In 1982 a charismatic and popular young man went out to celebrate his bachelor's party. What happened next would be the subject of several court cases and intense debate. What's undeniable is that a bar fight turned fatal ending with a white father and son beating a Chinese-American man to death. Vincent Chin would never see his wedding day, leaving the friends and family gathering for his wedding to observe his funeral rites instead. When the two white men received only a $3,000 fine and 3 years probation for this heinous crime, it was hard to believe that race hadn't played a role. Soon Vincent Chin's friends and family would rally together to protest the verdict and get the crime retried as the first federal civil rights trial involving a crime against an Asian American. Uncover the story behind this crime through case files, trial transcripts, and interviews with the people who were there. This is a hard but important story, and one that sheds light on what's happening today.
From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement by Paula Yoo
Erica's Picks 7th & up tags: history, nonfiction, People of Color, social justice
At first, President Lincoln would not allow African Americans or American Indians to enlist with the union army. But as the war drew on and the casualties mounted, it became harder and harder to find men willing to fight. In 1863 he changed that policy and allowed the creation of segregated units. By the end of the Civil War about 20,000 American Indians fought on both sides. One of the largest companies of American Indians were the Anishinaabe sharpshooters of Company K. Drawing on their hunting skills and their rich warrior tradition they were a formidable force who served with courage and honor. Learn about their stories, their service, and the history of their people.
The primary sources Sally Walker was able to find from photographs to letters home really bring members of Company K to life and depict the life of a Civil War soldier in detail. A fascinating history and a story that should be widely told and remembered.
Deadly Aim: The Civil War Story of Michigan's Anishinaabe Sharpshooters by Sally M. Walker
Erica's Picks 6th - 8th tags: history, nonfiction, People of Color
Ning never knew her father, but anyone who sees her can tell that he was a foreigner. Her strange looks combined with her unbound feet make her an outcast and guarantee that she will never find a husband. Her mother hides her away so she's barely experienced life outside her small home and her only friend is her mother's servant. One day she makes a rare trip to a temple and makes a wish for her father to return. Little does she know that wish would change her life forever. Soon she's all alone in a foreign land filled with people who distrust her. How can she build a new life for herself and still be true to her roots? Where can she run when home is thousands of miles and an ocean away?
This story, based on the life of the author's great-great-grandmother, is an engaging and unique immigration tale. From Ning's life in Shanghai to her trip across the ocean and her life in America her bold spirit shines through as she's thrown into daunting situations and has to handle them all on her own. I love how she borrows courage from tales of her favorite pirate queen. An author's note in the back details more about the life of the author's family.
View from Pagoda Hill by Michaela MacColl
Erica's Picks 5th - 8th tags: character driven, family life, global perspectives, historical fiction, People of Color
Eli is new to the foster care system, but his foster sister Morgan has been in it almost her whole life and barely remembers her biological family and indigenous roots. At first all Morgan wants is to be left alone to read in her secret spot in the attic, but when she brings Eli there something magical happens: a drawing from his sketchbook opens a portal into another land. Misewa is trapped in a perpetual winter and populated by animals that walk on two legs and speak Cree and English. Eli feels at home, as a native Cree speaker and someone who grew up with folk tales about similar creatures. Morgan just wants to take Eli and get back to their foster home before they mess it all up and she gets kicked out again. But the more they learn about the land and how its inhabitants are suffering, the more they are drawn to help. Even if it means facing bitter cold, hunger, and the dangers that hide in the snow.
This is an outstanding series opener. It has echoes of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe but stands on its own with fully realized world-building and layered characters. I read this in the summer, but I could feel the chill as I read Robertson's descriptions of the harsh environment. I appreciated the bits of Cree language and culture woven throughout and can't wait to read the next installment.
The Barren Grounds (The Misewa Saga #1) by David Alexander Robertson
Erica's Picks 5th - 8th tags: adventure, fantasy, global perspectives, People of Color
Suraya never knew her grandmother, or that she was a witch. When her grandmother dies, she gets an odd inheritance: a pelesit. This dark spirit is tied to her family and bound to do her bidding. But Suraya is just a toddler, so she names the dark spirit pink and it serves as her secret friend and protector: catching her when she falls, keeping her safe at night. As Suraya grows older and makes her first human friend, she learns of the spirit's darker side: its jealousy and violent tendencies. How long can she keep her pelesit secret? And who can she trust to help her control its dark magic?
