All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely


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Here’s a visual book talk on this title.  Then below is my written review.

…Obviously I need to figure out a way NOT look as if I’m in pain in the frozen image/start of the video? Yikes! I’ll work on this:)

Started: November 23

Finished: November 26

Category/Genre: Multicultural/Realistic Fiction

Published: September 2015

Awards: None, YET!

Pages: 320

Themes: Diversity Awareness/Acceptance

Rating: 5 Stars

Intended Age/Interest Range: 7th Grade and Up

I heard about this novel back in September, right before it came out. Since diversity in YA Lit is such a hot topic (that I agree with!), I put it on my TBR List immediately. I had never heard of either of the authors, but found it awesomely unique that these two people would team up for a fictional novel. That being said, I think the book’s value is HUGELY increased with the join effort authoring…

This title is narrated by two different boys who attend the same school, but really don’t hang out in the same circles. Rashad is black, participates in ROTC (to pacify his father), and is a normal/overall good kid who pretty much stays out of trouble. Similarly, Quinn also appears as a normal teen and stays on the outskirts of trouble. Quinn is white, has lost his father in the Iraq war, and is banking on a basketball scholarship. The future is important to both boys. Both are “All American” in their own way.

The first pages start up a chain of events that unfolds over 7 days. Rashad gets arrest and excessively beat by a police man when his actions are misunderstood as stealing. Rashad ends up hospitalized with extreme injuries. The whole town is buzzing about this incident; Everyone taking sides – Rashad’s or the white cop’s. The cop is a very close family friend of Quinn’s.

As Rashad tries to understand WHY this has happened to him, he becomes a hashtag and face for a protest. Meanwhile, Quinn attempts to figure out where he stands on this issue… An issue that has their small town completely divided.

I made so many tabs/notes throughout this title! There are so many lines that captured the confusion and injustice of that confusion. My favorite part was when Quinn realizes that by choosing not to take a side, he contributes to the oppressor. He realizes this after the school principal bans Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man (since there is so much racial turmoil going on within the school). But Quinn’s awesome teacher doesn’t care what the principal says, and the class reads the text aloud – to refute the principal decision. As some students chose not to say the derogatory words used in Ellison’s text (and some do), Quinn realizes: “Nobody says the words anymore, but somehow the violence still remains. If I didn’t want the violence to remain, I had to do a hell of a lot more than just say the right things and not say the wrong things.”

Overall Literary Merit: HIGH

Classroom Possibilities:  Hands down, this book MUST be on library and classroom library shelves! It would be a GREAT all class test in the high school classroom.  Although the text itself isn’t prolific, what is being thought and said throughout the novel is! The book could sway people to stand a stand… I know it sounds extreme, but this book could save lives. Get your hands on this book!


Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi


Started: October 21

Finished: October 21

Category/Genre/Format: Multicultural/Memoir/Graphic Novel

Published: 2004

Awards: A New York Times Notable Book; A Time Magazine “Best Comix of the Year”; A San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times Best-seller; Top Ten Frequently Challenged Books of 2014

Pages: 160

Themes: Coming of Age, Living in a War

Rating: 5 Stars

Age/Interest Range: 9th grade and Up

This graphic novel is a unique memoir of Satrapi’s growing up during the Islamic Revolution in war-torn Iran. I didn’t know much about this time period before reading this book, and the during the first 20-30 pages I was googling like a crazy person. Sadly, this is the stuff we never got to in my high school history classes. Assuming many others receive a similar high school experience without knowledge about Iraq/Iran/Islamic Revolution, I can’t help but wonder how SOME of the world today could be different if this topic would have been “required.”

Anyway, back to the review: Marjane is a feisty young women living her teen during the Islamic Revolution. She remembers the exact day girls were required to start wearing The Veil. She overhears many adult conversations and forms conclusions with her teenage mind. THUS leading to some confusion as she attempts to come to some sort of understanding regarding what is really going on. Told through humor and some frightening illustrations, we see how ordinary youth of Iraq viewed the historical event they were living.

