An Afternoon with Joan Biskupic

As readers of this blog probably know, every summer we run a reading series at different corporate offices in New York. For this year’s Summer Law Reading, we featured author and veteran Washington journalist, Joan Biskupic. Joan’s career as a Supreme Court correspondent and her coverage of some of its most well-known judges has imbued her with fascinating insight into the minds of those who wield the law in order to carry out justice.

We met Joan in the lobby of the offices of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. She was warm, inviting, and down-to-earth. She maintained this demeanor as she regaled her audience with tales about Supreme Court Justices worthy of their own entertainment series. With her knowledge and welcoming personality, it was easy to see why some of the most powerful people in the country had no qualms about letting her into their world.

books

American Original, a biography about Justice Antonin Scalia has been recommended by Harvard University Law Professor Laurence Tribe as a must-read “for anyone who wants to understand the most influential and interesting voice of the most powerful movement in contemporary American law.”

After a quick introduction by BtB Executive Director Jo Umans, Joan spoke about examining the connection between her subjects’ early lives and where these justices landed toward the latter end of their careers. She was particularly interested in understanding what sort of mantle people carried when they were a groundbreaking individual; for example, what is it like on the Supreme Court when you’re the first woman, African American, or Latino justice?

joan speaking

Joan remembers speaking to Justice Sotomayor about how her upbringing affects her when she hears discriminatory rhetoric used in court cases

This question inspired the mantra that she used to guide her when gathering and relaying information about her subjects. In an anecdote about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Joan emphasized how interviewing Ginsburg influenced her philosophy. Justice Ginsburg once said, “a wise woman and a wise man will eventually come to the same conclusions,” but, in a one-on-one conversation, she also revealed how personal experience could inform very different views of the law.

In an interview in 2009, Ginsburg recalled a case about a young girl who had been strip-searched (in the presence of a female nurse and female teacher) under suspicion of carrying illegal drugs. The girl didn’t have to remove all her clothing, but the experience was harrowing enough that she was mortified by her ordeal. The sentiment that Justice Ginsburg’s male colleagues had was essentially, “what’s the big deal?” Ginsburg’s resolved their lack of understanding with a simple phrase, “you know, they’ve never been a 13-year old girl.”

Joan realized that though wise people reached the same place, we were all informed by our background and our experiences in life. She also understood that in making decisions, there were no hard and fast rules, but shades of gray and that some justices–informed by their upbringing–didn’t have these experiences to necessarily recognize those shades of gray.

Before concluding, she took a few questions from the audience, and helped us speculate who could be next in line to succeed  several Supreme Court Justices after Obama’s term ended.

law student question

All too soon it was time for Joan to leave, but not before chatting with law interns and signing a few books. She was especially pleased to meet a fan of hers who had read one of her biographies in high school.

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We couldn’t have asked for a more eye-opening and captivating literary experience and we’re thankful that Joan chose to spend her afternoon with us.

If you’d like to understand the inner workings of the Supreme Court, you can find her guides and biographies about Justice Scalia and Justice O’Conner on shelves now. Her latest book, Breaking In, an account of the political history leading to Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s appointment will be in stores this October.

Persistence

We have a few new stories from our series of writing and art from Miss Changkit’s kindergarten class today; The Rainbow is Shining by Gabrielle, Max and his Cat by Jaeden, The Ber Taylen by Al Hassane, and My Little Cat by Kimora!

The Rainbow is Shining

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Max and His Cat

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The Ber Taylen

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My Little Cat

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Summer Reading for High School

Back in May, the #weneeddiversebooks campaign lit a fire to fulfill the desperate need for diverse books in children’s literature. Behind the Book has always championed efforts to find diverse authors and protagonists that will appeal to students since we serve communities of color. For the Summer, we’ve created an epic list of diverse books to reflect the diversity in our city; here’s our list for high school students!

(Click the following links to be directed to the Kindergarten, (early) Elementary and Middle School lists)

americanah-jacketAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A powerful, tender story of race and identity by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun.

Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.

drownDrown by Junot Diaz

This stunning collection of stories offers an unsentimental glimpse of life among the immigrants from the Dominican Republic–and other front-line reports on the ambivalent promise of the American dream–by an eloquent and original writer who describes more than physical dislocation in conveying the price that is paid for leaving culture and homeland behind.

kindredKindred by Octavia E. Butler

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

part time indianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live.

the chaosThe Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson

Sixteen-year-old Scotch struggles to fit in—at home she’s the perfect daughter, at school she’s provocatively sassy, and thanks to her mixed heritage, she doesn’t feel she belongs with the Caribbeans, whites, or blacks. And even more troubling, lately her skin is becoming covered in a sticky black substance that can’t be removed. While trying to cope with this creepiness, she goes out with her brother—and he disappears. A mysterious bubble of light just swallows him up, and Scotch has no idea how to find him. Soon, the Chaos that has claimed her brother affects the city at large, until it seems like everyone is turning into crazy creatures. Scotch needs to get to the bottom of this supernatural situation ASAP before the Chaos consumes everything she’s ever known—and she knows that the black shadowy entity that’s begun trailing her every move is probably not going to help.

