This past December, we released our second annual “First Book Title Raves,” a comprehensive list of 15 titles published in 2019 that earned recognition from First Book’s network of over 450,000 educators who serve kids in need.
This list is curated based on five-star educator reviews on the First Book Marketplace that cite the greatest impact on children in need — expanding world views, sparking a love of reading, or facilitating safe discussions around sensitive, relevant topics.
These stories play a critical role in demonstrating the growing need for diverse, inclusive books in classrooms serving kids in need, as 11 of 15 books on the 2019 list are included in First Book’s “Stories for All” section of the First Book Marketplace, a collection of thousands of titles that reflect diversity of race, ethnicity, religion, family structure, neighborhoods, and more.
First Book Title Raves (listed in alphabetical order by author, with the educator’s review):
With the First on High, by Elizabeth Acevedo
“I love the way [Acevedo] writes. It is always honest and very true of the way our kids speak and feel today. This young lady is struggling as a single mom while being a senior in high school. She pushes herself to focus on her dream of being a chef. The cover is beautiful. The recipes inside are wonderful to read. I loved the story.”—Haley L.
“Internment,” by Samira Ahmed
“This was by far, one of the best books I have ever read! It is definitely for a YA crowd who is willing to be challenged on their beliefs of what is right and wrong under the umbrella of government. The author creates vivid and relatable characters who draw you in to the book and don’t let you leave. I could not put it down! I have already given my copy out to a student and had 3 others literally running to the Library to get their hands on it. Internment is amazing!”—Amy G.
“The Undefeated,” by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
“The team of Alexander and Nelson have created a lyrical and visual masterpiece of history. “I passed it on to my principal, who then took it home to her husband. When I can I will purchase a copy for as many classrooms as I can. Absolutely stunning. You can hear and see the souls of everyone highlighted in this book. A must buy for your classroom and school library.” —Soraya L.
“Mango Moon,” by Diane de Anda, illustrated by Sue Cornelison
“Mango Moon is an emotional and relatable story of loss, hope, and perseverance as told from a child’s point of view for others going through a difficult time. It is a wonderful addition to school counselors and classroom libraries.”—Eloise C.
“Dreams from Many Rivers: A Hispanic History of the United States Told in Poems,” by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Beatriz Gutierrez Hernandez
“Such a beautifully written and thoughtful book. Not only does it highlight under-represented voices in history, but does so with narrative poetry that’s accessible to students. A must for every library!”—Abby S.
“Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson’s Journal,” by Jeff Kinney
“Can’t keep this book on the shelf. Many of the students don’t have the money to buy the newest books. [First Book’s] Awesome Friendly prices allowed me to put several copies in the library. Small steps can change lives.” —Mary L.
“Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist,” by Julie Leung, illustrated by Chris Sasaki
“Paper Son is a beautifully illustrated biography of the artist Tyrus Wong. Not every student likes to read biographies, but this book effectively drew the students in with its ‘just right’ balance of beauty and factual information.”—Steve W.
“National Geographic Kids Encyclopedia of American Indian History and Culture,” by Cynthia O’Brien
“This text is organized by tribe and is full of beautiful photography. It helps to dispel some of the stereotypes that students have. We have already discussed it in conjunction with social studies classes and [English] classes.”—Heather J.
“White Bird: A Wonder Story,” by R.J. Palacio
“A beautiful story about friendship and kindness that moved me to tears multiple times!”—Jeanette S.
“My Papi Has a Motorcycle,” by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña
“I’m always looking for books that show a positive father/daughter relationship and this one hits the nail on the head. Plus great representation for my Hispanic students!”—Sara B.
“Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks,” by Jason Reynolds
“This book is great for thinking about how we sometimes pre-judge people’s motives. It’s got a strong message about considering the battles we might not know people are facing.”—Kristin K.
“Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You,” by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael López
“This book is one of a kind. Every page introduces a new child with something that makes them different and discusses the unique way they live or learn. It names disabilities, explains them in a child-friendly way, and asks a question to connect everyone to the character on the page. I’ve told everyone I know about this book and cannot recommend it enough!”—Christine H.
“It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity,” by Theresa Thorn, illustrated by Noah Grigni
“While I love books with stories and allegories…, at times, readers need a straightforward explanation that helps them understand new concepts. This book provides just that. I also loved the inclusive illustrations that included a variety of gender expressions, family structures, and a young hijabi character, as well as a named character who uses a wheelchair. It’s a great book for building key awareness and vocabulary!”—Becky L.
The Pigeon HAS to Go to School!,” by Mo Willems
“Mo Willems has once again written an engaging and fun book for the prek-2 grade crowd. He has the pigeon work through all of the anxieties children (and teachers) have about starting school…Well done!”—Donna R.
“Astro Girl,” by Ken Wilson-Max
“My female students loved seeing that girls can be anything that they want. Sends a very positive message to both girls and boys.”—Joseph C.
If you’re an educator serving children in need, visit the First Book Marketplace to find more quality books worth raving about, and leave your own review!