The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
One in a skirt and one with a lighter.
One moment that would forever change their lives.
The 57 Bus by Sashka Slater is a powerful book about two teenagers growing up in Oakland, CA. Sasha, an agender teenager, attends a small private school, while Richard, a black teenager, attends Oakland High School. The two cross paths for a few minutes everyday on the 57 bus. Based on true events, Richard sets Sasha on fire one day during those few minutes together on the bus one fall day. Slater does a remarkable job of telling this story of a hate crime, which turned into forgiveness and growth.. It is truly one of the most moving books I’ve read in a really long time and will be eye opening for any high school class.
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs
One of the most unique books that I’ve ever come across during my teaching is Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs. In this book we learn about Rama and her family as they leave war-torn Syria and find refuge in Europe. What’s incredible about this story is it’s raw, heartfelt story writing. You can feel the pain and the hardship that Rama and her family are experiencing.
One of the most powerful things about this book is its pictures. The artist, Nizar Ali Badr, a Syrian native, uses rock formations to create the pictures for this book. They are beautiful and they are powerful.
Another unique thing about this book is that it is written in both English and in Arabic. And interesting enough, the first place I ever learned about this book was at the Illinois Holocaust Museum while I was on a field trip with my students. It is an eye-opening book that teaches about the hardship that Rama and her family go through, but also sheds a light on the hardships that so many people in our world experience. It is a book that I feel passionately about. It is a book that I share with my students every year. And it is a book that I hope finds home in your classroom library.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
I first heard about Bryan Stevenson and Just Mercy from my husband, who was required to read the book for his job as a high school history teacher. In late 2017 I even had the opportunity to hear the author speak at his high school, and I left feeling inspired, but I have to be honest, I did nothing with that inspiration.
I hadn’t thought much about Just Mercy since then, until I attended the National Council for the Social Studies conference in Austin, TX this past November. One of the vendors was selling their books for $5 at the end of the conference, so I picked up a few, including Just Mercy- Adapted for Young Adults.
Once I started reading Bryan Stevenson’s words, I couldn’t stop. Somehow reading them impacted me even more than hearing Stevenson in person. I became angry and frustrated with the way people are treated in our country. I wondered how I could help. I prayed for those who are incarcerated and on death row. My mind was racing.
This book is one that belongs in every middle school in America. It would be a great one to read with students during January (to deepen the discussion around the work and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.) or February (to tie to Black History Month). Or honestly, any time of the year. We need students to read and learn about the injustices in our world. We need to teach them that they are more than the worst thing they have done, and so are those people who we marginalize. We need them to get fired up, so that big change can happen.
To learn more about Just Mercy and the work Bryan Stevenson is doing, listen to his TED Talk here.
Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson
Most teachers right now are looking at their classroom libraries and evaluating the diversity of their books. If you’re looking for a book to add to your classroom library I suggest Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson. This is a great book that follows the life of Carter G. Woodson who is the founder of the Negro History Week, which later became Black History Month. Through this story students will learn about Carter and his love of history and learning. They will learn how Carter spent his life researching, learning, and preserving the history of blacks in America.
To grab this book click here to be connected with Semicolon Bookstore. Semicolon is a black owned, Chicago based bookstore, which I would like to support.
*Please note, I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. For the month of June, I will be donating any proceeds to a local Chicago BLM organization.