A blend of fantasy and Caribbean folklore, at its heart this tale is about identity and self acceptance—because only by acknowledging her imperfections can Scotch hope to save her brother.

akatawitchAkata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits. And then she discovers something amazing-she is a “free agent,” with latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?

the livingThe Living by Matt De La Peña, a Behind the Book author

Shy took the summer job to make some money. In a few months on a luxury cruise liner, he’ll rake in the tips and be able to help his mom and sister out with the bills. And how bad can it be? Bikinis, free food, maybe even a girl or two—every cruise has different passengers, after all.

But everything changes when the Big One hits. Shy’s only weeks out at sea when an earthquake more massive than ever before recorded hits California, and his life is forever changed.

The earthquake is only the first disaster. Suddenly it’s a fight to survive for those left living.

Jemisin_Hundred-Thousand-Kingdoms-TPThe Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.

unknown americansThe Book of Unknown Americans: a Novel by Cristina Henríquez

Arturo and Alma Rivera have lived their whole lives in Mexico. One day, their beautiful fifteen-year-old daughter, Maribel, sustains a terrible injury, one that casts doubt on whether she’ll ever be the same. And so, leaving all they have behind, the Riveras come to America with a single dream: that in this country of great opportunity and resources, Maribel can get better.

When Mayor Toro, whose family is from Panama, sees Maribel in a Dollar Tree store, it is love at first sight. It’s also the beginning of a friendship between the Rivera and Toro families, whose web of guilt and love and responsibility is at this novel’s core.

Woven into their stories are the testimonials of men and women who have come to the United States from all over Latin America. Their journeys and their voices will inspire you, surprise you, and break your heart.

pearlThe Pearl that Broke Its Shell: a Novel by Nadia Hashimi

In Kabul, 2007, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age. As a son, she can attend school, go to the market, and chaperone her older sisters.

But Rahima is not the first in her family to adopt this unusual custom. A century earlier, her great-great grandmother, Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life the same way.

Crisscrossing in time, The Pearl the Broke Its Shell interweaves the tales of these two women separated by a century who share similar destinies. But what will happen once Rahima is of marriageable age? Will Shekiba always live as a man? And if Rahima cannot adapt to life as a bride, how will she survive?

mareswarMare’s War by Tanita S. Davis

Octavia and Tali are dreading the road trip their parents are forcing them to take with their grandmother over the summer. After all, Mare isn’t your typical grandmother. She drives a red sports car, wears stiletto shoes, flippy wigs, and push-up bras, and insists that she’s too young to be called Grandma. But somewhere on the road, Octavia and Tali discover there’s more to Mare than what you see. She was once a willful teenager who escaped her less-than-perfect life in the deep South and lied about her age to join the African American battalion of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.

teaspoon of earthA Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri

Growing up in a small rice-farming village in 1980s Iran, eleven-year-old Saba Hafezi and her twin sister, Mahtab, are captivated by America. They keep lists of English words and collect illegal Life magazines, television shows, and rock music. So when her mother and sister disappear, leaving Saba and her father alone in Iran, Saba is certain that they have moved to America without her. But her parents have taught her that “all fate is written in the blood,” and that twins will live the same life, even if separated by land and sea. As she grows up in the warmth and community of her local village, falls in and out of love, and struggles with the limited possibilities in post-revolutionary Iran, Saba envisions that there is another way for her story to unfold. Somewhere, it must be that her sister is living the Western version of this life. And where Saba’s world has all the grit and brutality of real life under the new Islamic regime, her sister’s experience gives her a freedom and control that Saba can only dream of.

a long wayA Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived.

In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts.

