Summary: Luis loves Saturdays, because Abuela comes to visit and plays sidekick to his superhéroe. When his sister Isabel tries to join in, he pushes her away, telling her that she’s too little. One Saturday, though, Luis’s parents tell him that Abuela is in the hospital. They visit her there, but even after she comes home, Abuela isn’t “superhéroe ready”. Luis tries everything he can think of to help her feel better, but nothing works, and eventually Abuela tells him she has to hang up her capa. One day, Luis is with Abuela when he sees Isabel running around with both capas. At first, he tells her no, but then he notices Abuela’s eyes are shining “like estrellas.” He puts his own capa on Isabel and Abuela’s around his own shoulders, and the two of them become superhéroes who can push Abuela in her wheelchair. Includes a glossary of Spanish words. 40 pages; ages 4-8.
Pros: A touching story about a kid dealing with a grandparent’s illness and figuring out a way to still enjoy his time with her. The illustrations are colorful, joyful, and also manage to convey Abuela’s decline in a way that feels realistic.
Cons: I was worried that Abuela was not going to make it to the last page.
Summary: Steve Sheinkin has turned his award-winning nonfiction book from 2012 into a graphic novel that tells the history of the Manhattan Project, including those who gave information to the Soviets that helped them develop an atomic bomb just a few years after the United States. One of those was Harry Gold, whose interrogation by the FBI forms the structure for this book. As the agents question him, Harry slowly reveals the story of the project in Los Alamos, with descriptions of the various people involved like Robert Oppenheimer, Leslie Groves, Richard Feynman, and Klaus Fuchs. The book ends with a showdown between Oppenheinmer and President Harry Truman, as each realizes the terrible power he has unleashed on the world. As Steve Sheinkin concludes in his author’s note, “How does this story end? We don’t know–because it’s still going on.” 256 pages; grades 5-12.
Pros: I loved the original Bomb, and this graphic novel does an amazing job of telling many aspects of the story in a necessarily condensed format. The excellent artwork helps to distinguish the many characters in the story. It’s an important historical narrative, and the graphic format will make it accessible to many more readers.
Cons: I missed the depth of the original book in telling about many of the characters and events.
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Summary: In this follow-up to The Proudest Blue, Faizah is happy to be heading to school in the red dress that has been worn by both Mama and her older sister Asiya. Her teacher has the class brainstorm about what kind of world they want to live in, and the kids put their ideas into practice on the playground, helping and including each other in their games. After recess, the class lines up for picture day, Faizah feeling great in her new dress. But when her classmates’ siblings come to pick them up, she notices that many of them are dressed alike, unlike her and Asiya. Her best friend Sophie saves the day, taking off her red sash and wrapping it around Faizah’s head just like Asiya’s hijab. Includes an author’s note about her experiences she used to write this book and a photo of her with her older sister and brother. 40 pages; ages 4-8.
Pros: I was excited to see this book, because I have several girls in my school who wear hijab, and they love The Proudest Blue. Two of them have checked it out a total of five times in the last year. I’m sure they’ll enjoy this new story with its focus on kindness, friendship, and family.
Cons: I couldn’t quite figure out why all the siblings were dressed alike. Were they also being photographed in family groups?
Summary: You may think you know what a hat is, but you are probably limiting yourself. Acorn caps (as well as raspberries, chewed-up gum, tortellini, and doll shoes) work well if you’re a finger, and a pudding cap will do just fine if you’re a stuffed bear. Humans can wear their pets as hats, or books (if they have good posture) or bubbles in the bathtub. Some jobs come with a hat, like cowboy, chef, and pirate. Hats are everywhere! Because anything can be a hat if you believe it is. 32 pages; ages 3-6.
Pros: A book filled with quirky fun, both the text and the illustrations, and one that is sure to inspire creativity in making hats and thinking of what non-human objects could use for hats. Also, you will get to say the word “haberdashery.”
Cons: I try so hard to discourage kids from putting their library books on their heads, and then this book comes along.