The graphic novel is illustrated only in black and white, no gray. And this is intential by Satrapi. Black and white aren’t actual colors; black is the absence of color and white is the presence of all colors. Black and white are polar opposites. In the novel, black represents all this bad and scary; White represents all this is good, new, and pure. Any use of gray would have indicated that the reader could have interpreted her writing in another way… This black/white theme also did not allow for any identifiable skin color (nor are any cultural facial features used). Satrapi intentional did this so that members of other cultures could see themselves in this story.

I’m not going to lie – This is some meaty content. That being said, I loved reading every single page. I learned so much and feel to have an increased understand of this time in history. and how some families managed to survive AND have SOME fun (despite the potential extreme consequences of their actions).

Overall Literary Merit: VERY HIGH

Classroom Possibilities: I would definitely use this as an all class text set for high school. I have created a text set to go with this book (located on this blogsite – Search Text Set), and I feel that the knowledge this title provides is essential for high schoolers today. Because of it making The Banned Book List and because of it’s popularity of it’s use in the high school classroom, there is unlimited information found online regarding this graphic novel. (Additionally and very importantly, it provides a format for a diverse reading ability group!)

Here are a few sites I would recommend. I specifically recommend the first one; It offers a group online research lesson that is most definitely needed for some background knowledge prior to reading…;;

3 Picture Books for Course Content


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Category/Genre: Course Content/Fiction/Poetry-Picture Prose

Published: Originally 1984, and again in 2011

Awards: ALA Notable Children’s Book; Horn Book Fanfare Selection; Boston Globe – Horn Book Award; New York Times Best Illustrated Children; Booklist Editors Choice

Pages: 32

Themes: Writing Inspiration!

Rating: 5 Stars

Intended Age/Interest Range: PreK and Up

Originally created for children to compose their own stories about the odd and interesting pictures, the title become republished in 2011 with popular authors taking on the composition challenge inspired by the original illustrations.

Overall Literary Merit: VERY HIGH

Classroom Possibilities: This book screams to be used in the classroom! Students can compose using the original published works, then the newer publication could be introduced. There are tons of resources online for this book – This video offers a great place to start:


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Category/Genre: Course Content/Fiction

Published: Originally in 1967, then again in 2011

Awards: None that I could find, but there should be:)!

Pages: 40 (the 2011 published)

Themes: Handed-down Stories; Problem solving

Rating: 5 Stars

Intended Age/Interest Range: 1st grade and Up

Rattlesnake keeps stealing The Crows’ eggs, so Mr. Crow partners up with Old Man Owl to outsmart the snake. Comical and fun, Aldous Huxley wrote this story for his niece, Olivia, as a Christmas gift in 1944.

Overall Literary Merit: VERY HIGH

Classroom Possibilities: This title could used alongside A Brave New World study (showing the different ways Huxley could write!). Additionally, a comparison of the 1967 edition with the 2011 edition could trigger interesting class discussion. Here’s a link for more info regarding the 1967 publication:


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Category/Genre: Course Content/Realistic Fiction

Published: 2009

Awards: ALA Rainbow Book List 2010; What’s New in Children’s Literature 2010 (Dr. Peggy Sharp)

Pages: 48

Themes: Family, Acceptance, Kindness

Rating: 5 Stars

Intended Age/Interest Range: 1st grade and Up

Told from the perspective of their oldest child, we learn about the ordinarily wonderful, love-filled lives of a family with two mothers. Unfortunately, the unique family does faces some un-acceptance. How they overcome it, with the help of self-confidence and love from others, is beautifully illustrated in a way readers can understand,empathize, and most importantly – understand.

Overall Literary Merit: HIGH

Classroom Possibilities: This could be used to discuss different family units; Or in a secondary classroom, this title could kick off a unit on the LGBT genre that is gaining traction in the publishing world despite some banning. Here are three other websites to get your gears grinding about this topic:;’+House+Reinforcing+Activity;

4 Multicultural Picture Books


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Category/Genre: Multicultural, historical fiction

Published: 1994

Awards: 1997 West Virginia Children’s Book Award: 1998 Mid -South Independent Booksellers for Children; Humpty Dumpty Award

Pages: 48 pages

Themes: Friendship, Compassion for others, the value of Generational Storytelling

Rating: 5 Stars

Intended Age/Interest Range: 4th Grade and Up

A handed-down tale about a brief, but meaningful friendship between two soldiers. Quite the tear-jerker, but more importantly this title serves as a timeless reminder of the many faces of the civil war.