This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.

silverSilver People: Voices from the Panama Canal by Margarita Engle

One hundred years ago, the world celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal, which connected the world’s two largest oceans and signaled America’s emergence as a global superpower. It was a miracle, this path of water where a mountain had stood—and creating a miracle is no easy thing. Thousands lost their lives, and those who survived worked under the harshest conditions for only a few silver coins a day.

naughts and crossesNaughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Callum is a naught, a second-class citizen in a society run by the ruling Crosses. Sephy is a Cross, and daughter of the man slated to become prime minister. In their world, white naughts and black Crosses simply don’t mix — and they certainly don’t fall in love. But that’s exactly what they’ve done.
When they were younger, they played together. Now Callum and Sephy meet in secret and make excuses. But excuses no longer cut it when Sephy and her mother are nearly caught in a terrorist bombing planned by the Liberation Militia, with which Callum’s family is linked. Callum’s father is the prime suspect…and Sephy’s father will stop at nothing to see him hanged. The blood hunt that ensues will threaten not only Callum and Sephy’s love for each other, but their very lives.

the icarus girlThe Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

Jessamy “Jess” Harrison, age eight, is the child of an English father and a Nigerian mother. Possessed of an extraordinary imagination, she has a hard time fitting in at school. It is only when she visits Nigeria for the first time that she makes a friend who understands her: a ragged little girl named TillyTilly. But soon TillyTilly’s visits become more disturbing, until Jess realizes she doesn’t actually know who her friend is at all. Drawing on Nigerian mythology, Helen Oyeyemi presents a striking variation on the classic literary theme of doubles — both real and spiritual — in this lyrical and bold debut.

We’re always on the lookout for authors in the tri-state area. If  you are interested in becoming a Behind the Book author, please contact us at info@behindthebook.org.

You can also browse our shelves on Goodreads.

All book summaries were taken from Amazon, and some have been edited for our lists.

Enjoy!

 

Summer Reading for Middle Grade

Back in May, the #weneeddiversebooks campaign lit a fire to fulfill the desperate need for diverse books in children’s literature. Behind the Book has always championed efforts to find diverse authors and protagonists that will appeal to students since we serve communities of color. For the Summer, we’ve created an epic list of diverse books to reflect the diversity in our city; here’s our list for middle grade (elementary and middle school) students!

(Click the following links to be directed to the Kindergarten, (early) Elementary and High School lists) 

One-Crazy-SummerOne Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, a Behind the Book author

In this Newbery Honor novel, New York Times bestselling author Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them.

Eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She’s had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. When they arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with her, Cecile is nothing like they imagined. While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer.

8thGradeSuperEighth-Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

After the worst first day back *ever*, Reggie’s been nicknamed “Pukey” McKnight at his Brooklyn school. He wants to turn his image around, but he has other things on his mind as well:  his father, who’s out of a job; his best friends, Joe C. (who’s a little too White) and Ruthie (who’s a little too intense); his ex-best friend Donovan, who’s now a jerk; and of course, the beautiful Mialonie. The elections for school president are coming up, but with his notorious nickname and “nothing” social status, Reggie wouldn’t stand a chance, if he even had the courage to run.

Then Reggie gets involved with a local homeless shelter. Inspired by the clients there–especially Charlie, a five-year-old kid who becomes his official “Little Buddy”— he begins to think about making a difference, both in the world and at school. Pukey for President? It can happen . . . if he starts believing.

brokenbikeboyThe Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street by Sharon Flake

Queen’s house—the biggest one on 33rd Street–looks just like a castle, and in her bedroom, she has dozens of beautiful dresses and crowns.  Queen thinks she’s a real queen, and she treats everyone, even her teacher, like her royal subject.

When a new kid comes to Queen’s school, riding a broken bike and wearing smelly, worn-out clothes, Queen joins her classmates in making fun of him.  Her parents insist she be nice to Leroy, but Queen doesn’t see why she should. Leroy doesn’t just stink; Queen thinks he tells lies—whoppers in fact.  And when he says he’s an African prince from Senegal, Queen makes it her mission to prove Leroy is an impostor.

But as she gets closer to discovering Leroy’s real story, Queen learns the unexpected from her broken bike boy: what being a good friend and “happily ever after” really mean.

geeks girlsGeeks, Girls, and Secret Identities by Mike Jung

Vincent Wu is Captain Stupendous’s No. 1 Fan, but even he has to admit that Captain Stupendous has been a little off lately. During Professor Mayhem’s latest attack, Captain Stupendous barely made it out alive – although he did manage to save Vincent from a giant monster robot. It’s Vincent’s dream come true… until he finds out Captain Stupendous’s secret identity: It’s Polly Winnicott-Lee, the girl Vincent happens to have a crush on.

