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Text Annotation

If You Come Softly - Jacqueline Woodson

Citation: Woodson, J. (1998). If you come softly. New York: Putnam's.

 

Annotation: Both Elisha (Ellie) and Jeremiah (Miah) attend Percy Academy, a private school where neither quite fits in. Ellie is wrestling with family demons, and Miah is one of the few African American students. The two of them find each other, and fall in love -- but they are hesitant to share their newfound happiness with their friends and families, who will not understand. At the end, life makes the brutal choice for them: Jeremiah is shot and killed, and Ellie now has to cope with the consequences..  

 

Author's Information:

Jacqueline Woodson is the author of numerous award-winning books for young adults, including Last Summer With Maizon, I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This, From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun, and Miracle's Boys. She started writing when she was young, but her fiction for kids didn't really click until she got older. That's when she realized that she could actually help the younger generation simply through her words.

That's why Woodson chooses subjects that she thinks kids should be able to read about — even if they're topics that are hard to explain or uncomfortable to talk about. For example, If You Come Softly is about an interracial romance; Hush tells the story of a family placed under the witness protection program; and Sweet, Sweet Memory depicts the way a young girl copes with her grandfather's death. Visiting Day is a picture book about a little girl's trips to see her father in prison. It's not every day you see a children's book about this topic, but Woodson believes that it is an important subject because lots of people have family members in prison, and she wants them to know that it's nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, Woodson says that Visiting Day is about the same thing that all her other books are about: caring about one another. “In Visiting Day, the people really love each other, miss each other when they're apart, and care a great deal about each other. This is what's most important to me — to show love in all its many forms.”

Woodson currently lives in Brooklyn, where she writes full-time and can be found in the mornings hanging out in Prospect Park with her dog, Maus.

 

Awards: ALA Popular Paperback lists, Maryland State Winner, Virginia State Winner

Level: 9-12 grade

Genre: General Fiction

Text Annotation

The Coldest Winter Ever - Sister Souljah

Citation: S. (1999). The coldest winter ever: A novel. New York: Pocket Books.

 

Annotation:The trials and tribulations of young Winter Santiaga are described in gritty detail in this coming-of-age novel, the first by the phenomenally popular rap star who frequently lectures on the themes of this novel: overcoming teenage pregnancy, fatherless households, and drug use in African American communities. As the oldest daughter of a successful drug dealer, Winter lacks for nothing. But after her father moves the family from the projects to a mansion on Long Island, Winters life begins to come apart. Her beautiful mother is shot, her father is sent to prison, and the familys possessions are seized by the government. Winter and her three sisters, Mercedes, Lexus, and Porsche, become wards of the state. Finally, arrested and convicted of transporting drugs in a boyfriends car, Winter receives a 15-year jail term. Sister Souljah herself appears as a character, urging Winter and other young black women to stand up to the men in their lives, abstain from drugs, and practice safe sex.

 

Author's Information:

Born in the Bronx, New York and raised in the projects, Souljah is a fighter who came up from the bottom. A graduate of Rutgers University, she earned a degree in American History and African Studies. She also attended the Cornell University Advanced Placement Study Program, and studied abroad in Europe at the University of Salamanca.

A global student, Sister Souljah traveled throughout her college years to England, France, Spain, Portugal, Finland, and Russia. Her academic accomplishments were reinforced with first hand experiences.  She worked to build a medical center for families in Bindura, Zimbabwe. She worked with refugee children from Mozambique. 

A major participant in the international student anti-aparthied  movement, Souljah helped to create a momentum, movement and fervor which liberated Nelson Mandela and brought about the divestment of millions of dollars from corporations doing business with apartheid South Africa. Her travels in Africa also included Zambia and South Africa. She believes it is essential that African professionals work together, invest in and help to save, shape and further develop our continent, resources, families, and children.

As a student activist in America, Souljah created, financed, and implemented the African Youth Survival Camp, a six week summer sleep away academic/ cultural camp for 200 children of homeless families. With a skillful curriculum, which she designed, this camp ran for over 3 consecutive years and inspired major celebrities to start their own camps and schools, and to build charities and institutions to give back.

As a community activist, Souljah organized against racially motivated crimes, police brutality, and the miseducation of urban youth. She produced and promoted several outdoor rallies and concerts, in Harlem NY, which drew nearly 30,000 youth each time, as well as the participation of top Hip-Hop and R&B celebrities.