Overall Literary Merit: 5 Stars

Classroom Possibilities: A great story to be used with a history/civil war unit, but also this could serve as a great example of the importance of handed-down tales. Polacco has many great and diverse works; This title could be used in an author study unit, as well.


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Category/Genre: Multicultural/Fairy Tale Fiction

Published: 2010

Awards: Chicago Public Library – “Best of the Best Books of 2010”

Pages: 32 pages

Themes: Cautionary Tale/Retelling

Rating: 5 Stars

Intended Age/Interest Range:

A re-telling of the popular Three Little Pigs, but with a  South African flair! Brett traveled to Namibia in 2007. This trip opened her eyes to the unusual animals and beautiful fabrics that inspired her illustrations.

Overall Literary Merit: HIGH

Classroom Possibilities: Use this title for a unit on Fairy Tale (twists/retellings) or folklore. Brett’s illustrations provide detail that is so intricate; This title could be used to introduce children book illustrators who are also their own authors, or highlight how picture book illustrations ARE art!


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Category/Genre: Multicultural/Non-fiction

Published: 2005

Awards: 2006 Black-Eyed Susan Award – Nominee; 2006 Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens2006 Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award – Nominee; 2006 Georgia Children’s Book Award – Nominee;
2006 Land of Enchantment Book Award – Nominee; 2005 Book Sense Book of the Year Award – Nominee; 2005 Children’s Book Committee Award – Winner; 2005 Middle East Book Awards – Honorable Mention;
2005 Parents Choice Award (Spring) (1998-2007) – Winner

Pages: 32 Pages

Themes: Courage, Compassion, Respect for Knowledge/Literacy

Rating: 5 Stars

Intended Age/Interest Range: 4th Grade and Up

First reported in the New York Times in 2003, by Shaila Dewan, this is a story about an Iraqi librarian who moves 30,000 books (twice!), with the help of her friends, to avoid the books being destroyed by an invading army.

Overall Literary Merit: HIGH

Classroom Possibilities: Although “current” issues of was in the Middle East is a mature topic for grade school, this book can introduce the topic in a non-threatening way, focusing on books (knowledge) equating to power/strength. In an high school setting, this title could be used with an all class texts of Persepolis or I Am Malala, or with a Current Events/History course.


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This 4th multicultural book is in a unique hybrid picture/graphic novel format. I reviewed this title in October 2015, please look for my review there!

3 Award Winning Picture Books


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Category/Genre: Award Winner Picture Book, Fiction

Published: 2004

Awards: Caldecott Medal; ALA Notable Children’s Book; Charlotte Zolotow Award; Booklist Editors’ Choice; Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon; Kirkus Reviews Editors’ Choice; Publishers Weekly Best Book
School Library Journal
Best Book; New York Times Best Illustrated Book; Book Sense Top Ten Pick

Pages: 40 pages

Themes: First Time Experiences, Trial and Error

Rating: 5 Stars

Intended Age/Interest Range: PreK – 2nd Grade

Kitten sees her first full moon and believes it is a bowl of milk in the sky. After reaching for it, chasing it, climbing toward it, leaping toward it, she finally returns home to a bowl of milk just waiting for her. Simple, yet defined, charcoal (black, white, gray) illustrations.

Overall Literacy Merit: HIGH

Classroom Possibilities: For use in a high school classroom, I thought this picture book would pair nicely with Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. Although both are illustrated colorlessly, Satrapi intentionally uses no gray, while Henkes intentionally does. A discussion of “positive” and “negative” space could help students appreciate Satrapi’s illustrative motives. Many critical analysis of this title can be easily found online, however I found this one most useful:


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Category/Genre: Award Winning, Poetry

Published: 2002

Awards: 2003 Caldecott Honor Book

Pages: 40 pages

Themes: Cautionary Tale, Vanity

Rating: 5 stars

Intended Age/Interest Range: 1st – 5th Grade

Originally written by Mary Howitt in 1829, this poem follows a manipulative spider attempting to entice a fly into his home (web).

