There’s some darn good writing going on in the books that made this list. There’s something for everyone. In addition to traditional prose novels, there’s also a graphic novel and a book written in verse, both Newbery winners. There’s a National Book Award finalist and two Coretta Scott King honor books. My personal favorite is Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick, another exceptional writer. Dig in, because these books are too good to miss.
Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick
Soon after Zane arrives in New Orleans to visit his grandmother, Hurricane Katrina hits. While leaving town, Zane’s dog jumps out of the car and Zane chases him all the way back to the house. When the levy breaks he’s forced into the attic. He’s rescued by a man in a canoe who takes him on a whirlwind tour of the hurricane’s destruction.
The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon
Caleb Franklin doesn’t want to be ordinary. Maybe that’s why he’s so easily taken with cool kid Styx Malone. Styx is a foster kid with street smarts and a never-ending supply of candy cigarettes. He has a knack for sweet talking and making deals. He introduces the boys to the concept of the escalator trade, convincing them that a bag of fireworks can eventually lead to a bike.
Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds
10 kids on their way home from school. Jasmine good-naturedly ridicules TJ for always having huge boogers in his nose. A group of pick-pockets buy some penny candy then resell it for a profit. The bully Marcus recruits Stevie to jump Pia. Gregory Pitts stinks and his classmates spray him down with cologne so he can ask a girl out. And on it goes. Clever storytelling.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (Written in verse)
Twin brothers, Josh and Jordan, are the stars of their school’s basketball team. The boys do everything together until Jordan gets a girlfriend and starts spending all his time with her. When Josh reaches his tipping point, he balls Jordan hard in the face during a game. He’s suspended from the team which threatens his chances of playing in the championship game.
Ghost Boys by Jewel Parker Rhodes
Jerome is just a kid when he is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for the real thing. Now he is a ghost, forced to witness the aftermath of the tragedy, the reaction of his family and the court proceedings. He is angry and wants his life back. The only person who can sense his presence is the police officer’s daughter.
New Kid by Jerry Craft (Graphic novel)
Jordan is an African-American boy with successful middle class parents. They only want the best for him, so they enroll him in a rich kid’s prep school. It’s not easy being the only black kid in an all-white school, but with a little trial and error, Jordan makes it work. Winner of the 2020 Newbery award.
Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth
Jarrett’s mom takes in foster babies, but this time, the baby’s older brother is coming too. Kevon will be sharing Jarrett’s room and neither one of them is thrilled. Jarrett is already dealing with summer school, a girl he’s trying to impress, a movie trailer he’s filming with his friends, and his mom’s boyfriend. Now he must share his mom with another kid his own age.
Courage by Barbara Binns
T’Shawn is excited to discover that he loves diving. He’s not excited to learn that his brother is being released from prison early. All he needs is for his brother to get back with a gang and start causing trouble, ruining his chances with the diving team.
Clean Getaway by Nic Stone
Scoob is grounded, so when his white grandmother shows up with an RV and tells him to get in, he’s happy to oblige. His grandmother wants to recreate the trip she took with her black husband many years earlier to expose Scoob to the racism she experienced as a white woman marrying a black man in the south.