Stand up stand out

In this section of the reading list, students, advisories and adults in the Gordon community recommend specific titles that challenge, celebrate and affirm our experience and humanity. Unless specified, all of the reviews are adapted from Booklist.

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson
Alexander and Nelson combine their considerable talents in this ode (in picture book format) to inspiring African American heroes in the fields of sport, the arts, and political activism, as well as everyday champions whose very survival exemplifies success. In elegiac-style verse, Alexander celebrates “the swift and sweet ones / who hurdled history . . . / the ones who survived / America / by any means necessary,” and those “who shine / their light for the world to see / and don’t stop / ‘til the break of dawn.” Nelson’s photo-realistic illustrations, rendered in oil, include action shots (Jesse Owens, mid hurdle), portraits (Martin Luther King Jr. and an African American Union soldier), composites (of jazz and sports greats), and iconographic compositions that depict the unspeakable (bodies lined up representing abducted Africans en route to America, part of the Middle Passage). Designed for reading aloud, the text also makes use of several typographic cues that signal meaning: emphasized words appear in larger font, while references to the words of others (“we shall not be moved”) appear in italics. And, while the content references several tragic events (slavery and police brutality, among others), the poem closes with a hopeful nod to the rising generation. Appended with notes on the historical figures cited, this is a beautiful volume that encourages multiple viewings and further research.
Poetry
Fifth to eighth grade

Solo by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess
Blade Morrison begins his story by disclosing, “I am / the wretched son / of a poor / rich man.” Master storytellers and poets Alexander (The Crossover, 2014) and Hess (The Day I Met the Nuts, 2009) have joined forces to pen a rhythmic, impassioned ode to family, identity, and the history of rock and roll. The only things 17-year-old Blade can count on as the wealthy but neglected son of famously erratic rock god Rutherford Morrison are his soulful guitar ballads and his girlfriend, Chapel. When Rutherford disappoints Blade one time too many and they end up fighting, Blade’s sister reveals a long-guarded family secret. Suddenly the music leaves him; when Chapel is no longer there to anchor him either, Blade sets out to discover more about his own past. A mix tape of classic rock hits guides him from Los Angeles all the way to the small village of Konko, Ghana, where a delay in his journey brings him unexpected fulfillment. Scattered throughout the novel in verse are some of Blade’s original rock ballads, though every poem feels like a song, pulsing with Alexander’s signature lyrical style. Blade ends up finding much more than what he expects: self-discovery, community, and a deeper understanding of what family means.
Recommended for the Stand Up Stand Out list by Gordon Middle Schoolers.
Verse novel
Fifth to eighth grade

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up: Fighting For Justice series by Laura Atkins
The last name Korematsu may be familiar to readers in the context of the infamous Supreme Court case of Fred Korematsu, a resister of U.S. attempts to intern Japanese Americans during WWII. His story is an absolute keystone in the history of civil liberties in the U.S. Drawing heavily on the recollections of two of Fred’s children, the book details Korematsu’s upbringing in Oakland, California, his imprisonment for resisting internment, his quest to legally marry his white wife, and his 40-year legal battle. The layout is stellar, utilizing a multimedia approach that includes photographs from the camps, family portraits, illustrations and letters from prisoners, and government documents. Focus groups of teachers, librarians, and young readers provided feedback about the book’s design, and its appeal and user-friendly presentation are undeniable. The end matter includes practical strategies for kids to take action against injustice in their own communities. This book honors the legacy of an oft-forgotten champion of human rights in America.
Nonfiction
Fifth to eighth grade

Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice by Mahogany L. Browne and others
What does it mean to be woke? Simply put, “to be WOKE is to understand that equality and justice for some is not equality and justice at all.” In this poetry collection, Browne, accompanied by Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood, unpacks the weight of social inequities in 23 standalone poems in a variety of forms. Topics include activism, community, joy, prejudice, and resourcefulness, to name a few, blending the hard lines of fighting and resisting injustice with sweet moments of peace in our shared humanity. Aimed toward the middle grades, each poem offers lyrical strength and resolve that will encourage budding activists to develop an ever-important ethical and justice-oriented muscle. Taylor’s cartoon like digital art embraces each poem, though depending on the reader, the strength of the illustrations may at times compete with the text. A title worth adding to any youth poetry collection, Woke will call out to and empower its readers with a reminder that “our voice is our greatest power.
Nonfiction poetry 
Fifth and sixth

Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different: True Tales of Amazing Boys Who Changed the World by Ben Brooks, illustrated by Quinton Winter
Joining a list of recently released books for young readers about children who have changed the world is this title with a focus on boys who performed incredible feats and conquered their own hurdles to change the world in their own way. Some, like Mohed Altrad, overcame extreme poverty and challenges to pursue education and accomplish their dreams. Others, such as Christopher Paolini, found a passion and pursued it. Historical figures such as Louis Braille and Frederick Douglass join currently living figures such as Bill Gates and Lionel Messi, making this title perfect for readers with different interests. Each spread contains a brief biography of an individual, accompanied by both realistic and creatively illustrated images, some of which are reminiscent of the Who Was? book series, while others reflect a more serious tone that goes well with their subjects. Filled with interesting stories about boys (and men) that contributed to and changed the world in their own ways, this text is sure to inspire young readers and show them that there are many, many different ways to make a difference. Recommended first for 2019 Stand Up Stand Out by Middle Schoolers.
Biography
Fifth to eighth grade

Poisoned Water: How the Citizens of Flint Michigan Fought for Their Lives and Warned the Nation by Candy J. Cooper and Marc Aronson
People in Flint, Michigan first noticed their tap water turning brown in 2014. This coincided with their state-appointed city manager’s decision to save money by using water from the Flint River instead of more expensive water from Lake Huron. Thus began two years of worsening health issues: rashes, infections, and spikes in lead poisoning and Legionnaires’ Disease, all compounded by continuing denials from local authorities. It was early 2016 before state and national emergencies were declared and donations of bottled water began to flow into the city. This is a story with heroes, from a mom-turned-investigator to an EPA whistle-blower to a pediatrician who finally caught the attention of the national media. And villains? So far the residents of Flint have seen denials, claims of ignorance, and over $30 million spent on various politicians’ legal defenses. Accessible background text fills in Flint’s history as a once-thriving city abandoned by General Motors, and poignant personal stories, many featuring teens, put faces on the crisis. This detailed offering, the first specifically intended for young audiences, has multiple curriculum applications (man-made disasters, ecology, racial discrimination, economics, biology, the roles of local and state government). It’s also a modern-day horror story, one we can only hope will never be repeated
Sixth to eighth grade

New Kid by Jerry Craft
Seventh grader Jordan Banks may be the new kid at his upper-crust private school, but this remarkably honest and accessible story is not just about being new; it’s unabashedly about race. Example after uncomfortable example hits the mark: casual assumptions about black students’ families and financial status, black students being mistaken for one another, well-intentioned teachers awkwardly stumbling over language, competition over skin tones among the black students themselves. Yet it’s clear that everyone has a burden to bear, from the weird girl to the blond boy who lives in a mansion, and, indeed, Jordan only learns to navigate his new world by not falling back on his own assumptions. Craft’s easy-going art and ingenious use of visual metaphor loosen things up considerably, and excerpts from Jordan’s sketch book provide several funny, poignant, and insightful asides. It helps keep things light and approachable even as Jordan’s parents tussle over the question of what’s best for their son—to follow the world’s harsh rules so he can fit in or try to pave his own difficult road. A few climactic moments of resolution feel a touch too pat, but Craft’s voice rings urgent and empathetic. Speaking up about the unrepresented experience of so many students makes this a necessary book, particularly for this age group. 
Recommended first for the 2019 Stand Up Stand Out list by Gordon Middle Schoolers.
Graphic novel
Fifth to eighth grade

