints all of them) because she was inspired by Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and also the swirl is a symbol for the “endless circle” in Chinese culture.
Patricia Park By Harleen Singh
Patricia Park is an assistant professor of creative writing at the American University, she also is a Fulbright Scholar in Creative Arts, as well as a Jerome Hill Artist Fellow, and the author of the acclaimed adult novel named Re Jane. The Korean American reimagining of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre was named an Editors' Choice by the New York Times Book Review; a Best Book of 2015 by the American Library Association;and an NPR "Fresh Air" pick, among other honors. Her writing has also appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Guardian, Salon, and others. Patricia lives in Brooklyn, NY she was born and raised in Queens Patricia graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, Swarthmore College, and received her MFA from Boston University She is working on her next YA novel, WHAT’S EATING JACKIE OH? and an adult novel about the Koreans in Buenos Aires called CHINO. Her novels are all part of the “Queens Multiverse.
Crystal Maldonado By Ellie West
She lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and dog. By day, Crystal works in higher ed marketing, and by night, is a writer who loves Beyoncé, shopping, spending too much time on her phone, and being extra. Her work has also been published in Latina, BuzzFeed, and the Hartford Courant. Her first book Fat Chance, Charlie Vega was inspired by the story of how her and her husband met in high school. Recalling her own youth, Maldonado said she faced criticism, shame, and ridicule from her peers and in the media and constantly struggled with her self-image. Over time, however, she learned to come to terms with who she was and to celebrate what makes her … well, her.
Cynthia Leitich By Kayla Haney
Born in Kansas City, Missouri Citizen of Muscogee Nation and lives in Austin, Texas She is New York Times Bestselling Author and is currently a children’s writer, writing teacher, and author curator Known for her realistic / Speculative fiction on contemporary Native life She dedicated the first book “Indian Shoes” to her grandparents Fun Fact: Cynthia has seen Star Wars (1977) over 180 times in the movie theater
Rebecca Balcárcel By Maria Rodriguez-Davalos
Biography Guatemalan Anglo-American poet and author Dad is Guatemalan, mom is Anglo-American Born in Iowa, but has lived in Texas since age ten MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Bennington Writing Seminars Associate Professor of English at Tarrant County College Read a lot of books as a child, such as “Charlotte’s Web” and “The Boxcar Children” When she moved to Texas, she missed her old home but appreciated the Spanish speaking in her community Helped her embrace both sides of her Guatemalan-American heritage Proud of her name as it represents her culture from her dad’s side (despite it being mispronounced often) “I write to affirm the bright core of us.” - Rebecca Balcárcel Random facts: Rode her bike for 1300 miles from Houston to Santa Fe… while pregnant Mother of identical twins and their brother Balcárcel once made a pilgrimage to Prince Edward Island to see the places that inspired “Anne of Green Gables”
Elizabeth Acevedo By Iztel Gonzalez
Elizabeth Acevedo is a renowned book author whose writing was heavily influenced by her Dominican heritage. She was born and raised in New York City, but her parents were immigrants from the Dominican Republic. Growing up, Acevedo was exposed to both American and Dominican cultures, which she has woven into her writing. Her debut novel, "The Poet X," is a coming-of-age story of a Dominican-American teenager who finds her voice through poetry. Acevedo's writing often explores themes of identity, culture, and belonging, drawing from her own experiences as a woman of color with immigrant roots. Her work has been celebrated for its authenticity and powerful storytelling, and she has become a prominent voice in the literary world.