Summary: As the youngest of seven children, Abby Wambach learned to be tough, especially on the soccer field. After a successful high school career that ended with a crushing state championship loss, Abby played at the University of Florida where she was recruited for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. She toughened up even more with a personal trainer to become part of the team that won the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics. She was on track to win another medal when she broke her leg shortly before the 2008 Olympics, but her encouragement from the sidelines helped her team win gold again. After a year of rehab, she was back, scoring her 100th career goal in 2009. Includes additional information about Abby’s childhood and her post-2009 soccer career, a list of soccer terms with definitions, and a bibliography. 32 pages; grades K-4.
Pros: A lively introduction to Abby Wambach’s life with colorful illustrations and an eye-catching cover that will grab the interest of sports fans.
Cons: I wish there had been some information on Abby’s activism on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community and women in sports.
Summary: After Priya posts pictures of the party she organized for her little brother, Layla Aunty asks her to take charge of her upcoming birthday party. She offers to pay Priya, but Priya asks for a donation to help quokkas instead (you’ll learn more about this endangered Australian animal if you read the book). Priya gets to work, starting a party journal to help her stay organized. Layla Aunty’s favorite color is orange, so that becomes the party’s theme. Priya enlists the help of her best friend and Layla Aunty’s friends (including Prya’s mom) to make decorations, food, invitations, and a special present. It’s a busy time, but everything goes off without a hitch, and Layla Aunty declares it her favorite birthday, making a generous donation to the quokkas. After pictures are posted, Layla gets her second job, which is undoubtedly the subject of book 2, Starry Henna Night, due out in May. 80 pages; grades 1-3.
Pros: This is a typical Scholastic Branches series (and you know I mean that as a compliment) with a strong female entrepreneur as the main character and an appealing diary format filled with colored illustrations and cartoon bubbles.
Cons: I kept waiting for something to go wrong–you know, conflict–but everything went perfectly, making this feel a bit more like a party-planning manual than a novel.
Summary: Zelda Jackson was an artist, poet, and storyteller who dreamed of working for the Black newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier. She got her break writing a story about boxing that was published using her childhood nickname, Jackie. Once she was an established columnist, she tried her hand at art, creating a comic strip character named Torchy Brown, a young woman who moved from her home in Mississippi to New York City. After marriage and a move to Chicago, Jackie worked for the Chicago Defender, creating a new comic called Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger, which she used to comment on civil rights and other issues important to Black people. Jackie became a community activist, using the money she made from her comics to fund causes she believed in, and drawing the attention of the FBI, who spied on her for a decade. After retiring Patty-Jo, Jackie gave up comics, pursuing other forms of art until her death in 1985. Includes notes from the author and artist, photos, and a bibliography. 48 pages; grades 2-5.
Pros: This fascinating biography with striking comic-style artwork will inspire graphic novel fans who may want to try creating comics of their own and shows them how comics can be used for both fun and communicating a more serious message.
Cons: I wish there had been a bit more information on Jackie’s post-comics art career.
Summary: The team behind All Because You Matter has created a new book celebrating Black contributions around the world to music, food, fashion, and science. Written for a daughter that she never met (as explained in the author’s note), the free verse poem and illustrations feature a girl as she learns about the ways Black people have shaped the world throughout human history. There are references to the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests in both the text and the illustrations, which concludes, “You are brilliant, extraordinary, far-beyond-ordinary, the very best of who we are.” Includes additional information about some of the people and concepts referenced in the text, as well as notes from the author and illustrator. 40 pages; grades 1-5.
Pros: An empowering picture book filled with beautiful words and pictures that may inspire readers to delve deeper into the history of Black people all over the world.
Cons: The writing is pretty abstract, so, while this is recommended as a picture book for preschool and primary grades, I think older kids would get more from it.
I’ve just updated my Black History book list, adding over 20 books from the past year. It’s a very long list at this point, but I can’t bring myself to take any of the books off of it. You can access it by clicking on the link or by going to my home page, moving the cursor over Book Lists, then clicking on Black History from the menu.