More Than A Game: Race, Gender, and Politics in Sports by Matt Doeden
In a departure from his more tightly focused sports books, such as The World Cup (2017), The NBA Playoffs (2019), and Coming Up Clutch (2019), Doeden looks at the intersection of sports, politics, and social change in America. The book opens with quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee while the national anthem is sung. The first chapter details the history of racial issues involving athletes who mounted protests, suffered discrimination, or broke barriers in particular sports. Broader in focus, the second chapter includes a wide array of gender- and sexuality-related topics in sports, such as Title IX, the 1999 U.S. Women’s soccer team winning the World Cup, the first openly gay NFL player, and the #MeToo movement. The final chapter considers “Patriotism and Protest.” Exploring controversies past and present, the text is concise, evenhanded, and informative. Large, well-captioned photos, from archival black-and-white pictures to recent color shots, illustrate the book. Discussing social issues as they have played out in the field of sports, this engaging presentation places them within a broader historical context. Packed full of incredible stories and photos, this book introduces readers to controversial athletes in moments in sports history and details their impact on society. Take a journey through sports history to learn how games and athletes have the power to make change and help to create a more level playing field for all people.
Nonfiction Sports
Fifth to eighth grade

Standing Up Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army Helped Change the Course of WWII by Mary Cronk Farrell
African-American women fought for freedom at home and abroad as they served their country during World War II.When the United States Army found itself in need of personnel who could do work that would free men to report to combat, it established first the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps and then the Women’s Army Corps. Black leaders were already encouraging more wartime opportunities for African-Americans and sought to use this innovation to help end segregation. Civil rights activist Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune pushed for integration of the corps, but the country’s official “separate but equal” policy stood, although a quota of black women received officer’s training. The women who responded to the call were well familiar with the racial mores of the times, but the insults they endured hurt. Nevertheless, they worked and trained hard and put forth every effort to succeed, sometimes risking court martial for standing up for themselves. When they were called for overseas duty, the 6888th Central Postal Battalion performed their duties so well in Birmingham, England, that they went on to another assignment in France. Importantly, Farrell brings in the voices of the women, which provides clarity and understanding of what they experienced. She also highlights the role of black newspapers in keeping the community informed about the difficulties they often faced. The text is richly supported with archival photographs. The importance of this story is amplified by the inspiring forward by Maj. Gen. Marcia M. Anderson, Army (Ret.), who makes a direct link between the determined struggles of those described and the achievements of African-American women in today’s U.S. military. The stories in this valuable volume are well worth knowing.
Nonfiction
Seventh and eighth

Rick by Alex Gino
Eleven-year-old sixth-grader Rick’s best friend ever is Jeff, who, let’s face it, is a bit of a jerk. Aside from being a troublemaker, Jeff objectifies girls, one of them being a new girl, Melissa. At least Rick thinks she’s new, until he realizes that he has known her since she was the protagonist of Gino’s first novel, George (2015). “I’m a girl,” she tells Rick, “a transgender girl.” Rick realizes he isn’t sure what he is, though. Is he gay? He doesn’t like boys that way, but then, he doesn’t like girls that way either. Thinking it might help him decide, he attends a meeting of the Rainbow Spectrum, a club for LGBTQIAP+ rights. He keeps this a secret from Jeff, of course. Meanwhile, Rick begins spending time with his grandfather, who, it turns out, has a secret of his own. Grandpa Ray tells him that Jeff is, indeed, a jerk, and then Jeff does something that proves it. Will that end his friendship with Rick? And what is Grandpa Ray’s secret? Gino handles the answers deftly and manages their material about children’s identities beautifully. Like George (2015), this is an important, innovative, well--plotted book that invites a large readership.

My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero
In her “Call to Action” at the end of My Family Divided, Guerrero states that 7 percent of school-age children in the U.S. have at least one undocumented parent, a staggering number. When she lost her parents to deportation, she felt utterly alone. As an adult, she knows that isn’t the case, and this young readers’ adaptation of her adult memoir, In the Country We Love (2016), her moving account—which addresses her heartbreak, her struggles after losing her parents and being forgotten by the local government, her depression, and her resolve to succeed—should help young readers in similar situations find the reassurance she missed out on. Though her story is occasionally difficult to bear, Guerrero and Moroz’s conversational tone makes it digestible, and the many photographs throughout lighten things up between chapters. As an activist, Guerrero also gives readers a path to action themselves, whether they’re in her shoes or simply want to help, writing, “I’ve chosen to view my ordeal as an opportunity to be a voice for millions.” Truly a book of our generation.
Recommended first for the 2019 Stand Up Stand Out list by Gordon Middle Schoolers.
Fiction
Fifth to eighth grade

Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar
Kelkar’s first middle-grade book is filled with female empowerment, hope, family, and the power of nonviolent resistance. It is a tumultuous time: India, 1942. India’s freedom fighters, led by Mahatma Gandhi, are trying to overthrow British rule. When her mother takes Gandhi’s teachings to heart, Anjali’s world is turned upside down. She balks at first as her mother joins the movement and makes the family participate in acts of protest, like burning their clothes or becoming friends with the lowest caste system, the untouchables. Anjali tries to make sense of it, gradually opening her mind to her mother’s place in the movement. As she learns about equality and civil liberties, riots erupt around her. When her mother is put in jail, Anjali has to decide if she has the emotional fortitude to practice Gandhi’s teachings and continue with the freedom movement. Drawing from her own family history, Kelkar doesn’t shy from the reality that progress is slow and that one must persist even when all hope seems gone. Readers will empathize with this heartbreakingly charming debut about the universal struggle of overcoming fears and biases in order to make the world a better place.
Recommended first for the 2019 Stand Up Stand Out list by Gordon Middle Schoolers.

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adid Khorram
Darius Kellner has more than his share of teen troubles to manage: racist bullies, clinical depression, complications with his father, and feeling like a misfit. So he does not expect much when his family travels to Iran to visit his maternal grandparents. Darius is a keen observer of life and very much aware of his emotional mechanisms. He is loving, sensitive, and a connoisseur of tea: steeping, drinking, sharing with family. He views the world through analogies to Star Trek and the Lord of the Rings trilogy in ways that are sometimes endearing and other times cumbersome. The trip to Iran opens new places of tenderness as Darius connects with people, places, and history that feel simultaneously familiar and new. But most significant is his friendship with Sohrab, which is tinged with an intimacy that suggests it is something more than platonic. This is a refreshing bildungsroman and an admirable debut novel that will leave readers wanting more.
Fiction
Eighth grade

Raise Your Voice Twelve Protests that Shaped America by Jeffery Kluger
The author of To the Moon! (2018) and Disaster Strikes! (2019), Kluger introduces 12 protests and demonstrations throughout U.S. history. While his audience may know something about the Boston Tea Party, Earth Day, the March on Washington, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, they’re less likely to be familiar with the Seneca Falls Convention, the union workers’ strikes triggered by the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the 1968 Democratic Convention, the Stonewall uprising, the 1982 March against Nuclear Weapons, the ACT UP movement in response to the AIDS crisis, or the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Some readers may have even participated in the 2017 Women’s March without understanding its origins and timing. In this well-researched book, Kluger offers a straightforward account of each protest, while also explaining historical context as well as main issues, events, and outcome. His appended “Note on Sources” provides practical tips on researching the past, including a discussion of the real but limited usefulness of Wikipedia. An informative introduction to the history of American protests and their ongoing role in our society.
Sixth to eighth grade

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights by Lynda Blackmon Lowery
“By the time I was fifteen years old, I had been in jail nine times.” So opens Lowery’s account of growing up in Selma, Alabama, during the troubled 1960s, as the African American community struggled for voting rights. At 13, Lynda and other students began slipping out of school to participate in marches. At 14, she was first arrested. After many peaceful protests, Lynda and others marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge into a violent attack by state troopers and sheriffs’ deputies on what became known as Bloody Sunday. Though beaten on the head, she returned two weeks later for the march from Selma to Montgomery—and the Voting Rights Act was passed later that year. The plain-spoken language of this memoir makes it all the more moving, while Lowery’s detail-rich memories of her community, their shared purpose, and her own experiences make it particularly accessible to young readers. Illustrations include archival photos and original artwork that uses line and color expressively. A concluding page comments that the Supreme Court recently struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, and notes that “who has the right to vote is still being decided today.” This inspiring personal story illuminates pivotal events in America’s history. 
Recommended for the Stand Up Stand Out list by Dr. Noni Thomas López.
Narrative nonfiction
Fifth to eighth grades