Joy Harjo By Angel Aldana
Joy Harjo was born May 9, 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma Harjo is a member of the Muscogee Nation & is an important figure in the second wave of the literary Native American Renaissance of the late 20th century She studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts, & completed her undergraduate degree at University of New Mexico & earned an MFA degree at the University of Iowa in its creative writing program She is the author of ten books of poetry, several plays, children's books, & two memoirs Awards include Harper Lee Award, the Americans for the Arts award, the Academy of American Poets Award and many, many more What young people would find interesting about Harjo is that she was the first Native American to serve as United States Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress & only the second to serve three consecutive terms since the position was established in 1985 The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, commonly referred to as the United States Poet Laureate, serves as the official poet of the United States. During their term, the poet laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading & writing of poetry The Library of Congress manages the largest collection of books, recordings, photographs, maps & manuscripts in the world as well as provides Congress with objective research to inform the legislative process & administers the national copyright system
Francisco Jimenez By Jessica Macias
Born 1943 2nd oldest of 9 siblings Immigrated with his family when he was 4 years old. As a child worked in CA Fields, migrant (No permanent home)
Erika L. Sanchez By Sasha Araiza
She is a Mexican-American author, poet, and essayist. She is the daughter of mexican immigrants and is from Cicero, Illinois. She grew up bilingual speaking both English and Spanish. Erika attended University of Illinois Chicago and earned an MFA in poetry from the University of New Mexico.
S. E. Hinton By Nadia Van Hoosen
The author of these two books is S.E. Hinton. S.E. Hinton wrote under her initials so that she would not call attention to her gender. Her real name is Susan Eloise Hinton. S.E. Hinton was born on July 22, 1948 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She attended Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma where she wrote her first book, The Outsiders when she was in her junior year and was published two years later. She also graduated from the University of Tulsa in 1970 where she majored in Education. She later married her husband, David Inhofe in 1970 and had her son Nick Inhofe in 1983. She lives a pretty private life and does not share much of her life publicly. While growing up, she empathized with the Greasers the most, especially when one of her Greaser friends got beat up which inspired her to write “The Outsiders.” She hoped that her writing reflected that the Greasers were sensible human beings who were deserving of respect and understanding. Young readers would be interested in S.E. Hinton’s books because she is able to relate to young readers with the telling of certain events that happen to them in their lives. This can help them feel understood and seen, especially at such a difficult age.
Rita Williams-Garcia By LieLisa Foreman
Is a young adolescent author whose novels earned the Coretta Scott King Award and the Newbery Honor. A New York Native, who graduated from Hofstra University. From a young age she began to write stories as a hobby, and practiced illustrating. She is a strong believer in following your dreams, no matter how big or small. Her inspirations emerged from life experiences, ambitions, and the arts.
Carlos Cuauhtémoc Sánchez By Veronica Solorio
He was born in April 15, 1964 in Mexico City. He became interested in literature, poetry, and also following an education in the engineering field at the institute of technology. At age 21, he received the national youth award in literature. He received his doctorate in Administrative Electromechanical Engineering. He is the founder of School of Leadership in Mexico City and instructs leadership courses with teachers and students. His audience involves students from ages 14-18. His novels are mostly based on true stories from his students and also his life experiences. Specialist in character, productivity, values, leadership, team, communication, family, marriage and youth issues. 34 chapter books 3,000 conferences in more than 200 cities TV show Telemundo Miami 2013 30 year marriage, two daughters to whom he dedicated two books in 1996
Nikki Grimes By Natalie Alvarez
Grimes was born on October 20, 1950. She was born and raised in Harlem, New York. She found comfort in reading and stated, “Books were my survival tools. They were how I got by and how I coped with things. Books carried me away.” Her hardships included moving around constantly between her relatives and foster homes. She began her writing and love of poetry at a young age. At 13, she had her first poetry reading at a library. Despite her childhood challenges, she began as a writer for children's books that included narratives and poetry. She has written many children's books and won many awards. One of the most significant awards is the Coretta Scott King for Bronx Masquerade.
Bao Phi by Roberto Flores
Bao Phi s a Vietnamese-American poet, writer, and community organizer. He currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was born in Saigon, Vietnam in 1975 and grew up in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. His family immigrated to the United States in 1975 when he was just a few months old, settling in Minneapolis where they were sponsored by a local Church. Phi grew up in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. Phi was exposed to the struggles and social justice movements of the black community. This inspired his activism and writing career. Phi attended Macalester College in St.Paul, Minnesota, where he received a degree in philosophy. He later worked as program director for the Vietnamese American Community of Minnesota. Now he is a performance artist and spoken word poet. His work has been published in various literary journals and anthologies. Phi is also a community organizer and advocate for social justice issues. For example, he has been involved with organizations and campaigns for anti-racism and anti-police brutality.