Captain Stupendous’s powers were recently transferred to Polly in a fluke accident, and so while she has all of his super strength and super speed, she doesn’t know how to use them, and she definitely doesn’t know all the strengths and weaknesses of his many nemeses. But Vincent and his friends are just the right fan club to train up their favorite superhero before she has to face Professor Mayhem again. And if they make it through this battle for the safety of Copperplate City, Vincent might just get up the courage to ask Polly on a date.

starry river of the skyStarry River of the Sky by Grace Lin

The moon is missing from the remote Village of Clear Sky, but only a young boy named Rendi seems to notice! Rendi has run away from home and is now working as a chore boy at the village inn. He can’t help but notice the village’s peculiar inhabitants and their problems-where has the innkeeper’s son gone? Why are Master Chao and Widow Yan always arguing? What is the crying sound Rendi keeps hearing? And how can crazy, old Mr. Shan not know if his pet is a toad or a rabbit?
But one day, a mysterious lady arrives at the Inn with the gift of storytelling, and slowly transforms the villagers and Rendi himself. As she tells more stories and the days pass in the Village of Clear Sky, Rendi begins to realize that perhaps it is his own story that holds the answers to all those questions.

gardenGarden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia

Aliya already struggles with trying to fit in, feeling confident enough to talk to the cute boy or stand up to mean kids the fact that she s Muslim is just another thing to deal with. When Marwa, a Moroccan girl who shares her faith if not her culture, comes to Aliya s school, Aliya wonders even more about who she is, what she believes, and where she fits in. Should she fast for Ramadan? Should she wear the hijab? She s old enough for both, but does she really want to call attention to herself?

GreatGreeneHeist2The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

Jackson Greene swears he’s given up scheming. Then  school bully Keith Sinclair announces he’s running for Student Council president, against Jackson’s former friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby wants Jackson to stay out of it — but he knows Keith has “connections” to the principal, which could win him the presidency no matter the vote count.

So Jackson assembles a crack team:  Hashemi Larijani, tech genius. Victor Cho, bankroll. Megan Feldman, science goddess. Charlie de la Cruz, reporter. Together they devise a plan that will take down Keith, win Gaby’s respect, and make sure the election is done right. If they can pull it off, it will be remembered as the school’s greatest con ever — one worthy of the name THE GREAT GREENE HEIST.

ninth wardNinth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane–Katrina–fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm.

inside750Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inspired by the author’s childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama, this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child’s-eye view of family and immigration.

Hà has only ever known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope—toward America.

This moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing received four starred reviews, including one from Kirkus which proclaimed it “enlightening, poignant, and unexpectedly funny.”

Planet-Middle-SchoolPlanet Middle School by Nikki Grimes

For twelve years, Joylin Johnson’s life has been just fine, thank you very much. A game of basketball with the boys-especially her friend Jake-was all it took to put a smile on her face. Baggy jeans, T-shirt, and hair in a ponytail were easy choices. Then suddenly the world seemed to turn upside down, and everything changed at once. Her best girl friend is now flirting with her best guy friend. Her clothes seem all wrong. Jake is acting weird, and basketball isn’t the same. And worst of all, there is this guy, Santiago, who appears from . . . where? What lengths will Joy go to-and whom will she become-to attract his attention?

wonderWonder by R.J. Palacio

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

lamars bad prankHow Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen

Thirteen-year-old Lamar Washington is the maddest, baddest, most spectacular bowler at Striker’s Bowling Paradise. But while Lamar’s a whiz at rolling strikes, he always strikes out with girls. And Lamar’s brother is no help—Xavier earns trophy after trophy on the basketball court and soaks up Dad’s attention, leaving no room for Lamar’s problems.

Then bad boy Billy Jenks convinces Lamar that hustling at the alley will help him win his dream girl, plus earn him enough money to buy an expensive pro ball and impress celebrity bowler Bubba Sanders. But when Billy’s scheme goes awry, Lamar ends up ruining his brother’s shot at college and damaging every relationship in his life. Can Lamar figure out how to mend his broken ties, no matter what the cost?

SavingBabyDoe_coverSaving Baby Doe by Danette Vigilante

Lionel and Anisa are the best of friends and have seen each other through some pretty tough times–Anisa’s dad died and Lionel’s dad  left, which is like a death for Lionel. They stick together no matter what. So when Lionel suggests a detour through a local construction site on their way home, Anisa doesn’t say no.

And that’s where Lionel and Anisa make a startling discovery–a baby abandoned in a port-o-potty. Anisa and Lionel spring into action. And in saving Baby Doe, they end up saving so much more.

the crossoverThe Crossover by Kwame Alexander

“With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander.

Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

the streets had a nameWhere the Streets Had a Name by Randa Abdel-fattah

Thirteen year old Hayaat is on a mission. She believes a handful of soil from her grandmother’s ancestral home in Jerusalem will save her beloved Sitti Zeynab’s life. The only problem is that Hayaat and her family live behind the impenetrable wall that divides the West Bank, and they’re on the wrong side of check points, curfews, and the travel permit system. Plus, Hayaat’s best friend Samy always manages to attract trouble. But luck is on the pair’s side as they undertake the journey to Jerusalem from the Palestinian Territories when Hayaat and Samy have a curfew-free day to travel.

We’re always on the lookout for authors in the tri-state area. If  you are interested in becoming a Behind the Book author, please contact us at info@behindthebook.org.

You can also browse our shelves on Goodreads.

All book summaries were taken from Amazon, and some have been edited for our lists.

Enjoy!

 

Summer Reading for (early) Elementary

Back in May, the #weneeddiversebooks campaign lit a fire to fulfill the desperate need for diverse books in children’s literature. Behind the Book has always championed efforts to find diverse authors and protagonists that will appeal to students since we serve communities of color. For the Summer, we’ve created an epic list of diverse books to reflect the diversity in our city; here’s our list for early Elementary school students!

(Click the following links to be directed to the Kindergarten, Middle Grade and High School lists)

where hurricanes happen   A Place Where Hurricanes Happen by Renee Watson, a Behind the Book author

In alternating voices, four friends describe their lives before, during, and after the storm and how, even though the world can change in a heartbeat, people define the character of their community and offer one another comfort and hope even in the darkest hours.

Adrienne, Keesha, Michael, and Tommy have been friends for forever. They live on the same street—a street in New Orleans where everyone knows everybody. They play together all day long, every chance they get. It’s always been that way. But then people start talking about a storm headed straight for New Orleans. The kids must part ways, since each family deals with Hurricane Katrina in a different manner. And suddenly everything that felt like home is gone.

dear-primo-imageDear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin by  Duncan Tonatiuh

From first-time Mexican author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh comes the story of two cousins, one in America and one in Mexico, and how their daily lives are different yet similar. Charlie takes the subway to school; Carlitos rides his bike. Charlie plays in fallen leaves; Carlitos plays among the local cacti. Dear Primo covers the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of two very different childhoods, while also emphasizing how alike Charlie and Carlitos are at heart. Spanish words are scattered among the English text, providing a wonderful way to introduce the language and culture of Mexico to young children.

nshange1Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange

In a reflective tribute to the African-American community of old, noted poet Ntozake Shange recalls her childhood home and the close-knit group of innovators that often gathered there. These men of vision, brought to life in the majestic paintings of artist Kadir Nelson, lived at a time when the color of their skin dictated where they could live, what schools they could attend, and even where they could sit on a bus or in a movie theater.

Yet in the face of this tremendous adversity, these dedicated souls and others like them not only demonstrated the importance of Black culture in America, but also helped issue in a movement that “changed the world.” Their lives and their works inspire us to this day, and serve as a guide to how we approach the challenges of tomorrow.

pitching in for eubiePitching in For Eubie by Jerdine Nolen

Lily knows that nothing is more important than family. She’s so proud when her sister, Eubie, wins a college scholarship. And when her family pulls together to earn the rest of the money Eubie needs, Lily wants to help out too. But she’s too young to do most jobs. What can she do to pitch in for Eubie?

each kindessEach Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, a Behind the Book author

Chloe and her friends won’t play with the new girl, Maya. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her friends, they reject her. Eventually Maya stops coming to school. When Chloe’s teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she’d shown a little kindness toward Maya.

ruby and the booker boysRuby and the Booker Boys #1: Brand New School, Brave New Ruby by Derrick Barnes

Eight-year-old Ruby Booker is the baby sis of Marcellus (11), Roosevelt (10), and Tyner (9), the most popular boys on Chill Brook Ave. When Ruby isn’t hanging with her friend, Theresa Petticoat, she’s finding out what kind of mischief her brothers are getting into. She’s sweet and sassy and every bit as tough as her older siblings. She sings like nobody’s business; she has a pet iguana named Lady Love; her favorite color is grape-jelly purple; and when she grows up, she’s going to be the most famous woman animal doctor on the planet. She’s the fabulous, oh-so-spectacular Ruby Marigold Booker!

goblinheartGoblinheart by Brett Axel

A youngster named Julep, who lives in a forest tribe, insists on growing up to be a goblin rather than a fairy. The tribe learns to accept that Julep is a goblin at heart, eventually coming around to support the physical transition that must be made for Julep to live as a goblin.

birdBird by Zetta Elliot

Young Mekhai, better known as Bird, loves to draw. With drawings, he can erase the things that don’t turn out right. In real life, problems aren’t so easily fixed.