Overall Literary Merit: HIGH

Classroom Possibilities: Like with Kitten’s First Full Moon, this book is illustrated with black/white/gray illustrations, however Tony Diterlizzi’s intention was for a particular, different purpose. Also, like with KFFM, this title could be used in comparison to Satrapi’s intended choice for no gray in her illustrations for Persepolis. Other ways this title could be used in a high school class room is alongside Mary Howitt’s other writing/poems from the 1800s/England, or as an intro to Gothic Literature. Here is another poem by Howitt for possibly further classroom discussion:


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Category/Genre: Award Winner/Fiction

Published: 2014

Awards: 2015 Caldecott Medal Winner; New York Times Bestseller; #1 Indiebound Bestseller; Huffington Post Best Overall Picture Book of 2014; PBS Parents Best Picture Book of the Year; NPR “Great Read”; ALSC Notable Book for Children; A Chicago Public Library Best Picture Book of the Year

Pages: 40

Themes: Friendship, Courage

Rating: 5 Stars

Intended Age/Interest Range: PreK and Up

Instead of waiting to be imagined, Beekle sails off to find his own friend in “the real world.”

Overall Literary Merit: HIGH

Classroom Possibilities: Due to it’s recent award-winning of the Caldecott, there are endless online lessons for this title. Here are a few I recommend:;

Additionally, this book could be used with the adult (easily reaches over into YA) novel The Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks.

A Text Set for Ethnic Diversity in Literature

There is, and continues to be, a lack of diversity in books. 
So what can you do about it as a teacher? 

Educate your students about how this shortcoming directly 
affects our country's literacy problems. As book buyers/readers, 
your high school students can have an impact on change. 

Advocacy is the key. A silent bystander contributes...

And as a teacher, you're in the perfect position to make a 
difference in something bigger than just your classroom.

Read A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One 
Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Sophie 
Blackall with your high school students. (Book image credit:

Do your students notice any issues with this 2015 publication? 

Then, read to them the controversy... and apologies and refutes. 

(By the way, Emily Jenkins is E. Lockhart, the author of  the 
YA title We Are Liars. Pretty cool, right?)

Another initial discussion point could be NY Times articles 
by Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers... Addition resources
can be found at the end of this blog entry.

This text set could be used with an all-class (required) text 
featuring diversity (or lack there of!), OR the text set could be used solo.
This set offers a variety of genre, format, and reading level for 
high school students.

Remember: Bringing light to the issue is the goal. Foster 
a desire for improvement. Support the need for change.

In the words of Michel Chikwanine's father, in Child Soldier: When
Boys and Girls Are Used in War (2015), "If you ever think you are
too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a

*I Am Malala by Yousafzai

Zeitoun by Eggers

Queen of Water by Resau (based on a true story)

*A Long Way Gone by Beah

Becoming Maria by Sonia Manzano

Never Fall Down by McCormick (based on a true story)

*Between the World and Me by Coates

*Waiting on Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy by Eire

*I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Angelou

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

*The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs


Kite Runner by Hosseini

Dreamers of the Day by Russell

Beloved by Morrison

The Invention of Wings by Kidd

In the Time of Butterflies by Alverez

*Things Fall Apart by Achebe

Little Bee by Cleave

The Round House by Eldrich

Euphoria by King

Everything I Never Told You by Ng

*The Book of Unknown Americans by Henriquez

Poem Prose

Sold by McCormick

5 to 1 by Bodger

The Dreamer by Ryan

 Graphic Novel/Hybrid format

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Alexi

Persepolis by Satrapi

American Born Chinese by Yang

March: Book 1 by Lewis MAUS by Spiegelman

A Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls are Used in War by Humphreys & Chikwanine

 Picture books

Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Winter

*Four Feet, Two Sandals by Williams

*Rain School by Rumford

The Rough-Face Girl by Martin, illustrated by Shannon

Pink and Say by Polacco

Faithful Elephants: A True story of Animals, People, and War by Tsuchiya

Henry’s Freedom Box by Levine

A Snowy Day by Keats

*As of 11/18/2015, I have not read these YET.  But I plan to soon! My choice to add the title to the list is based on research (via SLJ, ALA, Amazon, Goodreads).