First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung
Loung Ung was five years old when the Khmer Rouge army stormed into her city in April 1975, forcing her family to flee their home. For the next four years, the family hid their identities dispersed in order to survive. Without the protection of her family, Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed. “I encourage everyone to read this deeply moving and very important book. Equal to the strength of the book, is the woman who wrote it. She is a voice for her people and they are lucky to have her.” – Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.
Lucky Child by Loung Ung
In this lyrical sequel to her bestselling, critically acclaimed memoir First They Killed My Father, Loung Ung describes her school years in Vermont as a Cambodian refugee and, in alternating chapters, gives voice to her sister’s experience as a genocide survivor left behind in rural Cambodia. This striking parallel of Loung’s life in America with her sister Chou’s life in postwar Cambodia highlights the harsh realities of chance and circumstances, both on a personal level for the Ung family and on a national level for all Cambodians. “Lucky Child is a tender, searing journey of two sisters, two worlds, two destinies. It is about the long-term consequences of war—how it changes everything, annihilates, uproots, and separate families. And it is about how human triumph—building live wherever they land and finding their way back to each other.” ~ EVE ENSLER, author of The Vagina Monologues
Lulu in the Sky by Loung Ung
Lulu in the Sky, the last chapter in a life that began with her bestselling, critically acclaimed memoir First They Killed My Father, reveals Loung’s daily struggle to keep darkness and depression at bay and reconnects with her mother’s spirit and to a vocation that focuses on healing the landscape of her birth. “Ung brings third and first world disparities into discomforting focus and gracefully dramatizes the metaphorical joining together of her haunted past and her current identity as a privileged Cambodian American. ~ Booklist (starred review)
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a Chinese fantasy, folklore book about a young girl named Minli who comes from a poor, but humble family. The story follows her as she sets off on a journey to bring wealth to her family and along the way she meets magical creatures who help her in her quest. The main theme in this book is gratitude and selflessness. Many of the characters help Minli and expect nothing in return for their help. At the end of the book, Minli and her family learn the value and meaning of true wealth. This book is the first of a trilogy of books and also has won a Newbery Award. Lin has illustrated this book with engaging and detailed illustrations that help the reader visualize what is happening in the story. Young readers may enjoy this book because it is about a female hero. This book is similar to stories like “Mulan”.
The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin
The Ugly Vegetables is a realistic fiction picture book about a girl who is planting a garden with her mother, but not just any garden. While her neighbors plant gardens with beautiful and colorful flowers, her garden is full of “ugly vegetables”. Throughout the book, the girl asks her mother why they are planting their garden differently than the neighbors. The mother patiently explains that their garden is different than the neighbors’ gardens. At the end of the book, the entire neighborhood is filled with a delicious aroma and the mother invites the neighbors over to share soup made with the vegetables from the garden. This book is about appreciation and celebrating cultural differences. It is an overall metaphor for how some cultures may not do the same things as other cultures. Cultural differences need to be embraced and differences can be good. Additionally, this book teaches plant life cycles which young readers are also learning about. Young readers would like this book for the decorations. This book offers an opportunity for readers to see their respective cultures represented in that sometimes families do things differently than others and those differences can be good.
A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin
A Big Mooncake for Little Star is a picture story book about a little girl who and a mooncake. It is a fable/ folktale genre book that teaches the young reader a lesson. The mooncake is a Chinese dessert typically eaten around Lunar New Year. It is delicious and sweet and sometime filled with red bean. This story is about a little girl who eats a mooncake (or the moon) and gradually, it disappears. The story is an overall metaphor for the different phases of the moon. Lin also shows an understanding and loving relationship between mother and daughter. This book is a Caldecott Award winner. The illustrations in this book are beautiful and accompany the story very well. The story is a clever perspective on the phases of the moon. To the right is a picture of the author doing a read aloud of this book with her own daughter.
Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin
Dim Sum for Everyone! is a realistic fiction picture book for children ages 1-4. This book about a girl who goes to dim sum with her family in Chinatown. Dim sum is a Chinese meal, usually had at brunch, full of a variety of small dishes that is shared with the whole family. This story depicts what it is like to have dim sum with your family with a Chinese family. The names of the characters in the book are in Chinese “jie-jie” means “older sister”, “mei-mei” means “little sister. This book introduces readers to Chinese culture, food, and language. At the end of the book, there is information about dim sum. As someone who has experienced this first hand with my family, it makes me feel seen and also appreciated. I love that young readers are able to see my experiences reflected in this book. Young readers who are Chinese will be able to see an experience they are familiar with in the characters in this book. Readers of different cultures will get a view of what having dim sum with your family is like. This book feels like home for me!
Imposter Syndrome and Other Confessions of Alejandra Kim by Patricia Park
Alejandra Kim doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere. At her Manhattan high school, even in her case her Spanish name and then her Korean face do not compute to her mostly white classmates and teachers. She feel she doesn't belong even in her Jackson Heights neighborhood, were she’s not Latinx enough. Even at home, she feels unwelcome. Things get worse when her fathers body is discovered. She wants nothing more than to leave the city for the spaces of the Wyder University. But when a event at school throws her into the center attention and into a discussion she didn’t ask for. This leads her to discover what it means to carve out space for yourself to belong in the world. Young readers would like this novel because it’s about a multicultural teen caught between worlds, and the future she is having to building for herself, it also has some humor.
Re Jane by Patricia Park
A retelling of Jane Eyre from Queens to Brooklyn to Seoul, and back. A half-Korean, half-American orphan, Flushing Queens, is the place she's been trying to leave from her whole life Sassy yet vulnerable, she is unappreciated, in her strict uncle’s grocery store and she politely observes the traditional principle of good manners, and hierarchy, as well as obligation. She becomes desperate for a new life, where she’s thrilled to become the au pair for the Mazer-Farleys, whom are two Brooklyn English professors and their adopted Chinese daughter. Thrown into the world of organic food and 19th century novels, Jane is the recipient of Beth Mazer’s feminist lectures and Ed Farley’s very male attention. However when a family death interrupts Jane and Ed’s affair, she leaves to Seoul. Which leads her to reconnect with family, and struggle to learn the ways of Korea, she begins to wonder if Ed was the man for her. She returns to Queens, where she seems to balance. Young adults should read this book if they are a fan of the original Jane Eyre and love a spin on old tails with a little drama and soul searching.
Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado
At 16, Charlie, who has a White mom and Puerto Rican dad, has never been kissed. This is just one of the many reasons she views herself as second fiddle to Amelia, her charming, confident, pansexual best friend who is “the walking embodiment of Black excellence.” Another big reason is that Amelia is beautiful—and Charlie is fat. Though Charlie is working to inculcate the body-positive messages of the #fatfashion influencers she follows, she cannot deny that classmates, especially boys, and even her own mother seem to prefer Amelia to her. She cannot blame them. To her, Amelia is perfect too, as well as being an amazing best friend. When Brian, her Korean American co-worker and classmate, begins to pursue Charlie, it is a dream come true. But a dark seed of mistrust lies buried within her. Before Charlie can truly love herself, let alone others, she has to address insidious self-doubt about her own worth caused in no small part by the constant comparisons she makes. Though readers will expect a happy ending, it is not a foregone conclusion. Charlie’s struggles are authentic and raw. Charlie inhabits an inviting, diverse world in an unnamed Connecticut town.