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano
Starting with the title, this wry, moving debut novel does a great job of blending the personal and the political without denigrating either. Growing up in the Puerto Rican East Harlem barrio in 1969, Rosa, 14, changes her name to Evelyn and tries to be more mainstream. Then her activist abuela arrives from Puerto Rico and moves in, and Evelyn feels as if she’s found “an older overdone version of me.” Abuela inspires Evelyn to join the Young Lords, the political activists who are working closely with the Black Panthers and fighting for Puerto Rican rights. But Evelyn’s mama does not approve, especially when the activists occupy the neighborhood church to demand food and shelter for the poor. Evelyn’s first-person narrative is filled with irreverent one-liners, but it never denies the realism of daily struggle: the “heat and stink of our neighborhood.” Rooted in the author’s own experience, the teen’s intense narrative is set against real-life political events (reports from the New York Times are documented in an appendix), while the family drama and revelations continue right up to the end.
Identity fiction
Fifth to eighth grades

We Rise: The Earth Guardians’ Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez
Challenge the status quo, change the face of activism, and confront climate change head on with the ultimate blueprint for taking action. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a 19-year-old climate activist, hip-hop artist, and powerful new voice on the front lines of a global youth-led movement. He and his group the Earth Guardians believe that today’s youth will play an important role in shaping our future. They know that the choices made right now will have a lasting impact on the world of tomorrow, and people-young and old-are asking themselves what they can do to ensure a positive, just, and sustainable future. We Rise tells these stories and addresses the solutions. Beginning with the empowering story of the Earth Guardians and how Xiuhtezcatl has become a voice for his generation, We Rise explores many aspects of effective activism and provides step-by-step information on how to start and join solution-oriented movements. With conversations between Xiuhtezcatl and well-known activists, revolutionaries, and celebrities, practical advice for living a more sustainable lifestyle, and ideas and tools for building resilient communities, We Rise is an action guide on how to face the biggest problems of today, including climate change, fossil fuel extraction, and industrial agriculture. If you are interested in creating real and tangible change, We Rise will give you the inspiration and information you need to do your part in making the world a better place and leave you asking, what kind of legacy do I want to leave? (From the publisher)
Nonfiction
Fifth through eighth grade

It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood: adapted for young readers
A television host, political commentator, and comedian, Trevor Noah has a reputation for wit. In this insightful memoir, adapted from the adult volume Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (2016), his clever mind and grasp of languages are unveiled. Noah intersperses his life experiences with a layered look at the history of South Africa. Growing up at the end of apartheid, he was evidence of a crime—his mother was Black and his father was white, and mixed-race children were illegal—and it made him an outsider. Noah grew up understanding that many aspects of his upbringing were fundamentally different: his mother raised him with an imagination and showed that there were no barriers to whatever he wanted to be. Readers will find this journey through Noah’s formative years humorous and exciting. He has lived during a tumultuous time in South African history and come through it to become one of the most prominent voices in the world. An engrossing read on one of the most oppressive times in history for people of color.
Read by seventh and eighth grades as assigned Middle School reading in 2019-2020 school year.
Autobiography
Seventh and eighth grade

Becoming by Michelle Obama
An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America-—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her, from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it, in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations - and whose story inspires us to do the same.
Recommended first for the 2019 Stand Up Stand Out list by Gordon Middle Schoolers.
Autobiography
Sixth to eighth grade

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée
In her first novel, Ramée explores the concept that fear can stop you from doing the right thing. Shayla is a shy, bright middle-school student who deals with unwanted advances from boys, racial tensions, academic competition, and finding her own voice. Middle school is quite an adjustment for Shayla and her friends, a diverse trio dubbed “the United Nations,” but she decides to stand up for the rights of African Americans after a ruling is made in a controversial court case involving the shooting of a black man by a white police officer. Encouraged by her sister and peers, she joins the Black Lives Matter movement and passes out black armbands at school, an act that puts her at odds with her friends, principal, and students of different races. As civil unrest spreads, Shayla must determine whether creating awareness by causing trouble is worth risking her academic standing. This is a solid story for middle-schoolers dealing with issues such as friendship across racial lines, being strong girls, #BLM, #MeToo, civil rights, diversity, and justice.
Realistic fiction
Fifth and sixth grade

