As I looked over the list of books I read this year, I pulled out some favorites to highlight and recommend. These are books I read in 2020, not just books published last year, but most are recent. Happy Reading!
Trombone Shorty, written by Troy Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier
The autobiography of Troy Andrews, also known as Trombone Shorty, famed New Orleans jazz musician. The illustrations are gorgeous, textured, and intricate; my students really dove into reading the pictures in a powerful way. They also loved to see a kid do relatable kid things, like sleep with his horn in bed with him, and big brave things, like jump on stage to play with Bo Diddley. Not to mention, it’s a great exposure to this part of the music world.
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story, written by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
This book was well-celebrated when it came out, but still blew my expectations away when I read it. The first part of the book is, as the subtitle reads, a Native American family story, describing with sparse, poetic text a child’s experiences with fry bread. Juana Martinez-Neal’s illustrations are warm and homey. Then, the story is followed by pages and pages of author’s notes, in which Kevin Noble Maillard (of the Seminole Nation) describes his own connection to fry bread, discusses it’s history, includes a recipe, and more. It’s beautiful and informative and sweet.
Not My Idea: A Kid’s Book About Whiteness, by Anastasia Higgenbotham
This is a must-read, for white teachers and families in particular. In the story, a young girl sees a story in the news about a Black man killed by police. At first she is just frightened, but soon she starts asking hard questions, and looking around for answers. While the book doesn’t provide an easy script for grown-ups trying to field similar questions (because that would be impossible), it does supply an honest, thoughtful discussion, as well as some rays of hope and directions for growth and action. A bit mature for our youngest readers, but certainly right for elementary-aged kids, and an excellent conversation-starter right on up through middle school. Anastasia Higgenbotham’s collage-style artwork is interesting and effective, too.
Thank You, Omu, by Oge Mora
Listen, I just love this book. (And Mora’s other book, Saturday. She’s just a couple of years out of college, and she’s amazing.) Omu is a Nigerian word for both grandmother and queen, a detail which all of the grandmothers I know will appreciate. She spends the morning preparing delicious stew for her dinner and sits back to read while it cooks, but its spectacular aroma floats out and brings in people from all over the neighborhood, all asking for a taste. In the end, there’s none left for Omu, but all of her new friends come back to share what they have with her. It’s so lovely, a quintessential picture book about sharing and community.
Jabari Jumps & Jabari Tries, by Gaia Cornwall
The Jabari books features a Black family, but it isn’t #OwnVoices. In Jabari Jumps, the main character is trying to work up the nerve to leap off the high dive for the first time, and in Jabari Tries, he’s working on a flying invention with his little sister as his helper (who mostly seems good at getting in the way). Something I really appreciate about these stories is Jabari’s dad, who we see as the kids’ caregiver throughout. He listens deeply to Jabari, and then supports him in experiencing his feelings, each time in the context of, “when I feel this way, one thing I do is…” It’s such lovely Dad representation, filled with gentleness and empathy. My brother and his three year old son really like these, too.
Writing about practicing literacy and freedom with my small humans.