The first round of contenders for the 2019 National Book Award for Young People's Literature has been announced and I'm having a hard time choosing a favorite. On October 8th the list will be narrowed down once again, and we'll learn who takes home the prize in a New York City gala on November 20th. Below are the ten books that made the longlist and they include some of the best in middle grade and young adult literature as well as some new voices. Congratulations to all who have been selected!
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander
The dream team of Newbery Award-winning author Kwame Alexander and Caldecott winner Kadir Nelson have created a gorgeous poem in picture book form that is a tribute to black life in America. Stunning.
SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson
The only memoir on the list, SHOUT is Laurie Halse Anderson's follow-up to her groundbreaking novel Speak, which is celebrating twenty years in print. Incredibly moving and a call to action that is extremely timely.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
The first young adult novel by acclaimed author Akwaeke Emezi, Pet is also one of the inaugural titles on Christopher Meyers publishing imprint, Make Me a World. A fantasy novel that asks important questions about justice and society, with a protagonist who is both black and trans, Emezi is an exciting new voice in this genre.
A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata
A powerful novel about a Japanese-American girl whose family is first interred by the U.S. during WWII, then after the war accepts the offer to renounce their citizenship and expatriate to Japan. Historical fiction that addresses a part of the story that has been rarely explored, the fate of families who struggled to make a life in a Japan that was broken, bombed, and impoverished. Important and inspiring.
Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds
From one of the most popular voices in young adult and middle grade fiction writing these days, Look Both Ways is Jason Reynolds latest thought-provoking novel about the many ways a life can go. Ten blocks, ten stories, one remarkable book.
*Releases October 8th.
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
A gripping coming-of-age novel about Jay, a teenager preparing to enter college, who goes back to the Philippines after learning that his cousin has been killed. Compelled by guilt, grief, and a need to understand what his family won't talk about, Jay's search for the truth about his cousin's murder leads him to a new understanding of himself, his family, and the injustice playing out in President Duterte's war on drugs. Original and authentic.
Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby
Printz Medal winner Laura Ruby's latest is a historical fantasy set during World War II. At the center of the novel are two girls, one living in a Chicago orphanage after being abandoned by her father, and the other a ghost, narrating the tragic story of her life. Beautifully written and timeless.
*Releases on October 1st
1919 The Year That Changed America by Martin W. Sandler
A well-researched and highly readable account of a pivotal year in American history that has echoes in society 100 years later. From the Great Molasses Flood, to the racism faced by black soldiers returning from World War I, to the women's suffrage movement finally winning the vote. A tumultuous year, Sandler takes each event and shows it's place in history and present day. Fascinating.
Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve
A wild ride of a debut novel that combines zombies, mystery, magic, murder, werewolves, and so much more... Salem, Oregon is the setting for a band of misfits who band together against a corrupt government and a society that doesn't want them. An urban fantasy that speaks especially to queer teens but is relevant for all of us.
Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable
The graphic novel contender for the big prize, Kiss Number 8 is the funny and wise story of a teenage girl discovering both her own sexuality and a big family secret that had been kept for decades. A smart, heartbreaking, story of family, friendships, and where past and present look very much the same... Modern and well-crafted.
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