“The Undefeated” by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This is the most beautiful, powerful, moving book I have read this year, for any age. Alexander’s poem perfectly matches Nelson’s deft artwork as it marches through the history of Africans then African Americans in the U.S. The text covers the past and shares the present, but has the most impact in the way it emphasizes the bright future of stars we have not yet seen rise. While the material is appropriate for kindergarten and up, I recommend it for all ages.
“Are You Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken?” by Kelly Jones, illustrated by Katie Kath
If your class is hatching chicks this year or you’re in 4-H Club, I bet you don’t have unusual chickens like Sophie’s. In this sequel to “Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer,” newly minted caretaker Sophie must learn how to hatch eggs and care for birds with unknown magical powers. Infused with humor and a large dose of chicken know-how, Jones’ story and Kath’s illustrations are funny and moving. This would be a great read aloud for younger children interested in chickens, or third to sixth graders reading independently.
— Josie Hanneman, Deschutes Public Library community librarian
“Internment” by Samira Ahmed
Set “15 minutes in the future,” Muslim-American teen Layla is shocked by new curfew rules, book burnings and required weekly viewing of presidential security addresses. A Muslim ban evolves into forced internment and soon the authorities arrive for her family. After being forcefully removed from their home, Layla and her parents arrive at Camp Mobius, in the same California desert as Manzanar where Japanese-Americans faced similar imprisonment in the 1940s. As Layla finds hope in resistance and activism, the consequences to her actions escalate. Readers will be hooked by the story’s fast pace and the space the narrative gives to consider current and historical events rooted in prejudice.
“Opposite of Always” by Justin A. Reynolds
Jack King finds himself in a “Groundhog Day”-esque loop, trying over and over again to save the amazing girl he met at a party while on a college visit. Kate, diagnosed with sickle cell anemia, falls for Jack despite all the flaws he sees in himself, making this a truly heartwarming and gut-wrenching romance. How many trips through time and space will it take for Jack to find a miracle cure not just for his girlfriend, but for the tough things his two best friends are also coping with? Filled with witty banter and complex friend and family dynamics, teens looking for a love story with just enough angst are sure to enjoy this.
— April Witteveen, Deschutes Public Library community librarian
“The Falconer” by Dana Czapnik
Seventeen-year-old basketball player Lucy Adler knows the feeling of pure adrenaline when she plays at her high school or at a street court in New York City. Lucy fights to shrug off outside expectations and live in the moment at school, with her friends and on the streets. Part meditation on New York in the mid-1990s, part philosophy book, part examination of the pressures of growing up on the fringes, this book is all genius. Czapnik writes with a fluid understanding of life and literature that makes this novel hard to put down.
“The Dreamers” by Karen Thompson Walker
It started in a dorm room in a sleepy California mountain town that was connected to the world by one road in and one road out. Students slowly started falling asleep and failing to return to the waking world. “The Dreamers” is an easy to read, short chaptered, multi-character narrative about an infection that takes over the town. We watch from the perspective of college students, kids whose parents have fallen asleep and nurses trapped in quarantine hospitals. Will the disease ever be cured? Will it take over the world? You’ll enjoy finding the answers.
— Graham Fox, Deschutes Public Library community librarian