In 1995, because of her success and sincerity, Sister Souljah was selected by Sean P. Diddy Combs to become the Executive Director of his charitable organization, Daddy's House Social Programs. She built the organization and created academic programs that were housed at Columbia University, and summer camps and international travel groups for young people. Through her intellect, hard work and efforts, and Diddy's donations and clout, she serviced thousands of youth throughout the country in a meaningful and life changing way. Daddy's House Social Programs was under the direction of Sister Souljah for seven years.

In the field of entertainment, Souljah has been on many platforms including radio and television. Before the political shutdown and attack on American 1st amendment rights, she was the young voice in NY radio that spoke to the hip-hop audience about politics, culture, business, and social organization. This includes being a featured speaker at the Million Woman March, appearances on Oprah Winfrey, Larry King Live, and the cover of Newsweek Magazine. As a Hip-Hop artist, Souljah's CD entitled "360 degrees of Power," sparked international debate over issues of race, culture, sexism, and politics. Additionally, the entire world awaits the release of her first film, The Coldest Winter Ever.

Today, Souljah is the author of 5 national best sellers. In 2007 she became a New York Times Best Selling author and has since charted in the top ten of the NYT list three times over. She has penned The Coldest Winter Ever (fiction), which has sold two million copies to date, and Midnight, A Gangster Love Story (fiction), Midnight and The Meaning Of Love, (fiction), A Deeper Love Inside; The Porsche Santiaga Story (fiction) and NO DISRESPECT, (non fiction), all best sellers. On November 10th, 2015, her newest novel, titled; A Moment Of Silence, MIDNIGHT III will be published wherever books are sold.

Many people attempt to silence, isolate, interrupt or alter Sister Souljah's powerful voice. and beautiful presence. An influential woman who has achieved so much, she remains down to earth, consistent and persistent. She has been blessed to reach and touch hundreds of thousands of young people, students and even the elders. Her mantra, is to work with and alongside any human of any race or faith or culture, who lives to add to the good in the world, and not the evil.

 

Awards: None

Levels: Unknown

Genre: Fiction

Text Annotation

Midnight - Sister Souljah

Citation: S. (2008). Midnight: A gangster love story. New York: Atria Books.

 

Annotation: A fierce fighter with heart and a powerful mind, Midnight is willing to do anything to defend his family, the women he loves, and his business and property. In this riveting prequel to her urban classic, The Coldest Winter Ever, Sister Souljah reintroduces readers to Ricky Santiago’s strong, humble, and dangerously attractive lieutenant. The intricate storytelling in this passionate tale of love, loyalty, strength, and survival will sweep readers from the wealthy North African estate of Midnight’s father to the complicated challenges and confrontations of the Brooklyn projects where Midnight lands with his beautiful mother. This story will move your heart and soul and change your life forever.

 

Author's Information:

Born in the Bronx, New York and raised in the projects, Souljah is a fighter who came up from the bottom. A graduate of Rutgers University, she earned a degree in American History and African Studies. She also attended the Cornell University Advanced Placement Study Program, and studied abroad in Europe at the University of Salamanca.

A global student, Sister Souljah traveled throughout her college years to England, France, Spain, Portugal, Finland, and Russia. Her academic accomplishments were reinforced with first hand experiences.  She worked to build a medical center for families in Bindura, Zimbabwe. She worked with refugee children from Mozambique. 

A major participant in the international student anti-aparthied  movement, Souljah helped to create a momentum, movement and fervor which liberated Nelson Mandela and brought about the divestment of millions of dollars from corporations doing business with apartheid South Africa. Her travels in Africa also included Zambia and South Africa. She believes it is essential that African professionals work together, invest in and help to save, shape and further develop our continent, resources, families, and children.

As a student activist in America, Souljah created, financed, and implemented the African Youth Survival Camp, a six week summer sleep away academic/ cultural camp for 200 children of homeless families. With a skillful curriculum, which she designed, this camp ran for over 3 consecutive years and inspired major celebrities to start their own camps and schools, and to build charities and institutions to give back.

As a community activist, Souljah organized against racially motivated crimes, police brutality, and the miseducation of urban youth. She produced and promoted several outdoor rallies and concerts, in Harlem NY, which drew nearly 30,000 youth each time, as well as the participation of top Hip-Hop and R&B celebrities.

In 1995, because of her success and sincerity, Sister Souljah was selected by Sean P. Diddy Combs to become the Executive Director of his charitable organization, Daddy's House Social Programs. She built the organization and created academic programs that were housed at Columbia University, and summer camps and international travel groups for young people. Through her intellect, hard work and efforts, and Diddy's donations and clout, she serviced thousands of youth throughout the country in a meaningful and life changing way. Daddy's House Social Programs was under the direction of Sister Souljah for seven years.

