Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2022) Featured Review of Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the field nomination form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. 

Each week, the teams will feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation will be listed as well. At year’s end, the team will use that list of nominated titles to select a final list and Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are also made available on The Hub.


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Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston; narrated by Imani Parks
Balzer + Bray
Release date: 19 January 2021
ISBN: 9780063057968

In this first book of the Supernatural Investigations series, the story begins with Amari Peters being called into the principal’s office on the last day of school and having her scholarship rescinded for physically responding to online and in-person bullying. As her summer begins, Amari Peters is grounded and her personal device is taken away as she struggles with how to continue searching for her missing brother, Quinton. She gets a mysterious delivery that leads her to join a summer camp, gain a best friend, and find her brother.

The narrator does an exceptional job channeling Amari’s character and her frustrations with learning to accept her various social identities instead of comparing herself to her brother. The audiobook captures the world-building and fast-paced adventure aspects of the story well. 

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Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2022) Featured Review of This is Not a Ghost Story by Andrea Portes

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the field nomination form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. 

Each week, the teams will feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation will be listed as well. At year’s end, the team will use that list of nominated titles to select a final list and Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are also made available on The Hub.


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This is Not a Ghost Story by Andrea Portes
HarperTeen / Harper Collins
Publication Date: November 17, 2020
ISBN: 978-0062422446

Daffodil doesn’t have a typical plan for the summer before her Freshman year of college. Instead of hanging out with friends or traveling, she agrees to house-sit all alone in a creepy mansion. As the summer progresses, things in the house get progressively stranger and more sinister, and Daffodil can’t ignore that there is something evil about the house. Will she be able to discover the house’s secret before it’s too late? 

This is Not a Ghost Story is a quick-paced read that delves into the action of the story quickly with short chapters that keep the story moving. Told from a first-person, stream-of-consciousness point of view, teens will appreciate that the voice actually sounds like a teenager. The mystery of the story is compelling and will keep teens guessing until the twist ending.  

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Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2022) Featured Review of Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the field nomination form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. 

Each week, the teams will feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation will be listed as well. At year’s end, the team will use that list of nominated titles to select a final list and Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are also made available on The Hub.


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Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado
Holiday House
Publication Date: February 2, 2021
ISBN: 978-0823447176 

Meet Charlie Vega, half Puerto Rican in a white Connecticut town, proudly body-positive (or trying to be) despite her mother’s fat-shaming, and never been kissed. Charlie is best known as the best friend of Amelia, who is intelligent, beautiful, and all-around amazing in every way. When a cute coworker takes an interest in her, Charlie might finally be seen for herself instead of the fat girl standing in Amelia’s perfect shadow. But Charlie has been comparing herself to her BFF for years, and old habits die hard. Can Charlie throw off mistrust and self-doubt and learn to love herself first?

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An Interview with 2021 Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist John Rocco

YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction is awarded each year, chosen from a field of 5 finalists (2021: Candace Fleming’s The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh). This top five represents the best of the best in nonfiction, each of them handily able to rival the most action-driven novel for engagement and intrigue. These titles, however, also aim to inform, to reveal, and to enlighten.

How We Got to the Moon by John Rocco

John Rocco’s How We Got to the Moon (also a 2021 Sibert honoree) is remarkable on all those counts. It is also the only finalist this year where the author is also the artist. Rocco’s Blackout was a 2021 Caldecott Honor title, and his work has seen wide circulation via the Percy Jackson titles, for which he created the covers. Besides the sheer beauty of his work, in How We Got to the Moon, Rocco uses the art to teach, to tell the whole story of what it took to successful send astronauts to the moon and return them safely. It is a compelling story, full of narrative details to keep the pages turning; however, it is also a highly effective series of lessons in science and mathematics and engineering.

Thanks to John for sparing the time for this interview and for his wonderful book. To hear more from John and the other four finalists, click here to watch the Virtual Excellence in Nonfiction Celebration.


author John Rocco

THE HUB: The thing that might surprise readers is that you drew every illustration in the book. Despite a wealth of primary source documents and photos, you decided the illustrations should all be drawn. What lead to that decision?

ROCCO: I’ve seen many books that use mixtures of photographs and diagrams and maybe one or two illustrations scattered throughout, and I always felt there was a bit of a disconnect. I think for kids, especially when you’re handling such complex information, having it created all in one style and by one hand, gives it much better accessibility.

When you’re looking at historic events, like the Apollo program, there are so many fantastic photographs. They documented everything! But a lot of it was in black and white, and you’re seeing a photograph of a bunch of people working on a rocket, or the astronauts, and it’s hard to place yourself in that world. There’s a wall there. That is something that happened back then. And I wanted to create a book where you’re going through it in real time, so you’re in it. I think it’s a lot easier for readers to suspend their disbelief with that feeling of being part of the process, and I think that can be done with illustrations. So I had to just decide, OK, I’m going to illustrate this whole thing.

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An Interview with 2021 Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist Elizabeth Rusch

YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction is awarded each year, chosen from a field of 5 finalists (2021: Candace Fleming’s The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh). This year’s finalists covered a wide range: the space race, an international rescue, the memoir of a genocide survivor, and a biography of a complex figure in the narrative of the United States. But none is more immediate and practical than You Call THIS Democracy? by Elizabeth Rusch.

This primer on “how to fix our government and deliver power to the people” is clear and thought-provoking, delivering lessons and suggestions in accessible and meaningful ways. And in this interview, she expands on some of those lessons, reminding us that we all have a part to play in forming a more perfect union. With great thanks to Liz for this book and for her time in answering our questions!

author Elizabeth Rusch

THE HUB: Nonfiction titles such as You Call THIS Democracy? often make use of infographics and other visual features. These feel particularly effective, and I wonder how that process of design worked for you. How involved were you in the book’s design and graphic elements? How do you feel about the interplay between the text and the graphics?