I adored this book. Both Suraya and Pink are spectacular protagonists and I grew to care about them deeply. There are chapters from both of their perspectives and the contrast between this dark magic being and the joyful toddler that becomes its master is brilliant. I also enjoyed learning about Malaysian culture and its folk traditions around demons and magic. The themes around friendship and family are powerful as well. This book works on so many levels and I cannot recommend it enough
The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf
Erica's Picks 4th - 6th tags: character driven, family life, friendship, global perspectives, People of Color, supernatural
Ever since a dark mage killed the prince, magic has been forbidden to all except the Keepers of the Light. Anyone with magic or suspected of having magic is banished to the Twists. That's the way it's been for generations. Unfortunately for Flissa and Sara, being a twin is a sign of magic. Luckily, they were born to the King and Queen. Enter Princess Flissara: the role they take turns playing in public while the other is kept safely hidden away in their personal chambers. But when a dark mage returns to curse the Queen and they suspect the Keepers of collaborating, it will take both princesses to run away from the castle and venture into the magical prison of the twists that is filled with dark mages and the many magical traps and dangers meant to punish them.
This is a great fantasy adventure full of magical creatures, plot twists, and hidden secrets. Flissa and Sara both have their strengths and weaknesses shaped by the types of tasks they usually do and the different experiences they've had. Flissa usually does the fencing, horseback riding, and anything that involves athletic ability. Sara, on the other hand, thrives in social settings and public appearances. There's a large cast of great characters including talking horses, a bird as a tutor, and a magical black kitten. Perfect for young fans of magic.
Everything in Kaia's life is changing. Her older sister is gone for the summer and then is off to college in the fall. If that wasn't bad enough her great-grandfather, Tatang, who has always lived with them, has decided to move back home to the Philippines. Kaia knows she's not like her valedictorian, pre-med older sister, but she thinks that if she can pull off something to make Tatang really proud maybe he won't want to leave after all. That's when she hears about the movie contest with a real red carpet premiere for the winners. With her special effects makeup prowess and her friends' acting and directing skills they're sure to win.
Another sweet family story from Respicio. Tatang is a great character and I loved reading about Kaia's movie-making exploits with her friends. This is a perfect, heart-warming summer read.
Any Day with You by Mae Respicio
Erica's Picks 4th - 6th tags: character driven, contemporary fiction, family life, people of color, summer vacation
Nala was hoping to find love this summer, but she never thought she'd find it at an Inspire Harlem event. The activist organization is her cousin-sister-friend Imani's thing. Tye is perfect and she can't believe he's into her, so she pretends to be a vegetarian and acts like she's volunteering at a local retirement home instead of just hanging out doing puzzles with her grandmother. At first being with Tye is better than her wildest dreams. But soon she gets tired of pretending to be someone she's not. What will happen when Tye finds out she's been lying to him? Why shouldn't she be enough as she is? Soon her dream summer turns into a nightmare.
The theme of the novel is captured by the title and watching it all unfold was incredibly moving. Topics ranging from self-image to activism are explored without it ever feeling preachy. Every character is well-drawn and layered and the way the plot all comes together is masterful. I absolutely adored this novel and highly recommend it
Love Is a Revolution by Renée Watson
Erica's Picks 7th - 8th tags: character driven, contemporary fiction, family life, issues fiction, People of Color, romance, social justice, summer vacation
Lucely's father runs a ghost tour business where he fools tourists with hidden speakers and fake ghost sightings. But Lucely is the real deal. She sees ghosts of her family members every day. No one outside of her family knows except for her best friend Syd. When Lucely's ghost family is threatened, Lucely and Syd try to save them. But playing with spells they don't understand has dire consequences. Soon the whole town is overrun with evil spirits and they realize that they are in far over their heads.
This story has a little bit of everything from the mystery of who is messing with the town and how to save it to the all the thrills and chills you'd expect to find in a ghost story. There's more than a few laughs as well. Lucely and Syd make a great team and there's a wonderful cast of supporting characters from Syd's grandmother (who is a real witch) to Lucely's cousin who was a champion fighter before her death. Of course my favorite is the cat, Chunk, who belongs to Syd's grandmother and saves the day more than once.
Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega
Erica's Picks 4th - 6th Tags: adventure, animals, family life, People of Color, supernatural
When Thom's super strength first showed up, it was bad enough. She used to love playing soccer, but now she either barely taps the ball or hits it so hard it injures people. Then her mother moves her across the country and she struggles to fit in. At her old school there were plenty of Asian-American kids, but at her new school it makes her stand out as she gets bullied for her 'strange' ways. Then she accidentally unleashes the Monkey King and her life is changed forever. She's heard the stories about how he's a trickster, but he seems nice enough. And he's the only one who seems able to help her with her powers. Soon she discovers all the stories her mother told her are true and she has no idea who she really is or who she can trust.
This fantasy story based on Vietnamese mythology drew me in from the first page. Thom is a great character and it's easy to relate to her struggle to fit in and confusion over who to trust. The Monkey King is charismatic, but mischievous. Her new neighbor seems nice but is clearly hiding something. And Thom's mother loves her but refuses to tell her anything about her father. It certainly kept me guessing and resulted in a few surprises. A fun adventure story for all.
Girl Giant and the Monkey King by Van Hoang Erica's Picks 3rd - 5th grade tags: adventure, animals, fantasy, fast-paced, People of Color, retellings, sports