In the field of entertainment, Souljah has been on many platforms including radio and television. Before the political shutdown and attack on American 1st amendment rights, she was the young voice in NY radio that spoke to the hip-hop audience about politics, culture, business, and social organization. This includes being a featured speaker at the Million Woman March, appearances on Oprah Winfrey, Larry King Live, and the cover of Newsweek Magazine. As a Hip-Hop artist, Souljah's CD entitled "360 degrees of Power," sparked international debate over issues of race, culture, sexism, and politics. Additionally, the entire world awaits the release of her first film, The Coldest Winter Ever.

Today, Souljah is the author of 5 national best sellers. In 2007 she became a New York Times Best Selling author and has since charted in the top ten of the NYT list three times over. She has penned The Coldest Winter Ever (fiction), which has sold two million copies to date, and Midnight, A Gangster Love Story (fiction), Midnight and The Meaning Of Love, (fiction), A Deeper Love Inside; The Porsche Santiaga Story (fiction) and NO DISRESPECT, (non fiction), all best sellers. On November 10th, 2015, her newest novel, titled; A Moment Of Silence, MIDNIGHT III will be published wherever books are sold.

Many people attempt to silence, isolate, interrupt or alter Sister Souljah's powerful voice. and beautiful presence. An influential woman who has achieved so much, she remains down to earth, consistent and persistent. She has been blessed to reach and touch hundreds of thousands of young people, students and even the elders. Her mantra, is to work with and alongside any human of any race or faith or culture, who lives to add to the good in the world, and not the evil.

 

Awards: National Best Selling Author

Reading Levels: Unknown Teen Fiction

Genre: Fiction

Text Annotation

Monster - Walter Dean Myers

Citation:

Myers, W. D. (1999). At her majesty's request: An African princess in Victorian England. New York: Scholastic Press.
 
Annotation: Young, black 16-year-old Steve Harmon, an amateur filmmaker, is on trial for the murder of a Harlem drugstore owner and could face the death penalty. Steve copes by writing a movie script based on his trial. But despite his efforts, reality is blurred until he can no longer tell who he is or what the truth is.
 
Author's Information:

Walter Dean Myers is the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of more than eighty books for children and young adults, including Sunrise Over Fallujah, Fallen Angels, Monster, Somewhere in the Darkness, Slam!, Jazz, and Harlem. Mr. Myers has received two Newbery Honors, five Coretta Scott King Awards, and the inaugural recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. In addition, he was the winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award and the 1994 recipient of the American Library Association’s Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring an author for a "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature." He is considered one of the preeminent writers for children.

In 2012, Walter Dean Myers was named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. The National Ambassador program, sponsored by the Library of Congress and the Children’s Book Council, was established in 2008 with the naming of Jon Scieszka for the first two-year term. Candidates are selected based on their contribution to young people’s literature and their ability to relate to children.

Walter began writing at an early age. "I was a good student, but a speech impediment was causing problems. One of my teachers decided that I couldn't pronounce certain words at all. She thought that if I wrote something, I would use words I could pronounce. I began writing little poems. I began to write short stories, too." Realizing that his family would not be able to afford college, Walter joined the Army on his seventeenth birthday. When he got out, he worked various jobs and he wrote at night. "I wrote for magazines," says Walter. "I wrote adventure stuff, I wrote for the National Enquirer, I wrote advertising copy for cemeteries." A winning contest entry with the Council on Interracial Books for Children became his first book, Where Does the Day Go?

Amiri and Odette: A Love Story is a modern retelling of Swan Lake. "I had seen the ballet of Swan Lake as a child but it was as an adult, when I saw a production featuring Erik Bruhn, that I first noticed how significant a part the ever-present threat of violence played. This juxtaposition of great beauty and grace with a backdrop of pure evil stayed with me for years. As a writer, I absorb stories, allow them to churn within my own head and heart — often for years — until I find a way of telling them that fits both my time and temperament. In listening to Pyotr Tchaikovsky's score," Walter continues, "I found the violence muted, but slowly, in my head, the sometimes jarring rhythms of modern jazz and hip-hop began to intervene. I asked myself if there were modern dangers to young people similar to the magic spells of folklore. The answer of course, was a resounding yes, and I began to craft a modern, urban retelling of the Swan Lake ballet." 

"I so love writing," says Walter. "It is not something that I am doing just for a living, this is something that I love to do. When I work, what I'll do is outline the story first. That forces me to do the thinking. I cut out pictures of all my characters and my wife puts them into a collage, which goes on the wall above the computer. When I walk into that room, I see the characters, and I just get very close to them. I rush through a first draft, and then I go back and rewrite, because I can usually see what the problems are going to be ahead of me. Rewriting is a lot more fun for me than the writing is."