As Bird struggles to understand the death of his beloved grandfather and his older brother’s drug addiction, he escapes into his art. Drawing is an outlet for Bird’s emotions and imagination, and provides a path to making sense of his world. In time, with the help of his grandfather’s friend, Bird finds his own special somethin’ and wings to fly.

cora cooks pancitCora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore

Cora loves being in the kitchen, but she always gets stuck doing the kid jobs like licking the spoon. One day, however, when her older sisters and brother head out, Cora finally gets the chance to be Mama’s assistant chef. And of all the delicious Filipino dishes that dance through Cora’s head, she and Mama decide to make pancit, her favorite noodle dish. With Mama’s help, Cora does the grown-up jobs like shredding the chicken and soaking the noodles (perhaps Mama won’t notice if she takes a nibble of chicken or sloshes a little water on the floor). Cora even gets to stir the noodles in the pot carefully– while Mama supervises. When dinner is finally served, her siblings find out that Cora did all their grown-up tasks, and Cora waits anxiously to see what everyone thinks of her cooking. Dorina Lazo Gilmore’s text delightfully captures the warmth between mother and daughter as they share a piece of their Filipino heritage. With bright and charming illustrations by Kristi Valiant, Cora’s family comes alive as Cora herself becomes the family’s newest little chef.

BiblioburroWaiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown

Ana loves stories. She often makes them up to help her little brother fall asleep. But in her small village there are only a few books and she has read them all. One morning, Ana wakes up to the clip-clop of hooves, and there before her, is the most wonderful sight: a traveling library resting on the backs of two burros‑all the books a little girl could dream of, with enough stories to encourage her to create one of her own.

Inspired by the heroic efforts of real-life librarian Luis Soriano, award-winning picture book creators Monica Brown and John Parra introduce readers to the mobile library that journeys over mountains and through valleys to bring literacy and culture to rural Colombia, and to the children who wait for the BiblioBurro.

soccerstarcoverSoccer Star by Mina Javaherbin

When Paulo Marcelo Feliciano becomes a soccer star, crowds will cheer his famous name! Then his mother won’t have to work long hours, and he won’t have to work all day on a fishing boat. For now, Paulo takes care of his little sister Maria (she teaches him reading, he teaches her soccer moves) and walks her to school, stopping to give his teammates cheese buns as they set out to shine people’s shoes or perform for the tourist crowd. At day’s end, it’s time to plan the game, where Givo will bounce, Carlos will kick, and Jose will fly! But when Jose falls on his wrist, will the team finally break the rules and let a girl show her stuff? Set in a country whose resilient soccer stars are often shaped by poverty, this uplifting tale of transcending the expected scores a big win for all.

crossing bok chittoCrossing Bok Chitto by Tim Tingle

When it was first published, Crossing Bok Chitto took readers by surprise. This moving and original story about the intersection of Native and African Americans received starred reviews and many awards, including being named an ALA Notable Children’s Book and a Jane Addams Honor Book. Jeanne Rorex Bridges’ illustrations mesmerized readers—Publishers Weekly noted that her “strong, solid figures gaze squarely out of the frame, beseeching readers to listen, empathize and wonder.”

josephine-coverJosephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby
Powell

In exuberant verse and stirring pictures, Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson create an extraordinary portrait for young people of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker, the woman who worked her way from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world. Meticulously researched by both author and artist, Josephine’s powerful story of struggle and triumph is an inspiration and a spectacle, just like the legend herself.

We’re always on the lookout for authors in the tri-state area. If  you are interested in becoming a Behind the Book author, please contact us at info@behindthebook.org.

You can also browse our shelves on Goodreads.

All book summaries were taken from Amazon, and some have been edited for our lists.

Enjoy!

Summer Reading for Kindergarten

Back in May, a group of diverse authors made a public call to action in order to directly address the absence of diversity in children’s literature and the lack of action to fix the issue. They created the #weneeddiversebooks campaign. On May 1st, they asked people to post photos of themselves holding signs about how diverse books have enriched their lives and how the lack of diversity has affected them, on May 2nd they asked people to share their thoughts about diverse books via a twitter chat, and on May 3rd, they asked people to make the effort to diversify their shelves. The movement became a sensation, and has inspired even more people to make an effort to invest in diverse content that accurately reflects our population.

Behind the Book is elated that this movement exists.  We’ve always championed the need for diverse books since we serve communities that are predominantly of color. Studies show that for kids, the lack of diversity in books is detrimental to their development, but seeing themselves reflected in protagonists raises their self-esteem and solidifies their sense of self in society. We also think it’s empowering for kids to see authors and illustrators that look like them as they’re responsible for creating the content the students love. This shows them that they too can become the authors of their own stories.

