The Shortest School-to-Prison Pipeline

At one point in Promise Boys, written by Nick Brooks, a character describes attending his school as being just like going to jail. Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of students in our schools who feel similarly. Particularly our Black male students who seem to so frequently be targets of overzealous disciplinary actions. I think we need to ask ourselves, is this truly what we want our schools to be?

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A Love Story for Everyone

There is a part of me that wants to call 6 Times We Almost Kissed (And One Time We Did) the best young adult, slow-burn romance I have ever read. But I don’t think “slow-burn” truly represents the love story depicted in this novel by Tess Sharpe. The love between Penny and Tate, who both share their sides of the story in the book, is already aflame when the book begins. They just haven’t realized it yet.

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Family Bonds

Books by Kelly Yang (author of Front Desk) always bring me joy. She tackles important and challenging issues, such as immigration and xenophobia, but reading her work never feels like a heavy lift. The warmth her characters share is simply too strong to ever be overpowered by ignorance. In her newest book for young readers, New From Here, Yang continues to dazzle us with the power of family bonds and the endless imagination of children.

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Living Out Loud

I knew Maulik Pancholy was an actor and I remembered that he served on an advisory committee in the Obama administration, but I had no idea that he was a children’s book author as well. Netgalley and HarperCollins Children’s Books gave me the opportunity to read and review an advanced reader copy of Nikhil Out Loud, and I am so grateful that they did. This book will be released on October 11 and I can’t wait for middle grade readers to engage with the characters in this delightful book.

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When You Can’t See the Wolves

I read an article in The New York Times this morning that referenced another youth sports organization that has been embroiled in sexual abuse scandals involving both coaches and players. While I was already planning to write about The Wolves are Waiting this week, the Times story made this book seem even more important to highlight. Natasha Friend has authored a book that perfectly captures the sense of invincibility that seems to be communicated to athletes–often male athletes– and those around them when they are beloved by their communities.

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Queer History Lives Everywhere

One of the many important insights that readers can gain from reading Alex Gino’s Alice Austen Lived Here, is that LGBTQIAP+ people (acronym used in the text) are not new, even if they are able to live more openly in the present day. There have always been people with different gender identities and sexual orientations and it is about time that we start talking about their histories, too. In Alice Austen Lived Here, we are introduced to a talented and artistic individual who, for too long, was pushed into the closet by society.

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Who Should be Fighting this Fight?

Milagros “Millie” Vargas never wanted to be the center of attention. As an immigrant to Texas, she doesn’t want people to know the path her family took to become citizens. In Where I Belong by Marcia Argueta Mickelson, Millie deals with the consequences, both positive and negative, of being an advocate. That doesn’t mean she is happy about it.

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A Dream Read

An exquisitely rendered depiction of life in a Black community, Dream Street is a joy to read. Written by Tricia Elam Walker with collages by Ekua Holmes, Dream Street introduces readers to the unique and dynamic individuals who make up this community. The book is based on the neighborhood in which Walker and Holmes grew up and the vibrancy of the writing and illustrations make readers feel like a part of the story.

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Simply Delightful

To me, reading Black Boy Joy was as delightful as the first bite of Happy Winter Fudge cake with vanilla ice cream (in other words: quite delightful). Edited by Kwame Mbalia and with stories by 17 Black male and nonbinary writers, this collection is one that I simply devoured. Of course, this left me wishing that I had savored it a bit more. I will do this on my second read (and third…and fourth…).

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Living on the Border

We hear a lot about the crisis at the border between the United States and Mexico. In My Two Border Towns, written by David Bowles and illustrated by Erika Meza, the struggle of immigrants on the border is addressed, but we also view this location from the perspective of a Mexican American child for whom the border is simply home. For him, going back and forth between Mexico and the United States is a typical experience, allowing him to stay in touch with his entire identity while also supporting those in his community who cannot travel freely.

While the picture book is written primarily in English, there are a few Spanish phrases throughout the text. This demonstrates the many benefits that come from being bilingual. On el otro lado (the other side), the little boy describes the language use like this, “This town’s a twin of the one where I live, with Spanish spoken everywhere just the same, but English mostly missing till it pops up like grains of sugar on a chili pepper.” This vivid explanation is just one example of the exquisite writing in this picture book.

The illustrations are also extraordinary and add so much vibrancy to the text. As the little boy is leaving his home in the United States early in the morning, the colors of the shops in the community and the landscape along the Rio Grande are more muted and pastel in color. Once he and his dad cross into Mexico, the colors are bright and bold. Both sides are equally beautiful.

My Two Border Towns is a celebration of kindness, joy, and humanity.

Learning for Justice Social Justice Standards:

Identity 3: I know that all my group identities are part of me–but that I am always ALL me.

Diversity 6: I like being around people who are like me and different from me, and I can be friendly to everyone.

Justice 14: I know that life is easier for some people and harder for others and the reasons for that are not always fair.

Action 17: I can and will do something when I see unfairness–this includes telling an adult.