Farah Rocks Florida by Susan Muaddi Darraj, illustrator Ruaida Mannaa - Farah's little brother is in the hospital with a heart problem that needs surgery, so her parents send sixth-grader Farah off to stay with her grandmother in a retirement condo in Florida; Sitti Fayrouz does not speak much English, has a lot of rules, and does not understand Farah's interest in geology, so Farah is not happy with the move--but despite being the only child in the community, Farah finds that the people are nice, and despite getting off to a bad start (she accidentally dumped a soda on his lap) she forms a friendship with Dr. Fisher, who shares her interest in science.
Dream Street by Tricia Elam Walker, illustrator Ekua Holmes- Welcome to Dream Street--the best street in the world! Jump rope with Azaria--can you Double Dutch one leg at a time? Dream big with Ede and Tari, who wish to create a picture book together one day. Say hello with Mr. Sidney, a retired mail carrier who greets everyone with the words, "Don't wait to have a great day. Create one!" On Dream Street, love between generations rules, everyone is special, and the warmth of the neighborhood shines.
Little Seeds of Promise by Sana Rafi, illustrator Renia Metallinou- When Maya moves to a different country, she feels lonely and lost. Everything―and everyone―seems so unfamiliar here, and she wonders if she will ever find a way to fit in. Longing for her home, she holds tightly to the special seeds her grandmother gave her, afraid to plant them. Can she take the risk that they―and she―might grow and bloom in this new place?
Meena’s Mindful Moment by Tina Athaide, illustrator Åsa Gilland- Meena is excited to visit Dada and explore all the exciting sights and sensations of his home with him. But Meena has so much energy, it becomes a whole imaginary character she calls her hurly-burly hullabaloo. With playful art and engaging characters (real and imagined), this charming story all about mindfulness will be wonderfully relatable to anyone with a rambunctious hurly-burly hullabaloo of their own.
Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles- Exploring community, gentrification, justice, and friendship, Take Back the Block introduces an irresistible 6th grader and asks what it means to belong--to a place and a movement--and to fight for what you believe in.
Dancing in Thathaa’s Footsteps by Srividhya Venkat, illustrat or-Kavita Ramchandran- A heartwarming picture book about a multigenerational Indian-American family discovering a shared love for bharatanatyam, an ancient classical dance that continues to fascinate dancers worldwide.
Your Mama by NoNieqa Ramos, illustrator Jacqueline Alcántara- Yo’ mama so sweet, she could be a bakery. She dresses so fine, she could have a clothing line. And, even when you mess up, she’s so forgiving, she lets you keep on living. Heartwarming and richly imagined, Your Mama twists an old joke into a point of pride that honors the love, hard work, and dedication of mamas everywhere.
Root Magic by Eden Royce- It’s 1963, and things are changing for Jezebel Turner. Her beloved grandmother has just passed away. The local police deputy won’t stop harassing her family. With school integration arriving in South Carolina, Jez and her twin brother, Jay, are about to begin the school year with a bunch of new kids. But the biggest change comes when Jez and Jay turn eleven— and their uncle, Doc, tells them he’s going to train them in rootwork.
Yusuf Azeem is Not a Hero by Saadia Faruqi- With “Never Forget” banners everywhere and a hostile group of townspeople protesting the new mosque, Yusuf realizes that the country’s anger from two decades ago hasn’t gone away. Can he hold onto his joy—and his friendships—in the face of heartache and prejudice?
Jump at the Sun by Alicia D. Williams, illustrator Jacqueline Alcántara- Zora was a girl who hankered for tales like bees for honey. Now, her mama always told her that if she wanted something, “to jump at de sun”, because even though you might not land quite that high, at least you’d get off the ground. So Zora jumped from place to place, from the porch of the general store where she listened to folktales, to Howard University, to Harlem. And everywhere she jumped, she shined sunlight on the tales most people hadn’t been bothered to listen to until Zora. The tales no one had written down until Zora. Tales on a whole culture of literature overlooked…until Zora. Until Zora jumped.
Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh- Junie Kim just wants to fit in. So she keeps her head down and tries not to draw attention to herself. But when racist graffiti appears at her middle school, Junie must decide between staying silent or speaking out.
King Sejong Invents an Alphabet by Carol Kim, illustrator Cindy Kang- In 15th-century Korea, King Sejong was distressed. The complicated Chinese characters used for reading and writing meant only rich, educated people could read―and that was just the way they wanted it. But King Sejong thought all Koreans should be able to read and write, so he worked in secret for years to create a new Korean alphabet. King Sejong's strong leadership and determination to bring equality to his country make his 600-year-old story as relevant as ever.
