Best Book for Young Children
Hector, A Boy, a Protest, and the Photograph that Changed Apartheid. Adrienne Wright. Page Street Kids, 2019. (Video)
On June 16, 1976, Hector Pieterson, an ordinary boy, lost his life after getting caught up in what was supposed to be a peaceful protest. Black South African students were marching against a new law requiring that they be taught half of their subjects in Afrikaans, the language of the White government. The story’s events unfold from the perspectives of Hector, his sister, and the photographer who captured their photo in the chaos.
Honor Books for Young Children
Sulwe. Lupita Nyong’o and Vashti Harrison (illus.), Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019.
Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.
Grandpa Cacao, A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family. Elizabeth Zunon, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2019. (Video)
This beautifully illustrated story connects past and present as a girl bakes a chocolate cake with her father and learns about her grandfather harvesting cacao beans in West Africa. As a little girl and her father bake her birthday cake together, Daddy tells the story of her Grandpa Cacao, a farmer from the Ivory Coast in West Africa.
Songs in the Shade of the Cashew and Coconut Trees, Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes from West Africa and the Caribbean. Nathalie Soussana, Jean-Christophe Hoarau, Judith Gueyfier (illus.)
The Secret Mountain, 2019. (Video)
Songs about children playing in the schoolyard, sisters braiding each other’s hair at the beach, and parents dancing late into the night mesh together thanks to the music. A wide array of styles–nursery rhymes from Gabon, lullabies from Cape Verde, and rumbas from the Congo–are performed in more than a dozen languages. Luminous artwork and homegrown instruments round off this wonderful celebration of history, language, and culture. Lyrics appear in their original language and in English, along with notes on culture, a world map, and a code for song downloads and print-outs.
Best Book for Older Readers
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky. Kwame Mbalia. Disney Hyperion, 2019. (Video)
Seventh-grader Tristan Strong tumbles into the MidPass and, with allies John Henry and Brer Rabbit, must entice the god Anansi to come out of hiding and seal the hole Tristan accidentally ripped in the sky.
Honor Book for Older Readers
War Girls. Tochi Onyebuchi. Razorbill / Penguin Random House, 2019 (Video)
Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of Earth unlivable. Th lucky ones have escaped to newly formed space colonies, but those remaining are left to deal with the aftermath. A civil war between Nigerians and Biafrans over mineral-rich land is wreaking havoc on the country. Battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Onyii and her adopted little sister Ify, are largely protected from the fighting but that soon changes. The girls are ripped apart forcing them onto opposite sides of the conflict.
Best Book for New Adults
Gold of our Fathers. Kwei Quartey. Soho Press, 2017.
Darko Dawson has just been promoted to Chief Inspector in the Ghana Police Service—the promotion even comes with a (rather modest) salary bump. But he doesn’t have long to celebrate because his new boss is transferring him from Accra, Ghana’s capital, out to remote Obuasi in the Ashanti region, an area now notorious for the illegal exploitation of its gold mines.
When Dawson arrives at the Obuasi headquarters, he finds it in complete disarray. The office is a mess of uncatalogued evidence and cold case files, morale is low, and discipline among officers is lax. On only his second day on the job, the body of a Chinese mine owner is unearthed in his own gold quarry. As Dawson investigates the case, he quickly learns how dangerous it is to pursue justice in this kingdom of illegal gold mines, where the worst offenders have so much money they have no fear of the law.