World

Grade Level Interest
M
: Middle School (defined as grades 6-8).
S: Senior High (defined as grades 9-12).
A/YA: Adult-marketed book recommended for teens.

 

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Sixteen-year-old Palestinian-Australian Amal makes the decision to start wearing the hijab full-time and everyone has a reaction. Her parents, her teachers, her friends, people on the street. But she stands by her decision to embrace her faith and all that it is, even if it does make her a little different from everyone else. Can she handle the taunts of “towel head,” the prejudice of her classmates, and still attract the cutest boy in school? (M, S)

 

Aya by Marguerite Abouet

Ivory Coast, 1978. Family and friends gather at Aya’s house every evening to watch the country’s first television ad campaign promoting the fortifying effects of Solibra, “the strong man’s beer.” It’s a golden time, and the nation, too – an oasis of affluence and stability in West Africa – seems fueled by something wondrous. Who’s to know that the Ivorian miracle is nearing its end? In the sun-warmed streets of working-class Yopougon, aka Yop City, holidays are around the corner, the open-air bars and discos are starting to fill up, and trouble of a different kind is about to raise eyebrows. At night, an empty table in the market square under the stars is all the privacy young lovers can hope for, and what happens there is soon everybody’s business. (S)

 

Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez

Anita de la Torre never questioned her freedom living in the Dominican Republic. But by her 12th birthday in 1960, most of her relatives have emigrated to the United States, her Tío Toni has disappeared without a trace, and the government’s secret police terrorize her remaining family because of their suspected opposition of el Trujillo’s dictatorship. Using the strength and courage of her family, Anita must overcome her fears and fly to freedom, leaving all that she once knew behind. (M, S)

 

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

Kek comes from Africa where he lived with his mother, father, and brother. But only he and his mother have survived. Now she’s missing, and Kek has been sent to a new home. In America, he sees snow for the first time, and feels its sting. He wonders if the people in this new place will be like the winter—cold and unkind. But slowly he makes friends: a girl in foster care, an old woman with a rundown farm, and a sweet, sad cow that reminds Kek of home. As he waits for word of his mother’s fate, Kek weathers the tough Minnesota winter by finding warmth in his new friendships, strength in his memories, and belief in his new country. (M)

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Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine

Ling is very comfortable in her life; her parents are both dedicated surgeons in the best hospital in Wuhan. But when Comrade Li, one of Mao’s political officers, moves into a room in their apartment, Ling begins to witness the gradual disintegration of her world. In an atmosphere of increasing mistrust, Ling fears for the safety of her neighbors and, soon, for herself and family. Over the course of four years, Ling manages to grow and blossom, even as she suffers more horrors than many people face in a lifetime. (M, S)

 

Behind the Mountains by Edwidge Danticat

It is election time in Haiti, and bombs are going off in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. During a visit from her home in rural Haiti, Celiane Espérance and her mother are nearly killed. Looking at her country with new eyes, Celiane gains a fresh resolve to be reunited with her father in Brooklyn, New York. The harsh winter and concrete landscape of her new home are a shock to Celiane, who witnesses her parents’ struggle to earn a living, her brother’s uneasy adjustment to American society, and her own encounters with learning difficulties and school violence. (M, S)

 

Bindi Babes by Narinder Dhami

Meet Amber, Jazz, and Geena Dhillon—a.k.a. the Bindi Babes. They’re three fabulous sisters with a reputation for being the coolest, best-dressed girls at their school. But their classmates don’t know that the Dhillon sisters work hard to look perfect and together to all of their friends…while privately trying not to think how much they miss their mom, who died a year ago. What these struggling sisters certainly don’t need is an interfering auntie from India inviting herself into their household to cramp their style. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what their dad allows to happen. Soon Auntie is butting into every area of their lives. There’s only one way to be rid of her: marry her off to some unsuspecting guy. Will Amber, Jazz, and Geena find a man who can put up with Auntie before she completely ruins their lives? (M, S)

