2020 Newbery Award Winners

February 3rd, 2020 by

The Super Bowl was last night, and apparently that’s exciting for some people… Not us! The only recent competition that we care about actually happened last week: the Newbery Awards!

Last Monday, the American Library Association announced the 2020 Newbery Medal Winner and 2020 Newbery Honor Books. Every year, the Newbery is given to “the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” So if you’re not familiar with these awards, just think of them as the Super Bowl — plus children’s books, minus the nachos. We know, we know — nachos are delicious. But even without the cheesy chips and guacamole, the Newbery Awards are still really exciting.

And this year’s announcement was particularly exciting because a graphic novel won the Newbery Medal for the very first time: New Kid by Jerry Craft. Here’s what Karen had to say about it in her review: “I’d recommend this book to literally everyone. Okay, maybe not to little kids who can’t read yet. But everyone else should check out New Kid. Students, adults, everyone.”

So if you were wondering what to read next, check out New Kid or any of the Newbery Honor recipients (official descriptions from the publishers):

2020 Newbery Medal Winner:

New Kid by Jerry Craft
new-kid-jerry-craft

Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.

As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds — and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?

2020 Newbery Honor Books:

undefeatedThe Undefeated, written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more.

scary-stories-for-young-foxesScary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker

The haunted season has arrived in the Antler Wood.

No fox kit is safe. When Mia and Uly are separated from their litters, they discover a dangerous world full of monsters. In order to find a den to call home, they must venture through field and forest, facing unspeakable things that dwell in the darkness: a zombie who hungers for their flesh, a witch who tries to steal their skins, a ghost who hunts them through the snow… and other things too scary to mention.

Featuring eight interconnected stories and 16 hauntingly beautiful illustrations, Scary Stories for Young Foxes contains the kinds of adventures and thrills you love to listen to beside a campfire in the dark of night. Fans of Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Auxier, and R.L. Stine have found their next favorite book.

other-words-for-homeOther Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US — and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before.

But this life also brings unexpected surprises — there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

This lyrical, life-affirming story is about losing and finding home and, most importantly, finding yourself.

genesis-begins-againGenesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

There are 96 things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant — even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence.

What’s not so regular is that this time they all don’t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It’s not that Genesis doesn’t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight — Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she’d married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren’t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she’s made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show.

But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won’t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they’re supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?

Are you adding any of these books to your to-read list? Or have you already read them? Leave a comment and let us know!

New Kid by Jerry Craft: Book Review

April 30th, 2019 by

new-kid-jerry-craftWhen I was in 4th grade, my family spent a few months in Los Angeles, almost 400 miles away from our home in San Francisco. Here’s what was great about that: We lived much closer to Disneyland! Here’s what wasn’t great: I had to attend a new school and make new friends.

If you’ve ever been the new kid, you know how hard it can be. Everyone already knows each other, they already know the teachers, and they know all the behind-the-scenes info that keeps you from looking like a fool as you navigate campus.

But being the new kid is even harder for Jordan in the graphic novel New Kid by Jerry Craft. That’s because he’s one of the few students of color at the fancy Riverdale Academy Day School.

Jordan is an aspiring cartoonist, so he wants to attend art school. But his parents insist on sending him to Riverdale Academy because of its focus on academics. So every day he leaves behind his family and old friends in Washington Heights and travels up to Riverdale, where he has to deal with kids who are mostly oblivious to their privilege — or worse, make racist remarks to Jordan and some of his classmates who also aren’t white or who are on financial aid. Even some of the teachers show obvious bias in their behavior towards Jordan. Then there are the teachers who mean well, but still treat Jordan differently as they try to show they’re not biased.

But it’s not all bad. Jordan makes friends, practices drawing, and gets more comfortable at Riverdale Academy. Still, as Jordan moves between his two worlds, there are plenty of challenges for him to deal with and a lot for him to figure out — not just about school, but also about himself.

I’d recommend this book to literally everyone. Okay, maybe not to little kids who can’t read yet. But everyone else should check out New Kid. Students, adults, everyone. For some readers, it will reflect their reality — capturing their feelings in both a touching and funny way. (Prime example: Jordan’s comics about dealing with his classmates and teachers offer social commentary in a package that’s sharp and hilarious.) For other readers, New Kid may be a window into a life that’s very different from their own — and yet, I bet they’ll still identify with Jordan and hopefully gain some empathy for his experience.

But don’t take my word for it — check out the recommendation below from Jeff Kinney, the author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid:

"Funny, sharp, and totally real! Jordan Banks is the kid everyone will be talking about!" - Jeff Kinney, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid

The above image also gives you a taste of the artwork in the book. For more of a preview, here are a couple spreads from the publisher’s website:

Have you ever been the new kid? Leave a comment with your story! (Just be sure not to mention names, like the name of your school!)

— Karen

The first week of college, Karen’s parents sent her a birthday cake. Karen took it room to room, offering slices to her classmates. Pro tip: sharing baked goods = an excellent way to make new friends!

More about Karen »