MORE RESOURCES – An official campaign for more diversity in literature. – A current list of science fiction/fantasy diverse YA books. *This site offers lots more, too, including updated new release lists! – A great article answering the question once more: Why do we need Diversity in books?

This video is published by and promotes their #handsupdontspend initiative.

Want more authors from diverse backgrounds? Try some of these, recommended by Book Riot: 

This particular podcast got my mind buzzing! It could possibly  serve as a good starting point for other teachers, in regards to tackling this concern/issue via the classroom.

Your students may find motivation via this video, promoted by We Need Diverse Books. I (personally) find it always cool to hear from authors themselves!

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Ill give you the sun

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Started: November 1

Finished: November 7

Genre/*Category: Fiction/Award Winner

Published: 2014

Awards: Winner of the 2015 Michael L. Printz Award; Winner of a 2015 Stonewall Honor; A New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2014; A TIME Top Ten Young Adult Book of 2014; A Boston Globe Best Young Adult Novel of 2014; A Huffington Post Top 12 Young Adult Book of 2014; A 2014 Cybil Award Finalist; A 2015 YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults Book; A 2015 Topo Ten Rainbow List Selection; A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014; A School Library Journal Best Book of 2014; A 2014 Booklist Edtior’s Choice Book; A Top 25 Young Adult Novel of 2014

Pages: 384

Themes: Family struggles, Coming of Age, Self-Actualization, Grief, Sexuality

Rating: 5 Stars

Age/Interest Range: High school, And I believe this book could translate well to Adult Fiction

I read a lot and like most people, I have limited time. So when I take the time to RE-READ lines/pages/chapters… This means this book is undeniable awesome.

I have never read anything by Jandy Nelson before, but before I even start this review, I want you to know I’ll be impatiently waiting for her next book!

So why am I gushing? Nelson’s writing is good enough to eat! You want to savor her words. You want to wrap her words up and offer them as gifts to others. You want to follow people around, with this book in your hands, reading passages out loud, and then wait for them to respond the same way you are: Mouth open, eyes wide, satisfyingly blown away!

I’m not kidding. It’s that good.

Jude and Noah are twins. (BTW, Jude is a girl. Noah a boy, obviously). They have an uber artful mother and a disease studying father. Their sibling rivalry is extreme and a story center point. Told in a non-linear fashion, over a three year span, the two siblings narrate every other chapter.

The twins are as much the same as they are different in their attempt to survive being a teen. (Their constant on-going negotiation over who has the sun, the moon, the stars, all the flowers, etc., is where Nelson gets her title.) Mostly, both are in constant battle over their mom’s and dad’s love and acceptance.

Jude and Mom both communicate with dead Grandma. In the first chapter, Dead Grandma tells Mom that she must enroll the twin at the local High School for Arts for 9th grade. Dad does not think this is a good idea…

In addition to conversing with dead Grandma, Jude is obsessed with Grandma’s bible of superstitions. Mom and Jude having been going head to head because Mom sees Jude turning into “that girl,” as 13 year old Jude is discovering boys, make-up, short skirts…

Noah is an amazing artist who draws in his head constantly. At 13, he’s an odd ball outsider struggling with puberty and sexuality. Sports-loving Dad wants Noah to be something he isn’t…

One day a few terrible events happen within the same few hours. And instead of pulling in close to support one another, Jude and Noah grieve separately and become completely un-involved with one another. Over the course of the next 3 years the two become the complete opposite of what they once were. But why?

It appears nothing is what it once was…

This story is about how family can break you down, only to be the very same thing that lifts you higher than you could ever reach on your own.  Nelson’s colorful and hilarious imagery, along with her almost supernatural lyrical prose, makes this a page turner!

Overall Literary Merit: VERY HIGH

Classroom possibilities: Definitely needs to be on high school library and classroom library shelves. So many great passages in this tale could be inspirational for writing invitations and mentor text. Due to it’s award-winning status, there are quite a few lesson plans available online. Here’s one I found to have great potential: