Hot Reads

Books for Middle School Students that Celebrate Cultural Diversity

Book Cover Estrella's Quinceanera
By Alegria, Malin
2006/03 - Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing>
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In this touching debut novel, Estrella Alvarez is about to turn 15, and there's nothing her meddling mother and T'a Lucky want more than to throw her a gaudy "quinceanera"--a party that Estrella would rather avoid.> ...More

Book Cover The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano
By Engle, Margarita
Qualls, Sean
2006/04 - Henry Holt & Company>
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Una biografía lírica de un esclavo cubano que se escapó para convertirse en un celebrado.
Nacido en la casa de un rico amo de esclavos en Cuba en 1797, Juan Francisco Manzano pasó sus primeros años al lado de una mujer que se hizo llamar Mamá, aún cuando él tenía su propia madre. A pesar de haberle sido negada una educación, Juan mostró un excepcional talento para la poesía. Sus versos reflejan la belleza de su mundo, pero también exponen su crueldad odiosa. Los poemas poderosos y perturbadores y las ilustraciones imponentes crean un retrato de una vida en la cual ni el dolor de la esclavitud pudieron extinguir la capacidad para la esperanza.

A lyrical biography of a Cuban slave who escaped to become a celebrated poet.
Born into the household of a wealthy slave owner in Cuba in 1797, Juan Francisco Manzano spent his early years by the side of a woman who made him call her Mama, even though he had a mama of his own. Denied an education, young Juan still showed an exceptional talent for poetry. His verses reflect the beauty of his world, but they also expose its hideous cruelty. Powerful, haunting poems and breathtaking illustrations create a portrait of a life in which even the pain of slavery could not extinguish the capacity for hope.

Book Cover Accidental Love
By Soto, Gary
2006/01 - Harcourt Children's Books>
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The award-winning author of "Baseball in April and Other Stories" deftly captures all the angst, expectation, and humor that comes with first love in this swift, lighthearted romance. ...More

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Chasing the Jaguar
By Greene, Michele Dominguez
2006/06 - HarperCollins Publishers
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Is she the girl next door . . . or a Mayan "sorceress"? "Chasing the Jaguar" introduces Martika Glvez, the Latina Nancy Drew of the new millennium. ...More

Book Cover Breaking Through
By Jimenez, Francisco
2001/08 - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH)
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CCBC Choices - 2002
Winner - Pura Belpré Honor Author Award, 2002
Fourteen-year-old Francisco Jimenez and his family leave Mexico and arrive at the U.S. and Mexican border in Nogales, Arizona. In the months and years that follow, Francisco, his mother and father, and his seven brothers and sisters not only struggle to keep their family together, but also face crushing poverty, long hours of labor, and blatant prejudice. Young Adult. ...More

Book Cover We Were There, Too!: Young People in U.S. History
By Hoose, Phillip M.
2001/08 - Farrar Straus Giroux>
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From the boys who sailed with Columbus to today's young activists, this unique book brings to life the contributions of young people throughout American history. Based on primary sources and including 160 authentic images, this handsome oversized volume highlights the fascinating stories of more than 70 young people from diverse cultures. Photos. ...More

Book Cover Out of Bounds: Seven Stories of Conflict and Hope
By Naidoo, Beverley
Tutu, Desmond
2003/02 - HarperCollins Publishers
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CCBC Choices - 2004
This unique collection of stories by native South African and Carnegie Medalist Beverley Naidoo is about young people's choices in a beautiful country made ugly by injustice. Each story is set in a different decade during the last half of the 20th century and into the 21st, and features fictional characters caught up in very real events in South Africa. ...More

Book Cover The Girl from Chimel
By Menchu, Rigoberta
Unger, David
2005/09 - Groundwood Books
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Nobel Peace Prize winner and Mayan activist Rigoberta Menchu brings the world of her earliest childhood vividly to life in this colorful book. Before the war in Guatemala and despite the hardships that the Mayan people endured, life in the Mayan villages of the highlands had a beauty and integrity. This was forever changed by the conflict and brutal genocide that was to come. Menchu7;s stories of her grandparents and parents, of the natural world that surrounded her, and her retelling of the stories that she was told present a rich, humorous, and engaging portrait of that lost world. Domi draws on the Mayan landscape and rich craftwork to create the stunning illustrations that complement this engaging story. ...More

