12 new youth books at the Johnson Public Library to promote tolerance through appreciating and understanding other cultures:
“Breaking Stalin’s Nose” A Newbery Honor Book by Eugene Yelchin
“Mr. Yelchin has compressed into two days of events an entire epoch, giving young readers a glimpse of the precariousness of life in a capricious yet ever-watchful totalitarian state.” ―Wall Street Journal
“ This brief novel gets at the heart of a society that asks its citizens, even its children, to report on relatives and friends. Appropriately menacing illustrations by first-time novelist Yelchin add a sinister tone.” ―The Horn Book, starred review
“Can I Play, Too?” by Mo Willems
K-Gr 2–This beginning reader focuses on differently abled animals as Elephant and Piggy get ready for a game of catch. Before they begin, Snake asks to join them. Simple gestures and facial expressions convey Elephant's embarrassment at Snake's inability to catch a ball. Piggy breaks the silence stating, “You don't have arms!” and Snake dejectedly slithers away. In classic Willems style, Elephant and Piggie offer kids guidance with humor and kindness for the uncertain terrain of navigating friendship with differently abled peers.
“The Day of Ahmed’s Secret” by Florence Parry Heide
As young Ahmed delivers butane gas to customers all over the city of Cairo, he thinks, I have a secret. All day long, as he maneuvers his donkey cart through streets crowded with cars and camels, down alleys filled with merchants' stalls, and past buildings a thousand years old, Ahmed keeps his secret safe inside. It is so special, so wonderful, that he can reveal it only to his family, only when he returns home, only at the end of the day.
"Girl in the Blue Coat” by Monica Hesse is a powerful, compelling coming-of-age story set against the dark and dangerous backdrop of World War II. It's an important and page-turning look at the choices all of us--including young adults--have to make in wartime.The themes of love, betrayal, heroism, social responsibility, and atonement are beautifully intertwined with well-developed characters and a compelling storyline. Thoroughly researched, this work brings history alive in a clear and concise way that rings true.
“It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel” by Firoozeh Dumas. Gr 4–7—Set during the Iran Hostage Crisis, Zomorod Yousefzadeh and her Iranian family are living in America for her father’s job. While the Yousefzadehs are able to fly under the radar in their early days in America, mostly being mistaken for Mexican, their entire situation changes when Iranian students storm the U.S. Embassy and take American hostages. Facing hostile racism and the loss of their only source of income, Cindy's family learns what it means to stick together, to create the best of an awful situation, and to embrace their heritage while incorporating new customs and friendships into their lives.
“The Journey” by Francesca Sanna
With haunting echoes of the current refugee crisis this beautifully illustrated book explores the unimaginable decisions made as a family leave their home and everything they know to escape the turmoil and tragedy brought by war. This book will stay with you long after the last page is turned.
From the author: The Journey is actually a story about many journeys, and it began with the story of two girls I met in a refugee center in Italy. After meeting them I realized that behind their journey lay something very powerful. So I began collecting more stories of migration and interviewing many people from many different countries.
“Juana and Lucas” by Juana Medina
Fans of Judy Moody and Clarice Bean will love Juana, the spunky young Colombian girl who stars in this playful, abundantly illustrated new series. Through this strong, adventurous, and smart female protagonist, Medina presents an extraordinary story about the many opportunities learning a new language can bring. Full-color illustrations provide excellent depictions of Juana’s life in Bogotá and allow readers to connect with her character and culture.
“Kindred” a graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s best-selling literary science-fiction masterpiece. More than 35 years after its release, Kindred continues to draw in new readers with its deep exploration of the violence and loss of humanity caused by slavery in the United States, and its complex and lasting impact on the present day. Adapted by celebrated academics and comics artists Damian Duffy and John Jennings, this graphic novel powerfully renders Butler’s mysterious and moving story, which spans racial and gender divides in the antebellum South through the 20th century.
“The Name Jar” by Yangsook Choi
Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it—Yoon-Hey.
“One Green Apple” by Eve Bunting
Ted Lewin’s gorgeous sun-drenched paintings and Eve Bunting’s sensitive text immediately put the reader into another child’s shoes in this timely story of a young Muslim immigrant.
Farah feels alone, even when surrounded by her classmates. She listens and nods but doesn’t speak. It’s hard being the new kid in school, especially when you’re from another country and don’t know the language. Then, on a field trip to an apple orchard, Farah discovers there are lots of things that sound the same as they did at home, from dogs crunching their food to the ripple of friendly laughter. As she helps the class make apple cider, Farah connects with the other students and begins to feel that she belongs.
“Thunder Boy Jr.” by Sherman Alexie
National Book Award-winner Sherman Alexie's lyrical text and Caldecott Honor-winner Yuyi Morales's striking and beautiful illustrations celebrate the special relationship between father and son. Thunder Boy Jr. is named after his dad, but he wants a name that's all his own. Just because people call his dad Big Thunder doesn't mean he wants to be Little Thunder. He wants a name that celebrates something cool he's done, like Touch the Clouds, Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Full of Wonder.
“Ghost” by Coretta Scott King Award–winning author Jason Reynolds
Gr 5–9—Castle "Ghost" Crenshaw lives with his single mother; his father is serving time in prison after firing a gun at Ghost and his mom three years ago—and Ghost has been running ever since. Ghost has a crazy natural talent, but no formal training. If he can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city.
From the author: “I wrote Ghost for all the young people who feel like they're suffocating, who feel like they're gasping for breath, exhausted from running for their lives, and sometimes FROM their lives. It's for both the traumatized and the triumphant.”
(From an interview with the National Book Award Foundation)
Ibi Zoboi: Bullying is one of the themes in Ghost. However, what are your thoughts on the difference between what we all know as bullying and the African American tradition of snapping, signifying, or the Dozens?
Jason Reynolds: Great question! Snapping and signifying comes from pain. The way we crack jokes come from trauma. We laugh to keep from crying. We couldn’t snap on the white man during slavery and let out all that anger and frustration. So we did it to our brother. Over time, its become what it is today, like roasting. It’s a form of camaraderie, and it’s not to crush your spirit. When kids do it, it’s not malicious. You gotta be able to snap back like being on the court or slap boxing. We do it to get out aggression in a safe space. Snapping and the Dozens are both familial and familiar.