ER: When I envisioned You Call THIS Democracy? I knew I wanted some powerful visuals. Sometimes readers need to see something to understand it. For instance, when I made the point that politicians draw bizarre voting district maps to manipulate the outcome of elections, I thought it was important for readers to see examples of these strange maps. 

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An Interview with 2021 Morris Award finalist Isabel Ibañez, author of Woven in Moonlight

The William C. Morris Award is awarded each year to a debut YA publication. After considering the wealth of excellence each year, the committee selects 5 finalists, announced in December. From these, the winner is chosen (2021: Kyrie McCauley’s If These Wings Could Fly) though all of the finalists demonstrate unique greatness in every page.

Finalist Isabel Ibañez has lots of talents, and in her debut Woven in Moonlight, she puts them all to excellent use. From art to storytelling, Ibañez delivers a complete package full of action, emotion, and history. As she builds this rich and beautiful world, she helps readers build empathy and understanding.

author Isabel Ibañez

We are grateful to Isabel for her book, her voice, and her art! We are also grateful for the time she granted for this thoughtful and fascinating interview!


The Hub: Woven in Moonlight is a celebration of the senses: smells, colors, sounds, food! What was your motivation behind including all those sensorial experiences?

II: I don’t want to assume, but I don’t know of any other YA author who is Bolivian, so when I was drafting this book, I felt this awareness that for a lot of people this would be an introduction to Bolivia. I wanted to do Bolivia justice because I grew up going there, and my whole family is from there. My brother and I were the only ones born in the United States. It’s where my grandparents are, and I have something like 27 first cousins. I love Bolivia. I know the way it smells, how it tastes, the food, I love the art, and I can see myself walking down these streets because it’s like another home for me. 

The decision to include all those details is because I wanted people to experience it the way I experience it. Woven in Moonlight is a profoundly personal story, so deeply tied to my lived experience, my culture, what you would see on our dinner table, the politics and the history – all of it was really influential in writing this book.

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Graphic Novels and Comics to Enjoy for Black History Month — or anytime!

Thanks to YALSA member Annierra Matthews, a Research Services Librarian at Mercer University, for compiling this collection of excellent graphic novels and comics featuring Black characters and/or produced by Black creators. Click here for the fiction collection she curated earlier this month.


Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St.-Onge, Joy San, and Genevieve FT

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St.-Onge, Joy San, and Genevieve FT: Hazel and Mari fall in love with each other at church bingo in ’63. Torn apart by others around them, they can’t be together. Years later, they meet again at bingo and find the bravery to share their love with the world.

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An Interview with 2021 Excellence in Nonfiction Winner Candace Fleming

Candace Fleming is no stranger to accolades. Her work has been lauded by numerous outlets over the years, and this year, she was honored for her work on two books: Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera (winner of the 2021 Sibert Medal) and The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh (winner of YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction).

The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candace Fleming

We are so grateful to Candace Fleming for this thought-provoking book and for her time as she prepared these remarks for us, some of which were included in her speech at the 2021 Excellence in Nonfiction Celebration. Weren’t able to attend live? YALSA recorded it! You can find the video here.


THE HUB: Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Charles Lindbergh is not an admirable figure, and some would argue that to make him the subject of a biography is to elevate his abhorrent views. Why drew you to him as a research subject? What would you say to those who might challenge the “need” for such a book?

FLEMING: I believe I wrote an honest biography of Charles Lindbergh, a thorough and well-researched telling of his life that puts it in context. I wanted readers to consider who he was, and whether he deserves to be elevated or lowered in the eyes of history. Biographies aren’t written just to elevate the lives of people we admire.  They’re also meant to tell us what happened – honestly and fully.  They’re meant to show how people from history fit into our times.  And Lindbergh certainly fits into our times.  It was current events that compelled me to write this book.  Echoes of his past had become part of my daily present –political rallies seething with rage, attacks on the press, xenophobia, racism, America First.  Sounds familiar, huh?

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An Interview with 2021 Morris Award Winner Kyrie McCauley

Awarded the 2021 Morris Award, Kyrie McCauley’s If These Wings Could Fly takes an honest and unflinching look at domestic violence and the trauma imposed upon children in those situations. Both the book and our interview below address the issue, which we acknowledge may be difficult for some readers. If you, or someone you know, is in need of support or more information related to family violence, please visit McCauley’s website, where she has thoughtfully gathered resources on the subject. Thank you to Kyrie for this beautiful book and for her time in responding to our questions.

If These Wings Could Fly by Kyrie McCauley

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Black History is American History – Classroom Connections

This month, as we honor and celebrate Black History, we also recognize that Black History is not a box to be checked during the month of February alone. Black History is American History, and these resources are critical to the conversation, this month and every month of the year.

YALSA’s 2021 Excellence in Nonfiction Celebration is tonight (click here to register), and a booktalk event featuring the full list of nominated titles will take place on February 24. On that list is the excellent Lifting as we Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box by Evette Dionne.

Lifting As We Climb by Evette Dionne

This Coretta Scott King honoree focuses on the vital and often overlooked role of Black Women in the Suffrage Movement and connects the dots from the abolition of slavery to women’s suffrage, on to the civil rights movement and today’s activism, where women were and continue to be necessary and significant leaders.

The Library of Congress Born in Slavery collection offers digitized narratives collected as part of the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) in the New Deal-era Work Projects Administration (WPA). These oral histories and photographs preserve the first person accounts of formerly enslaved people.

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