No Filter and Other Lies by Crystal Maldonado
Twenty one-year-old Max Monroe has it all: beauty, friends, and a glittering life filled with adventure. With tons of followers on Instagram, her picture-perfect existence seems eminently enviable. Except it’s all fake. Max is actually 17-year-old Kat Sanchez, a quiet and sarcastic teenager living in drab Bakersfield, California. Nothing glamorous in her existence—just sprawl, bad house parties, a crap school year, and the awkwardness of dealing with her best friend Hari’s unrequited love. But while Kat’s life is far from perfect, she thrives as Max: doling out advice, sharing beautiful photos, networking with famous influencers, even making a real friend in a follower named Elena. The closer Elena and “Max” get—texting, Snapping, and even calling—the more Kat feels she has to keep up the façade. But when one of Max’s posts goes ultra-viral and gets back to the very person she’s been stealing photos from, her entire world – real and fake — comes crashing down around her. She has to figure out a way to get herself out of the huge web of lies she’s created without hurting the people she loves. But it might already be too late.
Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich
Realistic Fiction Chapter Book About a Cherokee-Seminole boy and his Grandpa in Oklahoma Brings about a sense of belonging to family, culture, and community. Great diverse book to read Overall theme is persistence, keep trying
Sisters of the Neversea by Cynthia Leitich
Step siblings Lily, Wendy, and Michael Lily and Wendy have been Best Friends since their parents got together, worried if they will still be friends Another version of Peter Pan with twists Peter Pan is Villain and abducts children Another Good Diverse book to read!
The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcárcel
Quijana is a seventh-grade girl who finds herself in pieces. In the course of this book, she figures out which of those pieces are the most important to her and how to put those pieces together to make her whole. Quijana is half Guatemalan and half Anglo-American. Quijana’s name also is twist from the name “Quixote,” who she is not a great fan of. Despite her Guatemalan heritage, Quijana is not able to speak Spanish. One day, Quijana finds out that her cousins from Guatemala will be moving in town. This brings to light how important their Guatemalan heritage is to Quijana’s dad. As she spends time with her dad’s side of the family, Quijana starts to feel that her dad is ashamed of her because of how unfamiliar she is with the Guatemalan heritage. This book also touches other topics typical to a seventh grader, such us trying to find a group to fit in at school, having crushes, figuring out her passions, and finding out what her place is in this world. Through this search, Quijana ends up bonding with Latino students at the bus stop after attempting to start a conversation with the little Spanish she knows with other Spanish speaking students. Although a student makes fun of her, this helps her bond with the group and shows the unity that can exist in the Latino culture. Young readers will enjoy this book because of how relatable Quijana is. She is trying to find herself among all the chaos surrounding her. She has several pieces of her life scattered all around her, however, like many pre-teens, she has to figure out which parts are most important to her. It also provides a perspective of what it is like to have a sibling with autism, as well as to go through the loss of a loved one. Quijana authentically learns how to navigate all these things while trying to find herself, making it an engaging book that young readers will enjoy.
