Middle Grade / YA
Some Places More Than Others
Written by Renee Watson, art by Shadra Strickland (2020)
A heartwarming and inspiring novel for middle schoolers about finding deep roots and exploring the past, the present, and the places that make us who we are.
All Amara wants for her birthday is to visit her father’s family in New York City–Harlem, to be exact. She can’t wait to finally meet her Grandpa Earl and cousins in person, and to stay in the brownstone where her father grew up. Maybe this will help her understand her family–and herself–in new way.
But New York City is not exactly what Amara thought it would be. It’s crowded, with confusing subways, suffocating sidewalks, and her father is too busy with work to spend time with her and too angry to spend time with Grandpa Earl. As she explores, asks questions, and learns more and more about Harlem and about her father and his family history, she realizes how, in some ways more than others, she connects with him, her home, and her family.
Never Caught, The Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington's Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away
Written by Erica Armstrong Dunbar, illustrated by Shadra Strickland (2020)
A fascinating and heartbreaking behind-the-scenes look at the Washingtons when they were the First Family—and an in-depth look at their slave, Ona Judge, who dared to escape from one of the nation’s Founding Fathers.
Born into a life of slavery, Ona Judge eventually grew up to be George and Martha Washington’s “favored” dower slave. When she was told that she was going to be given as a wedding gift to Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Ona made the bold and brave decision to flee to the north, where she would be a fugitive.
From her childhood, to her time with the Washingtons and living in the slave quarters, to her escape to New Hampshire, Erica Armstrong Dunbar, along with Kathleen Van Cleve, shares an intimate glimpse into the life of a little-known, but powerful figure in history, and her brave journey as she fled the most powerful couple in the country.
Written by Jewell Parker Rhodes, art by Shadra Strickland (2019)
A heartbreaking and powerful story about a black boy killed by a police officer, drawing connections through history.
Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.
Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.
Once again Jewell Parker Rhodes deftly weaves historical and socio-political layers into a gripping and poignant story about how children and families face the complexities of today’s world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death.
Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case
Written by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Shadra Strickland (2017)
A landmark civil rights case, told in spare and gorgeous verse.
In 1955, in Caroline County, Virginia, amidst segregation and prejudice, injustice and cruelty, two teenagers fell in love. Their life together broke the law, but their determination would change it. Richard and Mildred Loving were at the heart of a Supreme Court case that legalized marriage between races, and a story of the devoted couple who faced discrimination, fought it, and won.
Eliza's Freedom Road: An Underground Railroad Diary
Written by Jerdine Nolen, illustrated by Shadra Strickland (2017)
It is 1854 in Alexandria, Virginia. Eliza’s mother has been sold away and Eliza is left as a slave on a Virginia farm. It is Abbey, the cook, who looks after Eliza, when she isn’t taking care of the Mistress. Eliza has only the quilt her mother left her and the stories her mother told to keep her mother’s memory close.
When the Mistress’s health begins to fail and Eliza overhears the Master talk of the Slave sale auction and of Eliza being traded, she takes to the night. She follows the path and the words of the farmhand Old Joe: “Travel the night. Sleep the day…Go east. Keep your back to the setting of the sun. Come to the safe house with a candlelight in the window…That gal, Harriet, she’ll take you.”
All the while, Eliza recites the stories her mother taught her as she travels along her freedom road from Mary’s Land to Pennsylvania to Freedom’s Gate in St. Catharines, Canada, where she finds not only her freedom but also more than she could have hoped for.
The Diary of B.B. Bright, Possible Princess
Written by Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams, illustrated by Shadra Strickland (2012)
A lively tale of one young woman’s adventure to pass her Official Princess Test, discover a means of escape from her island, and reveal her true destiny.
Thirteen-year-old orphan Black Bee Bright (B. B. for short) is funny, quirky, precocious, and adventurous. But B. B. has a secret. She’s captive on an island in “the middle of very tropical nowhere” because she’s forced to hide her true identity as a royally born princess from her parents’ enemies in Raven World. B. B. must find a way to escape to “the Other World” where there are best friends and cool clothes, but she can’t escape the island until she passes her Official Princess Test and undertakes a dangerous journey alone to the East side of the island, where eight princesses must help her discover what it truly means to be a princess.