Parenting is a Journey
An Adventure of Discovery Not Only of our Children But of Ourselves as Well
A window into the lives of others.
We read to know that we are not alone and to hear another person’s story. Because stories help us see into the lives of other people, as well as into our own lives, it’s vitally important that we share with our children a wide variety of books—especially fresh, contemporary voices. We connect to characters; we feel their pain and delight in their joy. It’s more than stories, though--it’s the conversations that stories can start. Here are a selection of new books to share and read alongside your children.
Middle Grade (ages 9-13)
“Amina’s Voice,” by Hena Khan (Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster; 208 pp.; $16.99; ages 9-11). As Amina starts middle school, everything seems to be changing fast with both her friends and family. When her mosque is vandalized, she starts to thinks more deeply about her Muslim identity, her courage to stand up in front of others, and the support of her family, friends and community. Amina’s voice and feelings resonates strongly in this touching novel.
“The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora,” by Pablo Cartaya (Viking / Penguin; 256 pp.; $16.99; ages 9-13). Every Sunday, 13-year-old Arturo joins his extended Cuban-American family at their restaurant La Cocina de la Isla. When a shady land developer threatens to put up flashy high rise condos, Arturo joins forces with his cousins and friends to fight back. Cartaya delightfully navigates Arturo’s awkwardness, humor and conviction as he develops his first crush and fights for his family’s restaurant.
“The First Rule of Punk,” by Celia C. Pérez (Viking / Penguin; 336 pp.; $16.99; ages 9-13). María Luisa wears Chuck Taylors, listens to punk rock, makes zines, and goes by the nickname Malú. She’s devastated when she has to move to Chicago, leaving behind her dad and his record store. At her new strongly Latino school, Malú must navigate finding new friends, balancing her Mexican culture with her interests, and speaking out against unfair rules. A fun, fresh story about claiming your own style.
“Someday Birds,” by Sally J. Pla (HarperCollins; 336 pp.; $16.99; ages 9-12). Charlie and his family will stay with me a long time. Charlie’s autism and obsessive compulsive disorder makes his cross-country trip with his siblings difficult, but they are on a mission to visit their father in the hospital. Charlie is sure that finding all of the birds on the list he created with his father will ensure that his father recovers. A touching, heartfelt journey.
“Patina,” by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum / Simon & Schuster; 240 pp.; $16.99; ages 9-13). After Patina (Patty) reacts to coming in 2nd place, Coach assigns her to the 4x800 relay team. Meanwhile, Patty has to juggle being responsible for her little sister, feeling out of place at her private school, and taking care of her mom who’s “got the sugar” (diabetes). Reynolds’ writing explodes during race scenes and he authentically captures Patty’s inner voice. I loved the track and teamwork elements of this story, with the importance of supporting each other and being in step with one another.
Young Adult (ages 14-18
“The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives,” by Dashka Slater (Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan; 320 pp.; $17.99; ages 14-adult). In 2013, a teen set fire to another student’s skirt during their bus ride home. Was it goofing around? Was it a hate crime against an LGBTQ youth? Journalist and author Dashka Slater provides a nuanced, thoughtful look at this complex intersection of two lives, helping readers challenge their own assumptions about prejudice, justice and prosecution.
“When Dimple Met Richi,” by Sandya Menon (Simon Pulse; 380 pp.; $17.99; ages 14-18). This sparkling romantic comedy about two first-generation Indian Americans meeting at a computer coding camp the summer before they head to college is set in motion when their parents set up an arranged-marriage and it backfires in a big way. Both Dimple and Richi grapple with their aspirations, plans and identities, giving this charming romance novel depth that will resonate with many teens.
“The Hate You Give,” by Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins; 464 pp.; $17.99; ages 13-adult). Sixteen-year-old Starr navigates through two very different worlds: her home in a poor black urban neighborhood, and her suburban, privileged private school. When she witnesses the unprovoked police shooting of her best friend and his death becomes national news, she must cope with her personal grief and the public turmoil. Thomas shows how the personal is political, explicitly examining issues of race and class, creating both an authentic teen voice in Starr and exposing the systemic racism that impacts all of us.
“Solo,” by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess (Blink; 320 pp.; $17.99; ages 13-18). The summer after graduating high school, Blade Morrison is determined to find his own path away from his troubled rock-star father. Reeling from his girlfriend’s betrayal and his family’s secrets, Blade sets off for Ghana in search of his birth mother. This novel in verse reverberates with the music that fills Blade’s heart and soul, pulling readers into his emotional journey of self-discovery.
“You Bring the Distance Near,” by Mitali Perkins (Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan; 320 pp.; $17.99; ages 12-18). Inspired by her own experiences immigrating as a young teen in the 1970s, local author Mitali Perkins weaves together an intergenerational story of Ranee Das, her teenage daughters Sonia and Tara, and then, later, their own daughters. When Sonia and Tara move to New York as teenagers, they must navigate the possibilities that new opportunities might bring while they are acutely aware of the cultural expectations of their Bengali parents. Full of strong sisterhood, humor and meaningful reflections on family, culture and self-determination, this novel shines.
Mary Ann Scheuer is a teacher librarian. Find more books Mary Ann recommends sharing with children at her blog, Great Kid Books, http://greatkidbooks.blogspot. com.