Playing the Cards You’re Dealt by Varian Johnson- Ten-year-old Anthony Joplin has made it to double digits! Which means he's finally old enough to play in the spades tournament every Joplin Man before him seems to have won. So while Ant's friends are stressing about fifth grade homework and girls, Ant only has one thing on his mind: how he'll measure up to his father's expectations at the card table.
Areli Is a Dreamer by Areli Morales, illustrator Luisa Uribe- When Areli was just a baby, her mama and papa moved from Mexico to New York with her brother, Alex, to make a better life for the family--and when she was in kindergarten, they sent for her, too. Areli’s limited English came out wrong, and schoolmates accused her of being illegal. But with time, America became her home. And she saw it as a land of opportunity, where millions of immigrants who came before her paved their own paths. She knew she would, too.
Tu Youyou’s Discovery by Songju Ma Daemicke, illustrator Lin- Tu Youyou had been interested in science and medicine since she was a child, so when malaria started infecting people all over the world in 1969, she went to work finding a treatment. Trained as a medical researcher in college and healed by traditional medicine techniques when she was young, Tu Youyou started experimenting with natural Chinese remedies. The treatment she discovered through years of research and experimentation is still used all over the world today.
Jada Jones Skywatcher by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrator Nneka Myers- Jada is excited to do a school project about her hero Dr. Mae Jemison, a former NASA astronaut and the first Black woman to travel to outer space. She even gets to pretend to be her for the presentation in front of her teacher, parents, and friends! But when Jada's research reminds her how accomplished her hero truly is, she suddenly feels like she's made a mistake. How can she portray someone who seems to have everything together when she feels like she's falling apart?
When Langston Dances by Kaija Langley, illustrator Keith Mallett- Langston likes basketball okay, but what he loves is to dance—ever since he saw the Alvin Ailey Dance Company perform. He longs to twirl into a pirouette, whirl into a piqué. He wants to arabesque and attitude, grand battement and grand jeté. When he walks, the whole street is his stage. With his neighborhood cheering him on, will Langston achieve his dream?
Halal Hot Dogs by Susannah Aziz, illustrator Parwinder Singh- Every Friday after Jummah prayer at the masjid, Musa's family has a special Jummah treat. They take turns picking out what the treat will be, but recently the choices have been . . . interesting. . . Finally, it's Musa's turn to pick, and he picks his favorite-halal hot dogs! But actually getting to eat this deliciousness turns into a journey riddled with obstacles. Will he ever get his favorite tasty treat?
Ophie’s Ghosts by Justina Ireland-Daffodil Manor, like the wealthy Caruthers family who owns it, is haunted by memories and prejudices of the past—and, as Ophie discovers, ghosts as well. Ghosts who have their own loves and hatreds and desires, ghosts who have wronged others and ghosts who have themselves been wronged. And as Ophie forms a friendship with one spirit whose life ended suddenly and unjustly, she wonders if she might be able to help—even as she comes to realize that Daffodil Manor may hold more secrets than she bargained for.
Isabel and Her Colores Go to School by Alexandra Alessandri, illustrator Courtney Dawson-English, with its blustery blues and whites, just feels wrong to Isabel. She prefers the warm oranges and pinks of Spanish. As she prepares for class at a new school, she knows she's going to have to learn--and she would rather not! Her first day is uncomfortable, until she discovers there's more than one way to communicate with friends. This is a universal story about feeling new and making new friends.
We Can: Portraits of Power by Tyler Gordon- Here is a debut picture book by partially deaf prodigy Tyler Gordon, featuring his bold paintings of over 30 icons―musicians, artists, writers, civils rights leaders, sports legends, change-makers, record-setters, and more―alongside short explanations of how these people inspire him.
Unsettled by Reem Faruqi- When her family moves from Pakistan to Peachtree City, all Nurah wants is to blend in, yet she stands out for all the wrong reasons. Nurah’s accent, floral-print kurtas, and tea-colored skin make her feel excluded, until she meets Stahr at swimming tryouts. And in the water Nurah doesn’t want to blend in. She wants to win medals like her star athlete brother, Owais—who is going through struggles of his own in the U.S. Yet when sibling rivalry gets in the way, she makes a split-second decision of betrayal that changes their fates.
By: Gabriele Davis
Whether or not we celebrate major holidays this month, our days can fill up with end-of-year activities and obligations. The more tasks we simplify, the more space we create to recharge and spend time doing what we love, like reading great books to our favorite little ones—and writing them. In that spirit, here are a few time saving tips:
Gabriele Davis is the author of Peaches and Our Joyful Noise, both releasing in 2024.
