American Born Chinese
Gene Luen Yang
First Second
Pub. Date: September 2006
Grade 7 - up

This graphic novel is about three different Chinese myths. One is dealing with a Chinese boy trying to fit in in America and his new school. The second one is about a monkey king that showed up to a dinner party only for the god’s so he got buried as his punishment. The third myth is cousin Chin-kee. This last myth brings to light all of the horrible Chinese stereotypes in today’s culture. At the end it combines all of the myths to make an amusing ending. - RC

Sharon Flake
Copyright 2005
320 pages
Young Adult

A teenage boy must face the harsh realities of inner city life, a disintegrating family, and destructive temptations as he struggles to find his identity as a young man.


Cry, The Beloved Country
Alan Paton
Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Pub. Date: November 2003
Young Adult - Adult

Annotation : Rev. Stephen Kumalo and his family life in the village of Ndotsheni in South Africa. Due to forced labor, colonization, and apartheid, the tribal system and sense of community of these people has been broken down. Broken along with that is the spirit of the people due to the extreme poverty, poor education, and lack of living space for the growing community. As a result, the “native” are pushed into the nearby city of Johannesburg, where they experience a much faster pace of life. Along with some of the benefits of the big city come the temptations as well. Kumalo leaves his village in search of his sister and his son who have been sucked up by the city of Johannesburg and all that it has to offer. He finds both of them in very tragic circumstances. His sister has become a prostitute and his son has committed murder. Through a series of event that involves befriending the father of the man that Kumalo’s son murdered, Kumalo witnesses the rebirth of his village and a renewed hope for his family, the village, and a foreshadowing of the restoration of beloved Africa.

Reaction : This book was laden with a variety of themes, lessons, and parallels between the two different people groups and families represented. Written with a strong Christian message, the author also emphasized the realities of suffering, the gift of hope, and value of community and family, and the promise of mercy and grace. I recommend this book to Christian and non-Christian audiences. - EH


Day of Tears
Julius Lester
Disney Press
Publication Date: March 2007
Age Range: 12 and up

“Day of Tears” is a novel in dialogue that is during the slavery period. The main character in the story is a black slave girl named Emma. She is only twelve years old when this book starts. She lives as a slave with her mom and dad at the Butler’s plantation. At the young age of twelve, Emma’s responsibilities are great. She takes care of the who little girls in the house because their parents got divorced and the girls live at the plantation with their father for ten months out of the year. Upon taking Emma to the slave auction, so that she could watch Sarah (one of Master Butler’s girls) someone made a good offer on Emma and the master sold her. The rest of the story consists of tells about Emma’s life and includes flashbacks from different people in her life looking back on the events that took place.


Elijah of Buxton
Christopher Paul Curtis
Scholastic, Inc.
Pub. Date: August 2007
Recommended Ages: 9-12
Pages: 341
Awards: Newberry Medal

Annotation : Elijah, the first baby born free in Buxton, West Canada, and his friend Cooter Bixby are always looking for an adventure. From hoop snakes to toady-frogs to traveling carnivals, the boys enjoy one exciting, free day after another. The traveling “preacher,” the Right Reverend Dean Doctor Zephariah Connerly the Third, adds not a small bit of interest, mystery, and danger to their lives. The Preacher, as he is called, is a somewhat questionable character who, in twisted ways, shows very big heart in working to bring others to the free town of Buxton. Elijah, in a quest to find the preacher and right a wrong, discovers the truth about this man and brings hope and freedom to others in the process.