Shine On, Luz Véliz! by Rebecca Balcárcel
Luz Véliz is the strong-willed and determined protagonist of this coming-of-age novel. Luz was the star player of her soccer team, until she tore her ACL. Because of this injury, she had to stop playing soccer, leading to her feeling lost with her identity. Luz eventually finds a new passion: coding. Her elderly neighbor, Mr. Mac, teaches Luz what he knows about coding. As Luz is starting to become comfortable again, a guest arrives at her house, Solana. Solana does not know English very well, and Luz does not know Spanish very well. This allows Luz to rekindle the little Spanish she knows to be able to communicate with her and through the process gains an appreciation of how language allows us to communicate with others. As Luz learns how to rediscover her identity, we are taken along this journey with her. The readers have the opportunity to learn about some of the coding basics along with Luz. We also learn more about the Guatemalan culture and food as we read more about Luz’s family. Lastly, the book presents how gang violence and immigration policies can have a negative effect on Latino immigrants. Young readers will also enjoy this book as it has several engaging and relatable topics. It touches on quick and unexpected changes that can occur in one’s life and how to persevere despite those challenges. This modern novel also presents other topics that mirror the experiences of some Latino families in an engaging way.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Young kids may like The Poet X for various reasons. First, the poet's writing style may be simple and easy to understand, making it accessible for children. Second, the poet may use relatable topics in their work, such as animals, nature, or friendship. This can help children connect with the content and enjoy reading or listening to the poems. Additionally, the poet may use humor or playful language in their writing, which can make the poems more engaging and entertaining for young kids. Overall, there are many reasons why young kids may enjoy the poet x's work, and these reasons may vary depending on the individual child and their preferences.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Young kids would like Clap When You Land because it is a compelling story of two sisters, Camino and Yahaira, who are separated by distance and unaware of each other's existence until their father dies in a plane crash. The book is beautifully written in verse, which makes it easy to read and engaging for children. The story deals with themes of family, grief, identity, and love, which are universal and relatable to kids of all ages. Moreover, the characters are well developed and diverse, which allows young readers to see themselves in the story and learn about different cultures and backgrounds. Overall, Clap When You Land is a heartfelt and inspiring book that young kids will enjoy reading and discussing with their peers and parents.
An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo
An American Sunrise is a novel-length narrative told through the medium of poetry where Harjo’s personal life intertwines with tribal histories as she reconnects to her ancestors and describes the quiet anger of living in the ruins of injustice as she confronts the site where her people, and other indigenous families, essentially disappeared In each chapter Harjo invokes the relocation of the southeastern people, of what they endured and lost Although this book is an advanced level of poetry her poems are accessible and easy to read, but making them no less penetrating and powerful Young adults, especially those who are Native American or who are interested in learning more about Native Americans would like this book because like Harjo young adults are constantly evolving and searching for their sense of self while rediscovering and or reconnecting with their ancestors/culture. I also believe this would be a great way of exposing young adults with a novel-length narrative told through the medium of poetry. This type of storytelling can also be an effective teaching tool to enable faster reading comprehension and love for the arts.
For a Girl Becoming by Joy Harjo
For a Girl Becoming is poetic tale of growth and maturity and follows a young woman on the edge of transformation through the joys and lessons of birth, youth, and finally adulthood. It celebrates the day the girl's spirit came into the world, the day her family and friends "urgently gathered" to welcome her. The title leaves open the possibility of what and who the girl is becoming. All the reader knows is that she is leaving one place for another. In this way, the tale can relate to many, because we all experiencing the feeling of growth everyday. The language used throughout this book demonstrates the Native Americans emphasis of community and ancestry as important in one's life. Young adults, especially young Native Americans would like this book because it demonstrates Harjos vision during her term as poet laureate to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading & writing of poetry, through her signature project “Living Nations, Living Words”. Harjo’s project was to introduce the country to the many Native poets and illuminate their poetry, stories, and lived experiences to include people of every color & cultural background throughout literature.
The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child by Francisco Jimenez
Francisco(autobiographical) is a Mexican child who immigrated to the US and works in the CA fields. The book represents children of migrant families in the US. What they experience at home, in school and in life in general. Relatable to our students in CA. This book also opens windows to readers who do not know about the immigrant experience and shows the terrible conditions that many immigrant families are forced to live in due to their economic and immigration status.
La Mariposa by Francisco Jimenez
Francisco is entering 1st grade and does not know English. (Relatable) He only knows names. Instead of focusing he would imagine himself soaring in the sky like a butterfly to imagine that he is at work with his dad. He couldn't understand the language and this was the way he coped with his situation. Many or our students immigrate here for a better life and experience the language barrier.
Crying in the Bathroom by Erika L. Sanchez
This book highlights the author's life experiences and in turn uses them to engage in dialogue about certain topics. The author utilizes these life experiences to touch on subjects of mental illness, misogyny, feminism, and cultural identity. I think many young people would enjoy this book, because it adds a bit of humor to real life serious situations. In a way it validates certain life experiences, such as growing up in an ethnic household and what the norms are, and the repercussions of going against those norms.