Share your favorite time-saving tips on Twitter and tag us at @KidLitinColor!
Interview by: Kirstie Myvett
What inspired you to write Tu YouYou’s Discovery, and how long did it take you to complete this project?
My inspiration for writing this book was from a TV show. At the beginning of 2019, I watched a BBC program called Icons: The Greatest Person of the 20th Century. Tu Youyou, along with Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Alan Turing, were the four candidates in the scientist category. I was excited that Tu Youyou had been selected. I also realized that most Americans had never heard of her, even though Tu Youyou had saved millions of lives and had won the prestigious Nobel Prize. As a proud Chinese American, I had to share her remarkable journey.
For this particular story, it took me months to do the necessary research before writing. The first draft took me about two hours. The revising process took me over one year.
I enjoyed learning about natural remedies to illness and the benefits of plants in healing. I would imagine you had to research not only Tu Youyou’s life but Chinese medicine as well. Tell us about the research you did for this book.
There is very little material about Tu Youyou available in the US. Luckily, I can read Chinese and found a lot of Chinese books and material about Tu Youyou on the Chinese internet. I did extensive research about Tu Youyou’s experiment process and learned so much about qinghao (sweet wormwood). Even though I can’t cover many details in my book, I gained a lot of health knowledge about qinghao, which is the grassy plant that artemisinin is extracted from. I always had a special taste for a Chinese vegetable named tonghao, which is related to qinghao. Now I plant it in my garden every year and have plenty to enjoy, not only for its taste, but also for its medical benefits. I use it on salads, stir fry, even dumplings.
As a former software engineer, your career path probably correlates in many ways with Tu Youyou’s. Share the importance of children seeing themselves in non-traditional roles.
I grew up in China. There, like a lot of the world, the male has the dominant role in society and the family. My family has four girls and one boy. The reason that my mother had four girls is because she was determined to give my father a son to pass on his family name. In my family, my younger brother was always more important than the four girls. My parents actually wished I would become a teacher or a doctor, which are more in a female domain. I wanted to be a scientist or engineer because that was where my interests were. Throughout my engineering career, there have always been more men than women in my working place. Statistically, only 25% of those in a STEM career are women. Tu Youyou is a great role model. I hope Tu Youyou’s story will inspire young girls to study Science and Engineering. These fields are not for boys only. As a former engineer myself, I can tell you that engineering is a fun job and women make great engineers.
Tu Youyou is 90 years old now and received a Nobel Prize in 2015. Have you had an opportunity to speak with her or her representative?
Tu Youyou is retired and she is a very private person. She doesn’t accept any interviews. I did try to connect several times with Professor Tu Youyou through her working place, the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing. I haven’t yet received a response. If I ever have the opportunity to talk with her, I would love to know more about her childhood. I would ask about her favorite memory of her childhood, her favorite color, game, book, and food as a child. These facts would have added more color and personality to the book.
What’s an interesting fact you learned about Tu Youyou that you weren’t able to include in the book?
During the process of researching the book, I was deeply touched by the personal sacrifices Tu Youyou had made for this project. She volunteered to be the first human tested with the extract of the sweet wormwood to prove it was safe before a clinical trial. It was truly a selfless and brave deed. I wrote this incredible fact in my draft as I wanted to show what a courageous scientist she was. Eventually, however, this was removed from the book. My editor considered that talking about this personal medicinal testing by Tu Youyou was probably not a good idea for young readers as experimenting with drugs in any way could be very dangerous for them.
Tell us about Lin and her illustrations.
The illustrator Lin did a wonderful job of bringing Tu Youyou’s story to life with her gorgeous illustrations. Unfortunately, for a long time, I was unable to communicate with her because she lives in China. Recently, I finally was able to connect with her through Instagram. I am excited to get to know her more.
What are your must-have writing tools?
I write on a desktop PC. Microsoft word is my must-have writing tool.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on a picture book manuscript about an extraordinary Chinese American activist named Grace Lee Boggs. She went beyond class and racial boundaries, fighting for a more just and fairer world.
Songju Ma Daemicke, a former software engineer with Motorola, grew up in China and is an award-winning children’s book author. Her picture book Cao Chong Weighs an Elephant was a Best STEM book, and the Winner of the 2018 CALA Best Juvenile Literature. When she’s not writing, she loves attending to her garden and shooting her next special photograph. Songju lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and their daughters.
To learn more about Songju please visit her website and social media pages.
Order: Tu Youyou's Discovery