Book Cover My Forbidden Face
By Latifa
Coverdale, Linda
2006/08 - Miramax Books>
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This moving and personal account of life under the Taliban regime, written with painful honesty and clarity, describes Latifa's ordered world as it falls apart in the name of fanaticism. ...More

Book Cover Mao and Me: The Little Red Guard
By Chen, Jiang Hong
2008/10 - Enchanted Lion Books>
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With beautifully detailed ink-and-watercolor art, this large-size, picture-book memoir, translated from the French, tells of a young boy growing up during the Cultural Revolution. ...More

Book Cover The Diary of Ma Yan: The Struggles and Hopes of a Chinese Schoolgirl
By Ma, Yan
Yan, Ma
Haski, Pierre
2005/06 - HarperCollins
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Book Cover Thura's Diary: My Life in Wartime Iraq
By Al-Windawi, Thura
Bray, Robin
2004/03 - Viking Books
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Nineteen-year-old Thura al-Windawi kept a diary during the conflict in Iraq, saying that it was her way of ?controlling the chaos.? The diary, which documents the days leading up to the bombings, the war itself, and the lawless aftermath, puts a personal face on life in Baghdad. As Thura describes her life and that of her two younger sisters, she shows readers the many small details that illuminate the reality of war for Iraqi families, and especially for Iraqi children. >

Reminiscent of "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl" and the recent national bestseller "Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo," "Thura's Diary" gives the perspective of a young woman caught in the midst of a turbulent time and puts a face, a name, and a voice to the word ?Iraqi.?> ...More

Book Cover Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak
By Ellis, Deborah
2004/05 - Groundwood Books
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Deborah Ellis's enormously popular Breadwinner trilogy recounted the experiences of children living in Afghanistan; now Ellis turns her attention to the young people of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After visiting the region to conduct interviews, she presents their stories here in their own words. Twelve-year-old Nora, eleven-year-old Mohammad, and many others speak directly about their lives - which prove to be both ordinary and extraordinary: They argue with their siblings. They hate spinach. They have wishes for the future. Yet they have also seen their homes destroyed and families killed, and live amidst constant upheaval and violence.This simple, telling book allows young readers everywhere to see that the children caught in this conflict are just like them - but living far more difficult and dangerous lives. Without taking side ...More

Book Cover Under the Persimmon Tree
By Staples, Suzanne Fisher
2005/08 - Farrar Straus Giroux
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A BookPage Notable Title

Najmah, a young Afghan girl whose name means "star," suddenly finds herself alone when her father and older brother are conscripted by the Taliban and her mother and newborn brother are killed in an air raid. An American woman, Elaine, whose Islamic name is Nusrat, is also on her own. She waits out the war in Peshawar, Pakistan, teaching refugee children under the persimmon tree in her garden while her Afghan doctor husband runs a clinic in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan.

Najmah's father had always assured her that the stars would take care of her, just as Nusrat's husband had promised that they would tell Nusrat where he was and that he was safe. As the two look to the skies for answers, their fates entwine. Najmah, seeking refuge and hoping to find her father and brother, begins the perilou ...More

Book Cover Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale
By Napoli, Donna Jo
2007/10 - Atheneum Books
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BookPage Notable Title
Based on an ancient Icelandic folktale, this heartbreaking novel by the acclaimed author of Bound tells the story of a young girl who must learn to forget all that she knows and carve out a place for herself in the world--all without speaking a word. ...More

Book Cover Nation
By Pratchett, Terry
2008/10 - HarperCollins
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The sea has taken everything.

Mau is the only one left after a giant wave sweeps his island village away. But when much is taken, something is returned, and somewhere in the jungle Daphne--a girl from the other side of the globe--is the sole survivor of a ship destroyed by the same wave.

Together the two confront the aftermath of catastrophe. Drawn by the smoke of Mau and Daphne's sheltering fire, other refugees slowly arrive: children without parents, mothers without babies, husbands without wives--all of them hungry and all of them frightened. As Mau and Daphne struggle to keep the small band safe and fed, they defy ancestral spirits, challenge death himself, and uncover a long-hidden secret that literally turns the world upside down. . . .