Mike Morales: Spider Man by Jason Reynolds
In his first adventures in a non graphic format, Peter Parker’s multiethnic successor struggles with foes and feelings alike. Outbreaks of rage, a bumbling attraction for classmate Alicia, and family issues combine with a constant but nebulous sense of imminent danger to leave him an emotional wreck. Though this features web-slinging and a climactic battle with a supernatural villain, the action takes a backseat to more generally applicable explorations of self and racial identities, developing relationships, and life choices—plus some great banter. Coretta Scott King honoree Reynolds builds on a comic book plot and neatly ties in Miles’ Marvel Universe background, but he focuses more on his 16-year-old protagonist’s struggle with self-doubt in a vividly rendered urban setting stocked with engaging supporting characters.
Recommended for the 2019 Stand Up Stand Out list by Gordon Middle Schoolers as a way in which old heroes are reimagined with cultural relevance for today.
Realistic fiction.
Sixth to eighth grade

Stamped : Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds, A Remix of Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning
Reynolds continues his prolific streak with an absorbing young reader’s adaptation of Kendi’s National Book Award–winning title, Stamped from the Beginning (2016). “This is not a history book” declares Reynolds at the outset, an announcement that instantly absorbs readers, displaying the author’s singular way of communicating with young people. Reynolds’ “remix” begins in 1415 and travels into the present in five well-paced sections, following the general outline of Kendi’s comprehensive title. Through figures like Cotton Mather, W. E. B Du Bois, and Angela Davis, among others, the thought patterns of segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists, respectively, are elucidated, along with the impact such ideas have on all aspects of American life. Throughout the book, Reynolds inserts literal pauses (“Record scratch”), and interjects with commentary (“Let that sink in”) and clarifications, a way of insisting that the pages are not merely text, but a conversation. Readers will undoubtedly experience a mixture of feelings after finishing this book, but the encouragement to emerge as critical thinkers who can decipher coded language and harmful imagery stemming from racist ideas, which still linger in modern society and popular culture, will be the most empowering result. Thankfully, extensive back matter is included, with source notes and a dynamic further reading list. Required reading for everyone, especially those invested in the future of young people in America.
Seventh and eighth grade

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Two teenage boys, one black (Rashad) and one white (Quinn), are inextricably linked when Quinn witnesses Rashad being savagely beaten with little or no provocation by a policeman who has served as Quinn’s de facto big brother since his father was killed in Afghanistan—and whose younger brother is one of Quinn’s best friends. Can Quinn simply walk away from this apparent atrocity and pretend he hasn’t seen what he has seen? And what of Rashad? Hospitalized with internal bleeding, all he wants is to be left alone so he can focus on his art. The challenge for both boys becomes more intense when the case becomes a cause célèbre dividing first their school and then the entire community. The basketball team becomes a microcosm of split loyalties and angry disputes that come to a head when a protest march powerfully demonstrates the importance of action in the face of injustice. With Reynolds writing Rashad’s first-person narrative and Kiely writing Quinn’s, this hard-edged, ripped-from-the-headlines book is more than a problem novel; it’s a carefully plotted, psychologically acute, character-driven work of fiction that dramatizes an all-too-frequent occurrence. Police brutality and race relations in America are issues that demand debate and discussion, which this superb book powerfully enables.
Recommended first for the 2019 Stand Up Stand Out list by Gordon Middle Schoolers. 
Realistic fiction
Seventh and eighth grade 

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Jerome, a young black boy gunned down while playing in a park with a toy gun, invites readers to bear witness to his story, to the tragedy of being dispatched simply because of a policeman’s internalized prejudice masquerading as fear. One day at school, while he and his new friend Carlos are being bullied, Carlos pulls out a toy gun to scare their attackers. Afterward, he gives it to Jerome so he can have a chance to play with it, to pretend that he is in charge. But when he is shot in the back while running from the police, his soul leaves his body and he becomes one of the army of ghost boys hoping to communicate with those still consumed with racial bias. While looking in on the preliminary court hearing, Jerome realizes that the police officer’s daughter can see and talk to him, and together they try to understand how the world around them could be so cruel. Rhodes (Sugar, 2013; Towers Falling, 2016) beautifully weaves together the fictional and the historical—Jerome comes across the ghosts of real-life individuals like Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin—in this gripping and all-too-necessary novel about police brutality, injustice, and the power of bearing witness to the stories of those who are gone. 
Recommended first for the 2019 Stand Up Stand Out list by Gordon Middle Schoolers
Realistic fiction and magical realism
Fifth to eighth grade

