Each month we post an annotated bibliography of books that were rated ‘Outstanding’ and nominated for our Distinguished List at our previous month’s meeting. Members can see full reviews of these books and many more in the May edition of BayViews. Not a member? Join, come to our (currently virtual) monthly meetings, and hear about these Outstanding books “in person”!
Astro-Nuts: Mission One: The Plant Planet written by Scieszka, Jon and illustrated by Weinberg, Steven; Chronicle, 2020.
Dangerous CO₂ levels caused by humans means four untested, mutant animals (AlphaWolf, SmartHawk, LaserShark, and StinkBug) secretly created by NNASA – that is, Not NASA – just for this emergency, have two weeks to find a “Goldilocks Planet” (not too hot, not too cold) for earthlings. (Grades 3-5.)
Felix Ever After written by Callender, Kacen; Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, 2020.
Felix, a queer, black, trans teen struggling with identity, finds someone has posted pre-transition photos and his deadname at his school. This tough #ownvoices story resolves the mystery and Felix’s identity quest in a realistic, satisfying way. (9-12.)
From the Desk of Zoe Washington written by Marks, Janae; Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins, 2020.
Budding pastry chef Zoe begins corresponding with the birth father she has never known, his having been incarcerated for murder before she was born. This timely, debut novel conveys the weighty its of systemic racism in an accessible way, hopefully bringing the subject matter to a wider audience. (4-8.)
Gold Rush Girl written by Avi; Candlewick, 2020.
Tory recounts her experience in San Francisco, where she, her father, and younger brother have relocated to seek their fortune in the 1849 Gold Rush. After father leaves for the diggings, Tory’s brother is kidnapped; she searches for him with the help of new friends Sam and Thad. (4-8.)
The Hippo at the End of the Hall written and illustrated by Cooper, Helen; Candlewick, 2019.
When Ben was less than three years old, his dad was lost at sea – but was he? An invitation to the Gee Museum, which is the last place he recalls being with his dad, spurs Ben to seek answers. An interesting, complex mystery with magical elements, featuring a brave, persevering, and loving boy. (5-8)
King and the Dragonflies written by Callender, Kacen; Scholastic, 2020.
In the Louisiana bayou, King mourns the recent passing of his older brother, while also dealing with the disappearance of the friend who has told King that he’s gay, in a middle grade novel that touches on toxic masculinity, complicated relationships between fathers and sons, and homophobia. (4-8.)
The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street written by Oliver, Lauren and illustrated by Aldridge, Ethan M.; HarperCollins, 2020.
Cordelia, along with an orphan boy named Gregory, must solve the mystery surrounding the disappearance of her father and the sick magical creatures that they tend to in this timely novel which asks the question: who are the real monsters in this world? (4-8.)
Prairie Lotus written by Park, Linda Sue; Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020.
Hanna is half white and half Chinese/Korean, which means she is the target of ridicule when she and her white father move from Los Angeles to the Dakota Territory in 1880. With they be welcomed by the community, will she be allowed to attend school, will residents patronize their dress shop? (4-8.)
This is My Brain in Love written by Gregorio, I.W.; Little, Brown/Hachette, 2020.
Jos and Will, both children of immigrants, feel attracted to each other but are hampered by their mental health issues. Stigmas in communities of color around managing mental health are examined realistically through honest characters and outcomes. (8-12.)
Under the Broken Sky written by Nagai, Mariko; Henry Holt/Macmillan, 2019.
The the Soviet enemy invades Japanese-controlled Manchuria near the end of World War II, twelve-year-old Natsu and her younger sister Asa must flee their settlement and embark on an epic flight for survival. The story unfolds in a series of short poems arranged in a powerful, literary arc. (5-8.)
The Voting Booth written by Colbert, Brandy; Disney/Hyperion, 2020.
Set over the course of Election Day 2020, this delightful two-hander starts when activist, “dark brown” skinned Marva and biracial musician Duke meet at a polling station. A charming romance with a core message about injustice and the need to vote to get change. (9-12.)
Dragon Hoops written and illustrated by Yang, Gene Luen; First Second/Roaring Brook, 2020.
Using a session of Bishop O’Dowd High School’s basketball team as a launch point, Yang explores the history of the game and his own journey as a graphic novelist. The rich narrative and compelling art will appeal to more than just basketball fans. (8-12.)
Go With the Flow written by Williams, Lily and Schneemann, Karen and illustrated by Williams, Lily; First Second/Roaring Brook, 2020.
In this much needed graphic novel, new girl Sasha is at high school when she gets her first period; three other girls befriend and help Sasha, and the four quickly bond. on girl advocated for free sanitary products in the girls restrooms, while they all deal with other normal high school issues. (4-10.)
Hack Your Cupboard: Make Great Food With What You’ve Got written by Wiegand, Alyssa and Carreon, Carla; Zest/Lerner, 2019.
This attractive and accessible cookbook is divided into several sections, all of which include recipes, dinner menus, and various “hacks”: Gourmet, Fun, Hearty, Spicy, Budget, and so on. Also includes hints for sharing pantries, food storage, and kitchen skills. (8-Adult.)
Food Field Trips: Let’s Explore Apples! / Let’s Explore Bread! / Let’s Explore Cookies! written by Colella, Jill; Lerner, 2020.
This nonfiction series for emerging readers explores different types of food, what different varieties look like, and how it can be prepared in kid-friendly recipes. Easy-to-decode text and colorful photos of people representing different racial, gender, and age groups create a great STEM resource. (K-3.)