Internationally revered storyteller Terry Pratchett presents a breathtaking adven ...More

Book Cover After Tupac and D Foster
By Woodson, Jacqueline
2008/01 - Putnam Publishing Group
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2009 Newbery Honor
A CCBC Book of the Week Selection>

A lot can happen to three girls in a two-year period--especially when the rap music of Tupac Shakur is the glue holding them together. ...More

Book Cover The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
By Sis, Peter
2007/08 - Farrar Straus Giroux
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2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Winner
2008 Sibert Informational Book Medal Winner
2008 Great Graphic Novel

In his most personal work to date, award-winning author Peter Sis offers a brilliant graphic memoir, taking readers on an extraordinary journey as he recalls his youth growing up in Czechoslovakia in the 1960s, when his country was on the Communist side of the Iron Curtain. ...More

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Chasing the Jaguar
By Greene, Michele Dominguez
2006/06 - HarperCollins Publishers
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Is she the girl next door . . . or a Mayan "sorceress"? "Chasing the Jaguar" introduces Martika Glvez, the Latina Nancy Drew of the new millennium. ...More

Book Cover Understanding the Holy Land: Answering Questions about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
By Frank, Mitch
2005/04 - Viking Children's Books
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Answering youngsters' questions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Frank offers a straightforward explanation. Written in a "Q & A" format and illustrated with black-and-white photos and maps, this book will help young people understand this conflict and its significance to the world. ...More

Book Cover Fresh Off the Boat
By de La Cruz, Melissa
2005/04 - HarperCollins Publishers
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Dear Peaches,

America is perfect! Okay, so Vicenza isn't being totally honest with Peaches, her best friend back in Manila. But what fun is it being the new girl at snooty Grosvernor High? Or rooting through the Salvation Army for unholey cashmere sweaters? Or having culture-shocked, embarrassingly clueless parents? Maybe being Claude Caligari's ignored geometry partner is sort of fun, but Vicenza would rather be his girlfriend ... or at least his date to the annual fancy-schmancy Soiré e d'Hiver. Instead, she's stuck going with scrawny family friend Freddie in an outlet-purchased, coupon-reduced dress that is nothing short of disaster! >

But Vicenza won't be friendless, fashionless, or "fresh off the boat" for long -- it's only a matter of time before she sees what's right before her eyes, and her luck begins to change. ...More

Book Cover Does My Head Look Big in This?
By Abdel-Fattah, Randa
2007/05 - Orchard Books (NY)
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Sixteen-year-old Amal makes the decision to start wearing the hijab full- time and everyone has a reaction, from her parents and friends to strangers on the street. But she stands by her decision to embrace her Muslim faith and all that it is in this stunning debut novel. ...More

Book Cover Homeless Bird
By Whelan, Gloria
2000/03 - HarperCollins Publishers
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Like many girls her age in India, thirteen-year-old Koly is getting married. When she discovers that the husband her parents have chosen for her is a sickly boy with wicked parents, Koly wishes she could flee. According to tradition, though, she has no choice. On her wedding day, Koly's fate is sealed.

In the wake of her marriage, however, Koly's life takes an unexpected turn, and she finds herself alone in a strange city of white-sariclad widows. Her only choice seems to be to shed her name and her future and join the hopeless hordes who chant for food.

Even then, cast out into a current of time-worn tradition, this rare young woman sets out to forge her own exceptional future. And a life, like a beautiful tapestry, comes together for Koly -- one stitch at a time. ...More

Book Cover A Step from Heaven
By Na, An
1997/03 - Front Street
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CCBC Choices - 2002
Winner - 2002 Michael L. Printz Award
When she is five, Young Ju Park and her family move from Korea to California. During the flight, they climb so far into the sky she concludes they are on their way to heaven -- that Heaven is in America!>

Life in America, however, is far more difficult than the Parks dreamed. Jobs are scarce and money is even scarcer. Young Ju's father soon becomes so depressed and angry that he loses the ability to control his own behavior, his drinking increases, and he hurts his family both emotionally and physically. Dominated by the mores and traditions of their native land, her family is ill-equipped to function in the world they've chosen and they each respond in a way true to their character. ...More


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