Summer is the perfect time to diversify your reading material if you haven’t already. Whether you’re going on a plane to visit relatives, stuck on the train going to Coney Island, or bored at home, get lost in these fabulous stories of courage, love and family. Here’s our epic list of books that reflect the diversity of our wonderful city.

Harlem's Little BlackbirdHarlem’s Little Black Bird by Renee Watson, a Behind the Book author

Zora and Langston. Billie and Bessie. Eubie and Duke. If the Harlem Renaissance had a court, they were its kings and queens. But there were other, lesser known individuals whose contributions were just as impactful, such as Florence Mills. Born to parents who were former-slaves Florence knew early on that she loved to sing. And that people really responded to her sweet, bird-like voice. Her dancing and singing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired songs and even entire plays! Yet with all this success, she knew firsthand how bigotry shaped her world. And when she was offered the role of a lifetime from Ziegfeld himself, she chose to support all-black musicals instead.

the-name-jar1The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it—Yoon-Hey.

Anna HibiscusAnna Hibiscus by Atinuke

Anna Hibiscus lives in amazing Africa with her mother, her father, her baby twin brothers, and lots and lots of her family. Join her as she splashes in the sea, prepares for a party, sells oranges, and hopes to see sweet, sweet snow.

Brush of the GodsBrush of the Gods by Lenore Look

Who wants to learn calligraphy when your brush is meant for so much more? Wu Daozi (689-758), known as China’s greatest painter and alive during the T’ang Dynasty, is the subject of this stunning picture book. When an old monk attempts to teach young Daozi about the ancient art of calligraphy, his brush doesn’t want to cooperate. Instead of characters, Daozi’s brush drips dancing peonies and flying Buddhas! Soon others are admiring his unbelievable creations on walls around the city, and one day his art comes to life! Little has been written about Daozi, but Look and So masterfully introduce the artist to children.

NinoWrestlesWorld-297x300Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

Señoras y Señores, put your hands together for the fantastic, spectacular, one of a kind . . . Niño! Fwap! Slish! Bloop! Krunch! He takes down his competition in a single move! No opponent is too big a challenge for the cunning skills of Niño—popsicle eater, toy lover, somersault expert, and world champion lucha libre competitor!

MarisolMarisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown

Marisol McDonald has flaming red hair and nut-brown skin. Polka dots and stripes are her favorite combination. She prefers peanut butter and jelly burritos in her lunch box. And don t even think of asking her to choose one or the other activity at recess—she ll just be a soccer playing pirate princess, thank you very much. To Marisol McDonald, these seemingly mismatched things make perfect sense together.

SpikeLeeGiant Steps to Change the World by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee

Academy Award nominated director Spike Lee, and his talented wife Tonya Lewis Lee offer up an inspirational picture book about activism and taking the big steps to set things right set to beautiful illustrations by the award-winning Sean Qualls. Using examples of people throughout history who have taken “giant steps”, this book urges kids to follow in their footsteps and not be hindered by fear or a sense that you are not good enough. Despite the challenges, even the smallest step can change the world. So, what’s your next step going to be?

61g0qdoVgoLOne Love by Cedella Marley

Adapted from one of Bob Marley’s most beloved songs, One Love brings the joyful spirit and unforgettable lyrics of his music to life for a new generation. Readers will delight in dancing to the beat and feeling the positive groove of change when one girl enlists her community to help transform her neighborhood for the better. Adapted by Cedella Marley, Bob Marley’s first child, and gorgeously illustrated by Vanessa Newton, this heartwarming picture book offers an upbeat testament to the amazing things that can happen when we all get together with one love in our hearts.

Jazz-man-786x1024This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt

In this toe-tapping jazz tribute, the traditional “This Old Man” gets a swinging makeover, and some of the era’s best musicians take center stage. The tuneful text and vibrant illustrations bop, slide, and shimmy across the page as Satchmo plays one, Bojangles plays two . . . right on down the line to Charles Mingus, who plays nine, plucking strings that sound “divine.” Easy on the ear and the eye, this playful introduction to nine jazz giants will teach children to count–and will give them every reason to get up and dance!

