For the month of April I’m featuring books with amazing black girls.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, Harper Teen
This YA novel will appeal to mature MG reader. The main character Emoni is a teen mother in her senior year of high school. With the help of good friends and a mentor teacher/chef, Emoni discovers a passion for cuisine and hones the discipline she will need to succeed. There is some mild swearing but there is also a romantic relationship with a boy respectful of Emoni’s boundaries making it a nice choice for older middle grade readers on the cusp of their dating years.
Black Enough: Stories of being Youn and Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi, Balzar & Bray
This anthology is a mix of MG and YA short stories about the wide ranging experience of being African-American in all its variety: urban and rural, immigrant and 10th generation American, wealthy and struggling. I’m a big fan of short stories for kids who are almost ready for YA and feeling unsure about where to start. This collection features 17 of the strongest Black writers being published in this decade.
Blended by Sharon M. Draper, Atheneum
Biracial children are the fastest growing demographic so I was particularly thrilled to see Blended take on such an important topic head on. Sharon Draper uses the conflict between her protagonist Isabella’s divorced parents to illuminate Isabella’s own conflicting feelings about her identity. This book addresses the pain of micro-aggressions head on and the topic of lynching comes up in a history class so although this is a solidly MG title it is also gritty in the very best way.
A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée, Balzar & Bray
It’s always great to highlight debut authors. Lisa Moore Ramée’s story features a tender-hearted 12 year old who gets very anxious about conflict. A transformative experience at a Black Lives Matter rally helps her face her fears and learn to stand up for change even when the consequences of change are hard. There’s plenty of humor and heart even as this book takes on difficult topics.
Love Like Sky by Leslie C Youngblood, Hyperion
Another debut, this one from Leslie C Youngblood is set in Georgia and covers the challenges of moving into a blended family, into a new neighborhood and into a period of family illness. It should resonate with blended families and is a lovely tribute to the bonds among sisters.
My Life as an Ice cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi, Dutton
This delicious summer read will be out in August but I couldn’t help talking it up now. The cover is charming. The fairly familiar ground of a middle school aged child moving from a small town (Huntsville, AL) to a big city (Harlem, NY) is made fresh and engaging by introducing a grandfather who was a NASA engineer. He inspires his grandchild’s fascination with space and feeds her science fiction habit. The story is set in 1984 and includes a few very short sections of graphic novel. Sure to be a winner with Star Trek fans and space enthusiasts.
A Streetcar to Justice: How Elizabeth Jennings won the right to ride in New York by Amy Hill Hearth, Greenwillow
I’m going to end with a really terrific biography of Elizabeth Jennings the woman who was a forerunner to Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin. In 1850 in New York City she was forcibly ejected from a public streetcar. She took the trolly company to court and won the right of black citizens to ride a public street car alongside white passengers. In 1850! I had not heard of her before this book and I’m thrilled to see it join the canon of books about civil rights. It’s a slim volume but it’s packed with maps and photographs and first person sources.
Rosanne Parry is the author of a 4 MG novels and the forthcoming A WOLF CALLED WANDER and LAST OF THE NAME. She is a bookseller at Annie Blooms and teaches in the Masters in Book Publishing program at Portland State. She writes in a treehouse in her back yard.
From the Mixed-Up Files is the group blog of middle-grade authors celebrating books for middle-grade readers. For anyone with a passion for children’s literature—teachers, librarians, parents, kids, writers, industry professionals— we offer regularly updated book lists organized by unique categories, author interviews, market news, and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a children's book from writing to publishing to promoting.