After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay
After his best friend basketball superstar Bunny Thompson transfers schools for a better shot at college scholarships, Nasir is left angry and alone, abandoned for bigger and better things. When Nasir’s cousin Wallace gets into serious trouble trying to raise money to prevent his grandmother’s eviction, Nasir sees only one way out—asking his former best friend to throw the state championship game. Bunny must choose between losing his best friend and throwing away everything he has ever hoped for. Ribay’s depictions of Bunny’s and Nasir’s lives are beautifully—if not tragically-—drawn using alternating points of view, allowing Ribay to revisit the same scenes from alternate angles. He painstakingly shows the state of desperation for many young men of the inner city, buoyed only by the distant chance of a better life through stardom. Despite its downbeat aspects, the story nevertheless manages to infuse humanity into the boys’ lives by showcasing the importance of family, the value of friendship, and the role of courage in the face of difficult situations.Recommended first for the 2019 Stand Up Stand Out list by Gordon Middle Schoolers.
Realistic fiction
Fifth to eighth grade

Give us the Vote! Over Two Hundred Years of Fighting For the Ballot by Susan Goldman Rubin
After a prologue describing the response after a North Dakota law disrupted registration and voting for Chippewa Indians on reservations, Rubin retells the inspiring story of America’s most dramatic voting rights movement during the 1960s. Nonviolent resistance to state-sanctioned intimidation and disenfranchisement of Black citizens climaxed in Alabama in 1965 and led to the Voting Rights Act later that year. Next, Rubin discusses how America’s founders limited voting rights to white men of property and how later generations extended those rights to other groups, including women. But even today, as the prologue notes, certain factions are working to undermine voting rights and manipulate election results. The discussion concludes with a recent movement to give voting rights to 16-year-olds. Rubin distills and organizes a great deal of information into an engaging, accessible narrative that seems particularly pertinent in a presidential election year. Quotes from different eras and movements help readers sense the moods and attitudes of various historical periods, while well-chosen photos, drawings, paintings, and political cartoons illustrate the presentation. A concise, informative introduction to voting rights in America.
Nonfiction

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangmember. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. 
Recommended for the Stand Up Stand Out list by Gordon Middle Schoolers.
Realistic fiction
Fifth to eighth grades

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Thomas follows up her blockbuster, The Hate U Give (2017), with a sophomore novel that’s just as explosive. On the Come Up tells the story of talented Bri, daughter of a deceased underground rapper, who’s pursuing her own rap career. Bri is more than her dreams of making it out of the hood and reaching rap stardom; she is a girl who loves her family and friends fiercely. Bri’s chance at fame comes after a rap battle in which the song she pens garners massive attention. When Bri’s mother loses her job, Bri’s rap ambitions become more crucial than ever. They could be her and her family’s ticket to a better life unthreatened by poverty. Bri is a refreshingly realistic character with trials and triumphs, strengths and flaws. She’s also a teen with a traumatic past who is still going through things in the present. She still, however, manages to find the beauty and joy in life despite her tribulations, and this is where On the Come Up truly shines in its exploration of Bri’s resilience, determination, and pursuit of her dreams. In this splendid novel, showing many facets of the Black identity and the Black experience, including both the highs and the lows of middle-class and poor Black families, Thomas gives readers another dynamic protagonist to root for.
Recommended for the 2019 Stand Up Stand Out list by Gordon Middle Schoolers.
Realistic fiction
Fifth to eighth grade

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson
“Who owns the river and the line, and the hook, and the worm?” wonders Jade, a scholarship kid at Portland’s prestigious St. Francis High. Through her first two years of school, she’s had to balance her home life in a poor neighborhood with her life at a school populated mostly by rich white kids. When offered a mentorship for at-risk girls (which includes a full college scholarship), she jumps at the opportunity to learn how to be a successful black woman. However, she soon suspects that her mentor, Maxine, may only have a superficial understanding of Jade’s challenges and that there may be things Jade can teach her. Watson is unafraid to show Jade as a young woman who is resilient and mature for her age, but also plagued by self-doubt. The book itself is a balancing act between class, race, and social dynamics, with Watson constantly undercutting stereotypes and showing no fear in portraying virtues along with vices. The book’s defiance of a single-issue lens will surely inspire discussion and consideration. 
Realistic fiction
Fifth to eighth grade