Reaction : This book was somewhat hard for me to get into at first. However, after I got into a few chapters of it, the content was more interesting. I was surprised by the turn of events toward the end, though. The author did not give much indication early on that the story would move in the direction that it did. - EH

Freedom Writers Diary
Erin Gruwell with Zlata Filipovic
Bantam Books
Pub. Date: December 2006
Young Adult

Erin Gruwell became a teacher to impact the world around her. She decided to become a teacher after witnessing all of the riots that were taking place in L.A. She wanted to show students their potential and teach them to see it in themselves. Erin did just that. She went into an intercity school and became an English teacher. She worked two jobs so she could spend more money on her students. She taught these students the book work but also the need to see within themselves. She taught them as Juniors and Seniors. More than 80% of her students went onto go to college. I loved this book. I thought it was amazing to read about the different gangs unifying in the end and leaving their gangs behind. I really enjoyed reading it. - RC

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson
Bette Bao Lord
HarperCollins Publishers
Pub. Date: October 1986
Age Range: 8 to 11

A young girl, who takes the American name Shirley Temple Wong, and her family move to America from China. Her father had gone to America and had found it to be a land of opportunity for his family, so he took them over with him. The family settled into life, and Shirley started school even though she did not know any English. She slowly made friends, and she soon found a love for the national pastime of baseball. She followed every game that the Dodgers played and listened for her hero’s, Jackie Robinson’s, name. Shirley’s mother worried that she would soon lose and forget her family’s heritage and where she had come from. But the family continued to hold on to their traditions and their old ways. - JH

Kira Kira
Cynthia Kadohata
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Pub. Date: December 2006
Age Range: 12 and up

Publisher's Annotation: Chronicles the close friendship between two Japanese-American sisters growing up in rural Georgia during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and the despair when one sister becomes terminally ill.


House on Mango Street
Sandra Cisneros
110 Pages
Copyright 1984
Young Adult - Adult

A young girl living in a Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago ponders the advantages and disadvantages of her environment and evaluates her relationships with family and friends.


Monsoon Summer
Mitali Perkins
Random House Childrens Books
Pub. Date: April 2006
Age Range: Young Adult

Publisher's Annotation: Secretly in love with her best friend and business partner Steve, fifteen-year-old Jazz must spend the summer away from him when her family goes to India during that country's rainy season to help set up a clinic.


Nectar in a Sieve
Kamala Markandaya
190 Pages
Copyright: 1954
Young Adult - Adult

A traditional peasant woman in early twentieth-century India struggles with poverty and the changes arriving in her agrarian village, particularly the tanning factory that takes her son's life.


Gary Paulsen
Pages: 112
Age Group: Young Adult

Imagine not knowing how to read or count. Imagine seeing someone whipped because you wanted to learn. Imagine seeing someone’s toes cut off for teaching you. Sarny, a slave girl, has no idea what reading even is, is suddenly curious when a new slave boy is brought in and says he would trade three letters (A, B, and C) for some tobacco. Thus starts Sarny’s interest in reading, a hobby that becomes very dangerous for her and those around her. - AB

Parvana's Journey
Deborah Ellis
Pub. Date: August 2003
Age Range: 10 to 12

Parvana is a girl in war torn Afghanistan who is left to fend for herself. Dressed as a boy to escape the stipulations of the Taliban her father has recently died and she is in search for her mother and he rest of her family. With no food and scarce provisions she wanders around the countryside. First she finds a baby in an abandoned village and starts taking care of him. Next she finds a mysterious young boy who has lost a leg and is hiding in a cave. The three of them find a young girl in what seems to be a safe place. The four of them band together to survive. Will they make it in the end? - JK


Redemption Song

Bertice Berry
Random House Publishing Group
Pub. Date: January 2001
Young Adult

Annotation : Josephine and Ross are the main characters in this book about love, faith, and the power of the past. The two are linked, not just by their emotional connection to one another, but by the story of their slave ancestors, the love they shared, and the blessing that they passed on to their future generations. Each of their families possessed part of a book written by a former slave. Only when the two come together is the story put together that has directed the lives of both families over the years and brought these two young people to their destiny of friendship, love, and family.