Walter Dean Myers died in New York City on July 1, 2014 after a brief illness.

 

Awards: New York Times Best Selling Novel, National Book Award Nominee

Reading Level: 9-12 grade level

Genre: Realistic Fiction Young Adult

Text Annotation

At Her Majesty's Request: An African Princess in Victorian England - Walter Dean Myers

Citation:

Myers, W. D. (1999). At her majesty's request: An African princess in Victorian England. New York: Scholastic Press.

 

Annotation: Frantic shouts and cries awaken a young girl. Her West African village is being attacked. She is dragged out of her home and watches in horror as her parents are murdered before her eyes. The attacking warriors examine her and notice the markings on her face. They are the markings of a princess.

The girl is captured and held for a ritual in which she will be killed. Then, in 1850, on the very day set for her death, a British naval officer rescues her. She is christened Sarah Forbes Bonetta and taken to England. There she is presented to Queen Victoria, who decided to provide for the upbringing of this young, orphaned princess.

Walter Dean Myers discovered a body of letters concerning Sarah, and some actually written by her, in a rare book and ephemera shop in London. What he saw there fascinated him, and he set out to unearth the details of her unique and engaging life. He found an extraordinary story — of royalty, of race, of class, of belonging, and of identity. Now, after years of meticulous research, Myers unveils this arresting portrait of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, African princess.

 

Author's Information:

Walter Dean Myers is the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of more than eighty books for children and young adults, including Sunrise Over Fallujah, Fallen Angels, Monster, Somewhere in the Darkness, Slam!, Jazz, and Harlem. Mr. Myers has received two Newbery Honors, five Coretta Scott King Awards, and the inaugural recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. In addition, he was the winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award and the 1994 recipient of the American Library Association’s Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring an author for a "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature." He is considered one of the preeminent writers for children.

In 2012, Walter Dean Myers was named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. The National Ambassador program, sponsored by the Library of Congress and the Children’s Book Council, was established in 2008 with the naming of Jon Scieszka for the first two-year term. Candidates are selected based on their contribution to young people’s literature and their ability to relate to children.

Walter began writing at an early age. "I was a good student, but a speech impediment was causing problems. One of my teachers decided that I couldn't pronounce certain words at all. She thought that if I wrote something, I would use words I could pronounce. I began writing little poems. I began to write short stories, too." Realizing that his family would not be able to afford college, Walter joined the Army on his seventeenth birthday. When he got out, he worked various jobs and he wrote at night. "I wrote for magazines," says Walter. "I wrote adventure stuff, I wrote for the National Enquirer, I wrote advertising copy for cemeteries." A winning contest entry with the Council on Interracial Books for Children became his first book, Where Does the Day Go?

Amiri and Odette: A Love Story is a modern retelling of Swan Lake. "I had seen the ballet of Swan Lake as a child but it was as an adult, when I saw a production featuring Erik Bruhn, that I first noticed how significant a part the ever-present threat of violence played. This juxtaposition of great beauty and grace with a backdrop of pure evil stayed with me for years. As a writer, I absorb stories, allow them to churn within my own head and heart — often for years — until I find a way of telling them that fits both my time and temperament. In listening to Pyotr Tchaikovsky's score," Walter continues, "I found the violence muted, but slowly, in my head, the sometimes jarring rhythms of modern jazz and hip-hop began to intervene. I asked myself if there were modern dangers to young people similar to the magic spells of folklore. The answer of course, was a resounding yes, and I began to craft a modern, urban retelling of the Swan Lake ballet." 

"I so love writing," says Walter. "It is not something that I am doing just for a living, this is something that I love to do. When I work, what I'll do is outline the story first. That forces me to do the thinking. I cut out pictures of all my characters and my wife puts them into a collage, which goes on the wall above the computer. When I walk into that room, I see the characters, and I just get very close to them. I rush through a first draft, and then I go back and rewrite, because I can usually see what the problems are going to be ahead of me. Rewriting is a lot more fun for me than the writing is."

Walter Dean Myers died in New York City on July 1, 2014 after a brief illness.

 

Awards:

2000/2001 Lone Star Reading List

1999 Blue Ribbon Award from the Center for Children's Books

2000 Orbus Pictus Award

Virginia Young Readers Titles for 2001-2002

Levels: Grades 6-8

Genre: Historical Fiction

Text Annotation

Flygirl - Sherri L. Smith

Citation: Smith, S. L. (2008). Flygirl. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

 

Annotation: Ida Mae, an eighteen-year-old light-skinned African American, passes herself off as a white woman in order to be allowed to fly as a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II.

