“And somehow, one day, it’s just there / speckled black-and white, the paper / inside smelling like something I could fall right into, / live there — inside those clean white pages.” Jacqueline Woodson’s childhood unfolds in poems that beautifully reveal details of her early life and her slow but gradually certain understanding that words and stories and writing were essential to her. Her older sister was shining smart. One of her brothers could sing wonderfully. She would come to realize words were her smart, her singing, her special thing.
Little Maya loves her manta (blanket), which was made by her abuelita. When the edges of the blanket fray from use, Abuelita helps Maya turn it into a vestido (dress). They later make the vestido into a falda (skirt), which they eventually sew into a rebozo (shawl), before turning it into a bufanda (scarf), and then a cinta (headband). When Maya gets her hair cut, she turns the cinta into a marcador de libros (bookmark). When she loses her bookmark, Maya realizes she can write the entire story down. And when she is grown with a little girl of her own, she tells that story to her.
Eleven-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher has a bad feeling about the Stranger in town, with good reason. The man is a servant of the devil after something he calls Mandragore, or Main the Gloire—“the one that did the deed.” To Hoodoo’s dismay, his own left hand is what the Stranger is looking for. Hoodoo’s father, lynched years before, tried to escape into his young son’s body but succeeded only as far as his hand. Hoodoo knew none of this before the Stranger’s arrival.
In her novel Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell referenced a Harry Potter-esque fantasy about a wizard named Simon Snow. Carry On is Simon’s story, or the last volume of it. Now 17, Simon is an orphan who’s been attending a wizarding school since he was 11. He’s considered the chosen one among wizards, and the Mage who oversees the school is a father figure to him. Sound familiar? The world of magic is threatened by the Insidious Humdrum, a force that destroys magic and manifests looking like eleven-year-old Simon. Simon’s roommate, Baz, is a privileged boy from an old, arrogant and potentially dangerous wizarding family.
A warm picture book collection alternates between poems in the voice of an African American girl whose mom is away in the military, and poems in the voice of her mother as a child, growing up in a military family that moved many times. The contemporary girl’s discovery of her mother’s childhood poems has inspired her to write her own, which often reflect on the differences between their childhoods, especially as she is living in one place with her grandmother while her mom is away, rather than moving from place to place.
Lizzie Murphy grew up in the early twentieth century in a baseball-loving family. Lizzie was both eager to play and savvy, bargaining her way onto her brother’s team. By fifteen, she was playing on two amateur teams. At eighteen, she set out to earn a living playing baseball, despite her mother’s concern. “But it’s what I do best,” Lizzie replied. To the manager of the semi-pro team who signed her, as a woman Lizzie was a novelty who would bring more people into the stadium to see the game. But Lizzie was a good player and she demanded to be paid the same as her male teammates. Not long after, her mother gave her a jersey with her name across the front.
In this sequel to Malcolm at Midnight, Malcolm the rat learns Amelia, the nutter (child) to whom he is closest in Mr. Binney’s classroom at McKenna School, is leaving in a week. Her family has to move because her dad lost his job. Meanwhile, the school itself is at risk of closing because the almost 100-year-old building is in need of major repairs. The district doesn’t have the money and plans on transferring the students to other schools in the fall. Malcolm and the Midnight Academy, the organization of classroom pets who help protect McKenna School, decide to investigate the legend of a hidden stash, presumably left by the man for whom the building was named. Could it be enough to cover the costs?
Mikey, his sister Mel(inda), and their friends Henna and Jared, are about to graduate high school. Mel has anorexia and Mikey lives with severe anxiety and OCD, neither fitting the image their high-aspiring politician mother wants their family to project. Henna’s parents plan on taking her to the Central African Republic to do missionary work, despite the war there. Jared feels the weight of being an only child on the verge of leaving his single-parent father. Jared is also a god. Well, technically a quarter-god. And there is the delicious twist in this emotionally rich story about facing a time of transition and uncertainty: The otherworldly is real.
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson revisits the topic of Lewis Michaux and the National Memorial African Bookstore that were the subject of her singular young adult novel No Crystal Stair, here introducing her great uncle and his Harlem store in a picture book told in the engaging fictionalized voice of Lewis Michaux’s son. Young Louie shares the history of the store, which his father could not get a bank loan to open because the banker believed “Black people don’t read.” And he shares a sense of the vibrant, vivid gathering place the store is, with its “zillion books” by Black people—African Americans, Africans—and others who aren’t white.
Authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely put the issues of police bias and violence against Blacks and white privilege front and center in this novel that alternates between the voices of high school students Rashad Butler and Quinn Collins. African American Rashad is brutalized by a white police officer who makes a snap judgment of a scene and assumes Rashad was harassing a white woman and stealing at a neighborhood store where he’d gone to buy potato chips. Quinn, who is white, shows up as handcuffed Rashad is being pummeled by the cop on the sidewalk outside.