“Free as a Bird: The Story of Malala” by Lina Maslo
This illustrated book tells the inspiring true story of human rights advocate, Malala Yousafzai, who was severely injured at the age of 15 during a Taliban attack on her school bus in Pakistan. It features Malala’s relationship with her father and her determination to be educated, beginning when she was very young. The illustrations are mostly in shades of blue with Malala’s red hijab strikingly emphasizing her faith. The pages depicting the aftermath of the attack by “the enemy” are particularly poignant with symbolic ripples of blue and black and slashes of red, followed by a double page spread of birds flying through the girl’s dreams. Recommended for ages 6 to 8.
“The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist” by Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
“What a difference the Children’s March has made in this nation.” Those words were spoken by Audrey Faye Hendricks as she reflected on her role as the youngest African American child (at age9) to march and be jailed in Birmingham, Alabama, in May 1963. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom Audrey knew as Mike, helped formulate the plan to fill the city’s jails with nonviolent demonstrators. These included students and children protesting against stores and restaurants that were for “whites only.” Brantley-Newton’s colorful and lively collage illustrations depict Audrey’s joy and pride before her arrest, as well as the fears and discomfort that followed. Recommended for ages 8 to 10.
— Heather McNeil, Deschutes Public Library youth services manager
“We Are Okay” by Nina LaCour
The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) gave its highest literary honor, the 2018 Printz Award, to LaCour’s introspective and emotional fifth novel. College freshman Marin decides to stay at school during winter break, avoiding the trip back home to San Francisco. When she’s visited by her friend Mabel, Marin slowly spools out a story of trauma and secrets. This tightly constructed, metaphor-rich work acts as the perfect vehicle for Marin’s journey.
“Long Way Down” by Jason Reynolds
Reynolds’ striking novel in verse is one of four 2018 Printz Honor books; it also earned a Newbery Honor award and a Coretta Scott King Honor award for excellence in literature for youth that reflects the African American experience. Reeling from the death of his older brother, Will ponders the three rules that have been drilled into his head: don’t cry, don’t snitch, get revenge. Carrying his brother’s gun, Will descends on his apartment building’s elevator, encountering someone at each floor who adds their perspective to the story. Sixty seconds in time, an eternity of consequences and a haunting final line.
— April Witteveen, Deschutes Public Library community and teen services librarian
“Elmet” by Fiona Mozley
Set in rural England, Elmet is an atmospheric novel about a family carving out a life off the grid. The gritty tale is told by Daniel who, after a tumultuous childhood, moves with his father and sister to a wooded parcel of land on the outskirts of town. There the three craft a home for themselves — hunting and trapping their food and constructing their own furniture. Violence erupts when a local landowner and old acquaintance emerges to claim ownership of the property. Local laborers rally in support of the family but the dispute spirals into tragedy underscoring the power of familial love.
“Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance” by Ruth Emmie Lang
This light-hearted tale with a dollop of magical realism follows the life of Weylyn Grey, an orphan with remarkable abilities to commune with wildlife and control the weather. Grey’s story is narrated by those lucky enough to have encountered him over his lifetime. Through each encounter readers expand their affinity for this humble man who, while struggling to make sense of the complexities of human love and friendship, brings joy to those around him.
— Alyssa Bennett, Deschutes Public Library community librarian