I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez
The book is a fictional novel in which the main character Julia is dealing with the recent death of her older sister. Julia deals with mental health, stereotypes, and gender norms. She goes through the book trying to uncover the mysteries of her dead sisters life all the while trying to figure out her own path. I think people would really enjoy this book, because for many it is something that they can relate to. It also explores many topics such as mental health and cultural identity that many young readers are still trying to figure out.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Outsiders, is about a boy named Ponyboy Curtis who lives with his two older brothers after their parents are killed in a car accident. The story takes place during the 1960’s in Tulsa, Oklahoma on the poor East side of town. The brothers are part of a gang named the Greasers who are rivals to the Socs, who are the rich kids that live on West side of town. After Johnny, a Greasers gang member, kills Robert Sheldon, a well known Socs member, in self defense, chaos amongst both gangs leads to a rumble. It also causes for Johnny and Ponyboy to run away because they are afraid of being convicted of Robert’s death. Young readers would love to read this book because they can relate to the characters and the events that transpire in the story. It is all about coming of age, discovering, and learning from the struggles of life.
That Was Then, This Is Now by S.E. Hinton
The book, That was Then,This is Now, it is about Bryon Douglas and how his present life begins to change while trying to still deal with his past and finding the person he really wants to be. He spends a lot of time with his foster brother, Mark Jennings, usually at Charlie’s bar where they hustle people at pool for cash. They face some problems of realizing they can’t get away with everything and that things end up having consequences. Young readers will enjoy reading this book because they can relate to the hardships of having a friend or loved one who has or are dealing with drugs and overdosing. They can also relate with how events in your life shape who you become.
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
One of her most well-known novels, was published in 2010. This story takes place during the year 1968. It builds up to a cross-country trip, from Brooklyn to Oakland, where three sisters visit their mom. Along the way, the girls face the realities of modern time segregation. As this story is fiction, it raises many real life questions. It also serves a purpose for education about the African-American experience in the late sixties. This story is beloved because it is heartfelt, but also teaches historical facts that may not be included in educational curriculum. The Black Panther Movement of the 1960s The main characters are the sisters: Delphine, Venetta, Fern. They take a bold journey to reunite with someone who abandoned them. The story surrounds courage, prejudice, and pride when it comes to social injustices and Civil Rights controversies.
P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
This book was published in 2013, and is actually the sequel to One Crazy Summer. As we know, Delphine is now a sixth grader and eleven years old. As the oldest child, she has an extreme amount of responsibility over herself and her sisters. This story goes through her journey to find balance between self-confidence and parental guidance. As this story takes place after the first, it represents the change and newfound independence after the girls’ trip. Everything isn’t as easy as it seems. She has a school dance to attend, and she is struggling with being the tallest girl in her class. Through these instances, she does rekindle her relationship with her mother and communicates via handwritten letters. Young children who are the oldest siblings will enjoy this story, as they can relate to the pressure that Delphine faces. It is also a comical tale dealing with “coming of age.”
The Ugly by Carlos Cuauhtémoc Sánchez
A student at a high school is murdered in front of 4 classmates after school. His uncle Pablo is a teacher at this school. Pablo works as a counselor addressing and supporting students with behavioral needs. As he is teaching a class, Kidori walks in to warn him about gang member, who is also the leader of the gang, is hurting his nephew named Oscar. The dispute is caused by a secret relationship Oscar had with his girlfriend Tabatha. The four witness students are sent to a camp with Oscar’s uncle and school teacher to discuss any possible trauma. Pablo becomes more concerned about the student’s mental health when he realizes that several of them bring childhood traumas into the different sessions they engage in. The group of students begin to know each other at a deeper level but they don’t reach a friendly relationship towards the end, they mostly see each other with respect. Out of the 4 characters, there are two males who are physically and mentally different. One is described as attractive while the other is described as “the ugly.”