Reaction : I enjoyed this romantic, yet innocent, love story. The history that was woven throughout the storyline made the reading not just enjoyable but also informative. I recommend it to young adults, especially in the ability of the author to convey the meaning of pure love. - EH

Refugee Boy
Benjamin Zephaniah
291 Pages
Copyright 2001
Young Adult

Publisher's Annotation: Fourteen-year-old Alem Kelo adjusts to life as a foster child seeking asylum in London, while his Eritrean mother and Ethiopian father work for peace between their homelands in Africa.


Ties That Bind, Ties That Break
Lensey Namioka

Summation: A young Chinese girl is caught between honoring her family and following her dreams. When Ailin refuses to have her feet bound she has no way of knowing how that decision will affect the rest of her life. The marriage that had been arranged for her fell through and it seemed marriage would not be a possibility given her big feet. Given the opportunity to go to school by her doting father, the dream of an education is cut short upon his death. Forced with the decision to become a nun, farmer’s wife, or concubine, Ailin’s tutor Miss Gilbertson finds her a job with a missionary family. As Ailin instructs and cares for the Warner’s children she grows more confident of herself. While traveling with the Warmers aboard a ship bound for America she meets a young man, James Chew, who admires her spirit and is not bothered by her big feet. They marry and open a restaurant, which was a lot of hard work for the two of them. A while later, Ailin sees the man who was once her fiancé Ailin asks him to take a message to her mother telling her that she did it all “standing on my own two feet” (p.151).

Comments: This story is enlightening not just on the subject of foot binding but also about Chinese culture. It was not a fast-paced book, but moved along at a steady rate. The wording is appropriate for a middle school reader and would be best for girls. It was a good read; very enlightening on Chinese culture and history. - KP


Wait for Me
An Na
Pages: 172
Age Group: Young Adult

Mina has been trying to live out her mother’s dream for all of her life. Mina and her family are immigrants from Korea, and they run a dry cleaning business. For the past few years, Mina has been secretly cheating so she won’t disappoint her mother’s dream to go to Harvard. Her mother is a cruel woman who is constantly dissatisfied with Suna, Mina’s younger, hearing-impaired sister. When Mina’s family hires a young Mexican, Yesrel, to work for them, Mina begins to fall for him. Will she unravel herself from the web of lies she lives in? Will she be able to abandon Suna? - AB

The Year of the Secret Assignments
Jaclyn Moriarty
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Pub. Date: April 2005
Age Range: Young Adult

The book is about three girls who attend a very prestigious, very high class, private high school, one that is definitely seen as “stuck up” to say the least, and three boys who go to a public high school, right in the ghetto of Australia. To say that the two schools are lifelong rivals would be an enormous understatement. The two schools had been feuding and fighting for years, but a tenth grade teacher thought that all of this needed to come to an end! So, he assigned his students to write letters back and forth between the schools. Each student was assigned a pen pal from the other school to whom they were supposed to write. Two of the girls are very pleased with their matches, but one is not. The two girls that got matched with the “good guys” soon become close to their male pen pals from the rival school; however the other girl that didn’t have quite so much luck in the scheme of things, continued to get only negative feedback from her pal. She is the most fragile of the three girls(of course..) because her dad passed away just a year ago and she is still very sensitive. - KH

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze

Elizabeth Foreman Lewis
Square Fish
Pub. Date: April 2008
Age Range: 12 and up

Young Fu lives with his mother in Chungking, China. As a young boy with only a poor mother, Young Fu is apprenticed to Tang, the coppersmith. His youthful foolishness gets him into lots of predicaments, which happen to always turn out in his favor. Tang and his mother believe that Young Fu is blessed by the gods. As he grows older, Tang becomes closer and closer to Young Fu, and he uses Young Fu’s good luck for his advantage. Young Fu also has positive contact with the foreigners, who are supposed to bring with them evil spirits. How does Young Fu’s good luck help those around him? Will he become a coppersmith himself one day? Are the ways of the past always the ways of the future? - AB