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
Six fifth- and sixth-graders, all in a class for those who learn differently, are suddenly given, by their beloved teacher, an extra hour of safe space—an empty classroom where they are told they can talk about anything or nothing. At first, it’s nothing. Then, Haley, the book’s narrator, describes how each child begins to unfold. Esteban’s story demands to be told first; Immigration Services have taken his father away. The others lend sympathy and support, and then, over the course of a school year, more confidences are shared. Ashton, one of the school’s few white kids, is bullied. Amari sketches guns and worries about being shot. Puerto Rican Tiago struggles with being American, yet not American. Haley’s own story is intertwined with that of her best friend, Holly. Haley’s red hair comes from her father, but he’s in jail and Haley’s mother is dead; an uncle cares for the hyperactive Holly. The plot, at times, creaks, especially the setup. But the magic is in the writing. Woodson tells stories torn from headlines but personalizes them with poetry and memories, blunting their trauma with understanding and love. Haley’s history weaves in and out, drawing readers close. These children become each other’s safe harbors, and Woodson brilliantly shows readers how to find the connections we all need. 
Realistic fiction
Fifth to eighth grade

What the Eagle Sees: Indigenous Stories of Rebellion and Renewal by Eldon Yellowhorn and Kathy Lowinger.
In Turtle Island, Yellowhorn and Lowinger detailed North American Indigenous history up to 1492; here they document the resistance and resilience of Native peoples from European contact to the present. Thematic chapters explore early Viking settlements, slavery (especially as practiced by the Spanish), the prevalence of confederacies allying Indigenous groups, participation in wars (particularly the WWII Navajo code talkers), the changes horses brought to Indigenous society, forced migrations and massacres, attempts to assimilate Indigenous peoples into white society, prohibitions of Indigenous cultural activities, contemporary efforts toward reconciliation, and recognition of traditional knowledge. The tone is informative without becoming accusatory; indeed the facts (many of which will be new to young readers) speak clearly on their own. The choice of narrative style, inclusion of examples from all parts of North America, and an emphasis on personal stories over court decisions all result in a work that is highly accessible (and of interest) to a wide audience. Colorful, captioned illustrations (a mix of contemporary photographs, maps, and period reproductions) appear on almost every page, and numerous sidebars highlight topics of special interest. Framed with a discussion of the eagle and its importance to many Indigenous groups, Yellowhorn (a member of the Piikani Nation) and Lowinger have crafted a worthy and important addition to the historical record.
Sixth to eighth grade

I am Malala: How One Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai
The young reader’s edition of Malala Yousafzai’s 2013 memoir for adults loses none of its power in its transition to a new audience. At times earnest and somber, at others irreverent and playful, the 17-year-old details her experiences as an advocate for education in Pakistan—especially for women—both before and after she became a target of the Taliban. Although her efforts to attend school, and the subsequent attack she endured, make for a powerful story, Yousafzai writes just as vividly about her daily life as a child in Pakistan. As young readers draw parallels between their own lives and the everyday experiences of Yousafzai and her friends, they’ll gain invaluable perspective on a country so often stigmatized by the media. Yousafzai’s fresh, straightforward voice creates an easily read narrative that will introduce a slew of younger readers to both her story and her mission.
Recommended for the 2019 Stand Up Stand Out list by Gordon Middle Schoolers.

Pride: A Pride and Prejudice Remix by Ibi Aanu Zoboi
With a razor-sharp remix of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that deals in gentrification, racism, love, culture, and heritage, all helmed by intelligent teens in New York’s Bushwick neighborhood. From the first sentence, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood...” the reader can anticipate a creative, clever retelling. All the key elements of Austen’s beloved literary tome are here, from the five Benitez sisters, with differing opinions on love and dating, to Darius Darcy, the mysterious (and gorgeous) rich boy who just moved in across the street. Zuri Benitez pops with confidence, poetry, and, naturally, pride, and her transformation during the story will click with modern teens and culturally diverse readers, in particular. Afro-Latino and African American elements pulse throughout Zoboi’s fresh, imaginative, and honest rendition of a timeless classic, giving its enduring themes renewed relevance and appeal. (From the publisher)
Realistic fiction