The Strength of Scheccid by Carlos Cuauhtémoc Sánchez
This book targets a story of love between two students. The story begins describing the approach of a red car. As Carlos is walking home, he encounters a car in which a strange man asks him to get in the car to offer him some money in exchange for what was unknown in the story. One of his friends Mario joins joins and also encourages a girl named Ariande to join them. Carlos and Ariande run away because they sensed fear and discomfort with the stranger. Mario becomes a case in story that is referred to occasionally in Carlos’ narration. Unfortunately, Mario was never seen again after that encounter. Carlos and Ariande become good friends, a new girl in school names Scheccid enters. Carlos immediately falls in love with Scheccid. He enters poetry contests to impress her and uses letters to express his sincere love. The book reflects the different stages on love Carlos is going through and also the discouragement he feels as he notices Scheccid does not correspond to his love. As their friendship grows, he decides to visit her home without notice. As he enters her home, he discovers that she has a brain tumor and very little time left to live.
Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes
Tanka is a Japanese-originated poetry form that consists of 5 lines with a pattern of 5, 7, 5, 7, and 7 syllables. The Tanka verse novel tells the story of a young boy named Garvey. Garvey struggles to connect with his father. His father wants him to be more involved with sports and have similar interests as himself. However, Garvey's interests include reading, chorus, and space. Garvey longs to connect with his father and his acceptance for who he is, not who he wants him to be. He longs to find a “mirror.” Page 10 states, “ I search for stories for someone who resembles me. If it weren’t for Joe and books, “different” would just be lonely.” He eats his frustrations to cope with the strained relationship, resulting in his overeating and weight gain. Because of his weight gain, Garvey faces name-calling from his father, sister, and kids at school. He finds comfort with his only friend name Joe. Joe comforts him when he deals with his father, although he does not have a father, and keeps him company in school. However, that changes when Joe and Garvey no longer have the same schedule in school. Garvey is left to deal with finding friends on his own. With encouragement from Joe, he joins the chorus. He becomes friends with a boy with an albinism name Manny. Manny also struggles with connecting with his father. Garvey eventually tells his father about his chorus concert. To his surprise, his father is supportive and takes him to buy a suit for his show. His father reveals that he sang the blues for a band long ago. They connect with the love of music and singing. During the concert, Garvey searches for his father in the crowd. He sees him in the crowd wiping his eyes. Ultimately, Garvey starts taking steps to improve his health as a sign of happiness.
Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes
The verse novel book describes Gabby’s daydreaming and its effects. The story begins with Gabby’s move to another city and school. She is unhappy about her parent's separation. Her mother regularly compares her to her father because they are both dreamers. She associates words with images that replay in her mind. Within a week at her new school, her new teacher, Mr. Spicer, starts complaining about her daydreaming and wants her to pay attention in class. Her new life with her and her mom alone, constant criticism from her mother, and bullying at school all related to her daydreaming. She decides to stop and begins to focus. However, with surprise, her teacher notices how unhappy Gabby is. He gave her suggestions on how to balance her focus. Gabby finally makes a friend named David. He is also a dreamer, but instead of thinking, David draws. Their friendship starts to blossom because of their similarities. Gabby still struggles with her daydreaming towards the end of the book. However, Mr. Spicer tells the class that students are given time to daydream and write. The assignment is an excellent solution for Gabby. Her writing and focus have improved.
A Different Pond by Bao Phi
A story about a young Vietnamese-American boy and his father who go fishing early in the morning before the boy’s father goes to work. While fishing the boy’s father tells him stories about his life in Vietnam. He shares the hardships and the reasons why they immigrated to the U.S. Overall this book is a touching story that highlights the immigrant experience and importance of family. It also implements the power of storytelling in passing down the cultural heritage from one generation to the other. Caldecott Award Winner
Thousand Star Hotel by Bao Phi
Thousand Star Hotel was his first poetry book This book explores themes of identity, displacement, and cultural heritage. It is a deeply moving collection of poetry that explores the complex hardships faced by the immigrant experience. This book also focuses on the struggles and triumphs of the marginalized communities.