10 Books to Gift in 2020

Favorite YA Titles of 2020 . . . 

I fell in love with Daniel Nayeri’s book on the first page. Like Sheherizad and the one thousand tales who tells a story every night to help stay alive, a young Daniel tells the story of his journey to America to find safety with his family to keep his memories alive. His tale is one of intrigue, adventure, destruction, love and sadness that takes your breath away. Nayeri weaves Persian mythology and folklore as it parallels his own awakening and understanding of the complexities losing one’s home and family after leaving Iran, detour in Dubai and Italy before coming to Oklahoma. But most people are not welcoming towards him, his family or refugees. as you know. This story will have you laughing and crying all on the same page. His adolescent insight ranges from detailed imagery of Persian food, American culture, and even poop. His stories engage readers as well as his classmates in Oklahoma who see him as an outsider and bully him constantly. 

Penguin Random House writes about the The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person, “Speaking directly to the reader, The Black Friend calls up race-related anecdotes from the author’s past, weaving in his thoughts on why they were hurtful and how he might handle things differently now. Each chapter features the voice of at least one artist or activist, including Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give; April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite; Jemele Hill, sports journalist and podcast host; and eleven others. Touching on everything from cultural appropriation to power dynamics, “reverse racism” to white privilege, microaggressions to the tragic results of overt racism, this book serves as conversation starter, tool kit, and invaluable window into the life of a former “token Black kid” who now presents himself as the friend many readers need. This book also includes an encyclopedia of racism, providing details on relevant historical events, terminology, and more.” As a teacher in a predominantly white school, I want all my students to read this to help broaden their perspective and build empathy.

When I read Stamped back in May I knew that this book would be included in my curriculum. It was part of a summer book club with students and teachers in my middle school because it is a powerful nonfiction text. Reynolds states repeatedly throughout the book that is is not a history book but rather a “primer on the historical roots and present-day manifestations of antiblack racism in America. In five sections, Reynolds’s conversational text discusses the influential figures, movements, and events that have propagated racist ideas, beginning in 1415 with the publication of the infamous work that laid the groundwork for subsequent religious justifications of enslaving African peoples and continuing through the “war on drugs” and #BlackLivesMatter.” (Publishers Weekly) So many of my students spoke about how the information in the book was never taught to them before 8th grade and it made me audit the authors and texts students read prior to 8th grade so that we can provide students with more diverse voices.

Budding Chefs . . .

Milkbar: Kids Only is for families who have taken cooking in quarantine with gusto. I have been obsessed with Milkbar since I first saw their compost cookies on television with everything from potato chips to pretzels, chocolate chips and anything else that you have around the kitchen (You can access the recipe HERE) Tosi is a genius and whether you want to perfect dessert or your mouth begins to water with apple pie waffles, this is the cookbook to get for a budding chef. 

If we are going to talk about cookbooks, I would be remiss to not to nerd-out with these two geometry inspired cookbooks for the mathematicians in your life. Ko is not a trained chef but a self taught baker and created an Instagram account with her amazingly beautiful pies that led to a huge following due to the artistry she presented in color and geometric shapes. Kenedy, on the other hand, is a trained chef who provides insight into more than 300 different shapes of pasta based on the region in Italy and the perfect sauce to pair with the pasta. 

The Geometry of Pasta by by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy 

Picture Book Love . . . 

How to Solve a Problem by Ashima Shiraishi, illustrated by Yao Xiao – World-class rock climber Ashima Shiraishi shares her story of determination in this insightful picture book. She points out that a boulder is just like any other obstacle you might face in life. It takes patience and problem-solving to reach the top, but once you do, the reward is worth every ounce of effort you put in.
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James – This book is a fun and empowering read for adults and little readers alike, with a Black narrator that is 100% proud of who he is. He has big ideas and plans for his life; and while not everything goes his way, nothing will stop him as he always picks himself back up and starts again.

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard – Thank you to Colby Sharp for this recommendation because my students loved listening to the story and learning about Mary Walker. Walker was born a slave and did not learn to read until she was 116. Yes, Mary Walker actually was a real person and her story shows perseverance and the power of literacy.

For Your Teacher Friends . . . 

A Perfect Blend by Michele Eaton

This book does not come at a more perfect time. Hyperdocs, choice boards, flipped lessons  – Oh My! Readers will  learn how to create effective blended learning experiences for their students. Rather than focusing on finding and implementing a specific established model, author Michele Eaton shows teachers how to embrace the flexibility of blended learning to take an active role as a designer of learning and, in the process, help students become advocates for their education.

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