978-1-55498-343-8_lBravo, Chico Canta! Bravo! by Pat Mora

Chico Canta, the youngest of 12, is a tiny, mischievous, fearless mouse who lives with his family in an old theater. They love to go upstairs to see the plays and echo the audience shouting, “Bravo, bravo!” as the curtain falls. Mrs. Canta speaks many languages — not only English, Spanish, and Italian, but Spider, Cricket, and Moth as well. And she encourages her children to develop their own language skills. “Bilingual, bravo!” she is always telling them. One evening, after a wonderful performance of The Three Little Pigs, the mouse family narrowly escapes Little Gato-Gato. But, undaunted and inspired by the production, they decide to mount their own version of the play. On opening night, however, it is tiny Chico who is the star of the show when he spots Little Gato-Gato in the shadows and uses his own special gift for languages to avert disaster.

Bessie-Smith-and-the-Night-Riders-Stauffacher-Sue-9780399242373Bessie Smith and the Night Riders by Sue Stauffacher

Even though she can’t afford a ticket to see the great blues singer Bessie Smith perform, Emmarene listens outside Bessie’s tent—that is, until she bursts into the show to warn the crowd:The Night Riders have come! Bessie marches right outside and confronts the Night Riders by giving one of her famous low moans that says, “I may be down and out, but I ain’t gonna take it no more.” But will that be enough to scare them off ?

Based on a true incident, Bessie Smith and the Night Riders is a powerful story of facing down danger and standing up for what’s right.

Red LollipopBig Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan

Rubina has been invited to her first birthday party, and her mother, Ami, insists that she bring her little sister along. Rubina is mortified, but she can’t convince Ami that you just don’t bring your younger sister to your friend’s party. So both girls go, and not only does Sana demand to win every game, but after the party she steals Rubina’s prized party favor, a red lollipop. What’s a fed-up big sister to do?

duck-for-turkey-dayDuck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and Tuyet is excited about the holiday and the vacation from school. There’s just one problem: her Vietnamese American family is having duck for Thanksgiving dinner – not turkey! Nobody has duck for Thanksgiving – what will her teacher and the other kids think? To her surprise, Tuyet enjoys her yummy thanksgiving dinner anyhow – and an even bigger surprise is waiting for her at school on Monday. Dinners from roast beef to lamb to enchiladas adorned the Thanksgiving tables of her classmates, but they all had something in common – family! Kids from families with different traditions will enjoy this warm story about “the right way” to celebrate an American holiday.

We’re always on the lookout for authors in the tri-state area. If  you are interested in becoming a Behind the Book author, please contact us at info@behindthebook.org.

You can also browse our shelves on Goodreads.

All book summaries were taken from Amazon, and some have been edited for our lists.

Enjoy!

(Click the following links to be directed to the (early) Elementary, Middle Grade and High School lists)

Join Our Team!

hiring logo

WEB SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING INTERNSHIP

Location: New York, New York, 10030, United States
Organization: Behind the Book

Area of Focus: Children and Youth, Art, Education and Academia
Skills: Writing, Marketing

Description:

Behind the Book is a literacy non-profit that serves students in low-income NYC public schools.  Working with classrooms from K-12, Behind the Book identifies books that speak to urban youth and partners with teachers to create immersive curriculum units by bringing the authors of those books into the classroom.

Through a series of workshops, authors discuss their book and teach a genre of writing, encouraging students to see themselves as readers and writers and ultimately guiding them in the creation and publication of their own original writing.  Learn more about Behind the Book on our website (behindthebook.org) or our blog (behindthebook.wordpress.com).

Behind the Book seeks a Social Media Marketing intern to coordinate BtB’s various social media platforms.  The position is ideal for a go-getter with a strategic mind and excellent communication skills. The intern will be an integral part of designing and implementing BtB’s social media strategy. The position will be based at our Harlem office.

The commitment is for one semester, minimum two days per week, hours are flexible.

Web/Social Media Marketing Intern responsibilities include:
*updating blog (wordpress) regularly with new content that features stories and pictures from our school programs
*Selecting and editing pictures, student work, and videos related to our programming for the blog

*Staying up to date on news relevant to Behind the Book, especially related to our authors, and posting commentary on the appropriate platforms
*Managing social media outreach and content on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads

The successful candidate will be someone who is detail-oriented, eager to learn, and able to manage tasks independently. Excellent written and oral communication skills in English are required. Experience with social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads required and with Photoshop, Adobe Dreamweaver, and Constant Contact a plus.

The intern will report directly to the Director of Development.

Application instructions:

If interested, please submit a resume and cover letter to Amy Berg at info@BehindtheBook.org. “Social Media Marketing Internship” should appear in the subject heading of your email.

Behind the Book is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer that especially welcomes applications from women and people of color.

Behind the Book
216 West 135th Street, Ground Floor

New York, NY 10030
(212)222-3627

www.behindthebook.org

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