 

Author's Information: Sherri L. Smith has written several novels for teenagers, including LUCY THE GIANT, SPARROW and HOT, SOUR, SALTY, SWEET. In FLYGIRL, she tells a not-so-well-known side of World War II through the story of the WASP program. Ida Mae is a brave, strong character who has more at stake than other women in the WASPs, which makes this book even more powerful. Smith does an excellent job of weaving in an interesting plot along with the background history of the program. Readers will want to learn more about this subject after turning the last page of this enlightening novel.

 

Awards:

 

Levels: Grades 6-8

Genre: Young Adult Novel- Fiction

Text Annotation

Sellout - Ebony Joy Wilkins

Citation: Wilkins, E. (2010). Sell-out. New York: Scholastic Press.

 

Annotation: Being nearly the only African American in her suburban school doesn't bother NaTasha, but it sure bothers Tilly, her spitfire grandmother from Harlem. When Tilly decides NaTasha needs to get back to her roots, NaTasha is thrown into a world where everything is unfamiliar and a little frightening.

While Tilly and NaTasha volunteer at Amber's Place, a crisis center in the Bronx to help troubled girls straighten out their lives, NaTasha discovers that these rough, self-assured girls aren't the only ones struggling to find the right path. Even though the girls at Amber's Place wield their secrets like knives and despise NaTasha for her privileged life, NaTasha stands her ground. What she discovers as the summer unfolds surprises everyone — especially her.

 

Author's Information: Sellout is not the worst name Ebony Wilkins heard in middle school, but the word did inspire her first novel for young adults. She spent her teenage years exploring words, her college years reporting words, and later years earning an MFA in writing for children from New School University.

Ebony teaches on the upper west side of Manhattan. In her free time she enjoys reading, visiting family, and playing board games. She lives in New York City.

 

Awards:None

Interest Level: Grade 7-9

Lexile Measure: 720L

Genre: Teen Fiction

Text Annotation

Maxine Banks is Getting Married - Lori Aurelia Williams

Citation:

Williams, L. A. (2010). Maxine Banks is getting married. New York: Roaring Brook Press.

 

Annotation: When seventeen-year-old Maxine Banks from Houston, Texas convinces her boyfriend to marry her, she finds out that marriage isn’t quite what she had in mind.

 

Author: Though Lori Aurelia Williams adored reading as a child, she never thought she'd be a writer when she grew up. While studying English at the University of Texas at Austin, she departed from the traditional lecture and composition courses and took a creative writing class on whim. Through that class, she learned she loved and had a gift for storytelling. For her fiction, which combines African-American storytelling with street slang, she was awarded a creative writing scholarship and a James A. Michener Fellowship. Born in Houston, Lori Aurelia Williams now lives in Austin.

 

Awards: Amazon 100% "liked" the book

Appropriate Levels: 9 -12 year olds

Genre: Teen Fiction

Text Annotation

Black Boy White School - Brian F. Walker
Citation: Walker, B. F. (2012). Black boy/white school. New York: HarperTeen.
 

Synopsis: He couldn’t listen to music or talk on the phone without her jumping all over him about what they listened to up in Maine, or how they talked up in Maine, or how he better not go up to Maine and start acting ghetto.

Maine.

Anthony’s mother didn’t even know where it was until he’d shown it to her on a map, but that still didn’t stop her from acting like she was born there.

Anthony “Ant” Jones has never been outside his rough East Cleveland neighborhood when he’s given a scholarship to Belton Academy, an elite prep school in Maine.But at Belton things are far from perfect. Everyone calls him “Tony,” assumes he’s from Brooklyn, expects him to play basketball, and yet acts shocked when he fights back.

As Anthony tries to adapt to a world that will never fully accept him, he’s in for a rude awakening: Home is becoming a place where he no longer belongs.

In debut author Brian F. Walker’s hard-hitting novel about staying true to yourself, Anthony might find a way to survive at Belton, but what will it cost him?

 

Author's Information: Brian F. Walker grew up in East Cleveland, where he ran with gangsters, drug dealers, and thugs until age fourteen, when he was sent to an elite boarding school and a world he had no way of understanding. For the past seventeen years he has taught high school English, coached basketball, and served as an admissions officer at a prep school in Weston, Massachusetts. He recently won a grant for fiction writing from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, in addition to numerous awards for playwriting, short stories, and journalism. Brian lives in Massachusetts with his wife and daughter.

 

Awards: Amazon 88% readers "liked" the book

Grade/Reading Level: Unknown

Interest Level: 14-17 years old

Genre: Teen Fiction