Book Talk

BOOK TALK! Great titles for kids and teens

February 21, 2019

It’s time for my annual West Hollywood Children’s Roundtable BOOK TALK! For Memory Balloonsover 20 years, the City of West Hollywood has hosted a gathering of people from schools, organizations, and government agencies who actively support children/teens and families. These monthly get-togethers, September to May, are ripe with information and ideas, including this annual book talk. With the City staff, we select key relevant topics, and I am given a budget to purchase titles that will be timely and significant for these groups. Then, this year on Thursday, February 21, I have the pleasure and honor for engaging the attendees in a dive into wonderful literature (fiction and nonfiction) that inform, inspire, and ignite youth and adults to think and to act. All the books are given away — what a joy!!


Granddaddy’s Turn – A Journey to the Ballot Box, by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein, Candlewick, 2019 — The struggle for voting rights by African Americans is far from over in 2019. Based on a true story, this is a view into the past as we still work to set things right today.

The Nowhere Girls, by Amy Reed, Simon Pulse, 2017 – When the new girl in town becomes curious about why the family who lived in her house moved away, she unveils a story of sexual harassment and abuse by high school boys who seem to get away with this behavior, again and again. A novel about girls coming together to say, “no more” and holding those accountable for horrific actions. (A full blog on this book can be found HERE.)

Our Stories, Our Voices—21 YA Authors get Real about Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America, edited by Amy Reed, Simon Pulse, 2018 – A wide swath of personal stories as 21 authors reflect on their early lives of growing up female in America. The book is also a call to action, to participate in our government and letting our own voices be heard.

Rad Girls Can—Stories of Bold, Brave, and Brilliant Young Women, by Katie Schatz, Ten Speed Press, 2018 – First came Rad Women Worldwide, and now this title with stories of girls before the age of 20 who are rad as can be. Again, we meet gals from around the world, who have made a mark in music, politics, sports, discovery, and history. The book also includes stories from across the gender identification spectrum. A real eye opener about what is going on in the minds and lives of children and young adults.

Someday is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma Sit-Ins, by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Seagrass Press, 2018 – A teacher, Clara Luper brought the story of Black History into her classroom. And she wrote a play for her students to enact, and then traveled cross- country sharing the stories. During their touring they saw first-hand the inequity and injustice that plagued people of color. The issues of achieving equity today are built on the lives of those who came before – Clara Luper, a prime example.

Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice, by Marianne Celano, Magination Press, 2018 – All too often children know about the tragedies and challenges that face society and it’s the adults who are uncertain as to how to have a conversation and listen. This book provides an essential opening to discussing a police shooting of a Black man in a community. Two families – one White, one Black – guides an understanding of such traumatic events, to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives. There is an extensive section for adults with guidelines for discussing race and racism with children.

Trell – Nothing But the Truth, by Dick Lehr, Candlewick, 2019 – Based on a event in Boston that occurred in the late 1980s, a young African-American man is charged for killing an innocent victim in a gang-related incident. In novel form, a reporter who covered the story, shows how the imprisoned man’s daughter sought help from a lawyer and reporter to prove her father’s innocence.


And She Was, by Jessica Verdi, Scholastic 2018 – Dara’s life with her single mom, Mellie, was and she waspredictable until she discovered, at eighteen, her never-before-seen birth certificate. With her world imploding, Dara confronts her mother and learns what she had no reason to expect: Mellie is transgender. A road trip with her best friend, Sam, seems the only way to find answers. The back matter includes an author’s note and resources for readers.

Introducing Teddy—a gentle story about gender and friendship, by Jessica Walton, Bloomsbury, 2016 – A teddy bear confides to their human friend, Errol, that Teddy is not the right name, it’s Tilly! And Errol values the friendship with Tilly all the same.

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, Candlewick, 2018. With flowing illustrations, Julián is a Mermaid captures the individuality and imagination of a child following his heart. When a young boy sees people on a train dressed as mermaids, he says that he is also a mermaid and creates a costume from all that he finds in his home. When his abuela sees him, she too celebrates the joy, and takes Julián to a festival where costumes abound!

PRIDE Celebrating Diversity & Community, by Robin Stevenson, Orca Books, 2016 – The history of PRIDE comes to life as a celebration of people and identity, and the building over community over decades. A true celebration!

What If It’s Us? by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, Harper Teen, 2018 – Already in the cue to become a major rom-com movie, we have two 11th graders who “meet cute” in NYC and the adventure ensues. Arthur is in NYC for the summer; Ben is mailing a box of memorabilia to his ex. This is a lovely story of two guys who finally find each other (again) and go through the normal expected relationship issues that teens experience, with exes and friends, and making the most of the moment, and leaving. Finally, a YA novel where families accept their sons, and friends just love each other, and drama (and comedy) happens.


A New Home (also Un Nuevo Hogar), by Tania de Regil, Candlewick, 2019 – What is it like to move to a new city? For young children there are many questions. Where will I play? What will I eat? With parallel illustrations of scenes in Mexico City and New York City, children can find similarities that remind us of what we all share in making a new home.    

The Fox Hunt: A Refugee’s Memoir of Coming to America, by Mohammed Al Samawi, William The Fox HuntMorrow, 2018 – Mohammed does escape from Yemen, however the story that leads up to this daring escape provides a deep lens into the political and civil unrest that threatens all forms of stability. What made this young devout Muslim curious about other religions, and want to meet Jews and Israelis. How did he negotiate travel to interfaith conferences, and return with the intention of changing the hearts and minds of Yeminis? And why did a group of Jews and Christians take a chance on Mohammed – and what role did Facebook play? A must read – and one to share with others. Numerous videos with Mohammed and his friends can be found online.

We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World by Malala Yousafzai, Little, Brown Books, 2019 – Malala brings to life the plight of refugees and displaced people today and how girls are especially in danger. Even in these circumstances, Malala finds hope in the face of trauma.

We are Here to Stay by Susan Kuklin, Candlewick, 2019 – Nine young adults came to America, each with a story of overcoming major challenges – fleeing violence, escaping poverty – seeking education and safety. Now, due to the current political situation in the US, these nine stories are told anonymously, no longer safe in the country that gives them hope.



The Remember Balloons, by Jessie Oliveros, Simon & Schuster, 2018 – Balloons are where we keep our memories, according to this lovely picture book. When Grandpa’s balloons start to float away, his grandson doesn’t understand. Even when the child races to catch them, they are gone. Suddenly the boy has more balloons, even a few that he shares with Grandpa, “So I climb into Grandpa’s lap and begin telling him about my new balloons.”


Me, Myselfie & I, a Cautionary Tale by Jamie Lee Curtis, Feiwel and Friends, 2018 – A smartphone birthday gift to Mom comes with a lesson on how to do a selfie. Wow! Does this go out of control! For everyone who gets obsessed with how many “likes’ they get in a day, this one is for you! Clever and with a purpose.

Please send comments, questions, and ideas to

Grateful for these opportunities to connect and grow.


Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A., is an educator/author who loves to dance, travel, take walks, read, write, and collaborate with others all over the world

Please note — ordering books through our ABCD Books Catalogue is no longer available; however, to place book orders, email and we can assist you, promptly!

Catch my latest podcast HERE.


April 14, 2019 — One day Advisory Workshop in NYC sponsored by the New York State Association of Independent Schools and open to ALL educators

March 29-31, 2019 — NESA Conference in Bangkok

July 15-18, 2019 – Join us in UPstate NY for the Advisory and Service Learning Summer Institute, at Carey Conference Center outside Albany. Sponsored by the New York State Association of Independent Schools and open to ALL educators; I love leading this indepth experience where we all catapult to great heights, together!


November 7-8, 2019 – Two Day Service Learning Workshop in Vienna : DEVELOPING INTERNATIONAL MINDEDNESS & PROMOTING STUDENT ACTION

More dates soon! Contact and check out the Calendar on this website.

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