 

Samurai Shortstop by Alan Gratz

Tokyo, 1890. Toyo is caught up in the competitive world of boarding school, and must prove himself to make the team in a new sport called besuboru. But he grieves for his uncle, a samurai who sacrificed himself for his beliefs, at a time when most of Japan is eager to shed ancient traditions. It’s only when his father decides to teach him the way of the samurai that Toyo grows to better understand his uncle and father. And to his surprise, the warrior training guides him to excel at baseball, a sport his father despises as yet another modern Western menace. Toyo searches desperately for a way to prove there is a place for his family’s samurai values in modern Japan. Baseball might just be the answer, but will his father ever accept a “Western” game that stands for everything he despises? (M, S)

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Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With You by Hanna Jansen

Eight-year-old Jeanne was the only one of her family to survive the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Then a German family adopted her, and her adoptive mother now tells Jeanne’s story in a compelling fictionalized biography that stays true to the traumatized child’s bewildered viewpoint. (S)

 

Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan

Jameela lives with her mother and father in Afghanistan. Despite the fact that there is no school in their poor, war-torn village, and though Jameela lives with a birth defect that has left her with a cleft lip, she feels relatively secure, sustained by her unwavering faith and the strength of her beloved mother, Mor. But when Mor suddenly dies, Jameela’s father impulsively decides to seek a new life in Kabul. Jameela, a devout Muslim, is appalled as her father succumbs to drink and drugs and then suddenly remarries, a situation that turns Jameela into a virtual slave to her demanding stepmother. (S)

 

Sold by Patricia McCormick

Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school, and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family’s crops, Lakshmi’s stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family. He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India and arrives at “Happiness House” full of hope. But she soon learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution. (S)

 

Zazoo by Richard Mosher

Zazoo lives with her adoptive grandfather, who brought her from Vietnam to his village in France when she was just two years old. They have many things in common, including a love of poetry—and a tangled history that Zazoo is only now beginning to understand. She has always known that Grand-Pierre was involved in World War II, but not what that meant, and she never imagined that he had fought in Vietnam. A boy who rides his bicycle into her village one morning asks a question from which many stories begin to unfold. The bicycle boy, Marius, and the middle-aged local pharmacist turn out to have surprising connections with Zazoo and Grand-Pierre. (M, S)

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A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

Tree-ear is fascinated by the celedon ware created in the village of Ch’ulp’o in medieval Korea. He is determined to prove himself to the master potter, Min—even if it means making a solitary journey to present Min’s work in the hope of a royal commission…or arriving at the royal court with nothing but a single celadon shard. (M)

 

Keeper by Mal Peet

When Paul Faustino flips on his tape recorder for an exclusive interview with El Gato — the phenomenal goalkeeper who single-handedly brought his team the World Cup — the seasoned reporter quickly learns that this will be no ordinary story. Instead, the legendary El Gato narrates a spellbinding tale that begins in the South American rainforest, where a ghostly but very real mentor, the Keeper, emerges to teach a poor, gawky boy the most thrilling secrets of the game. (S)

 

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins

Chiko isn’t a fighter by nature. He’s a book-loving Burmese boy whose father, a doctor, is in prison for resisting the government. Tu Reh, on the other hand, wants to fight for freedom after watching Burmese soldiers destroy his Karenni family’s home and bamboo fields. Timidity becomes courage and anger becomes compassion as each boy is changed by unlikely friendships formed under extreme circumstances. (M, S)

 

Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai

The setting is Sri Lanka, 1980, and it is the season of monsoons. Fourteen-year-old Amrith is caught up in the life of the cheerful, well-to-do household in which he is being raised by his vibrant Auntie Bundle and kindly Uncle Lucky. He tries not to think of his life “before,” when his doting mother was still alive. Amrith’s holiday plans seem unpromising: he wants to appear in his school’s production of Othello and he is learning to type at Uncle Lucky’s tropical fish business. Then, like an unexpected monsoon, his cousin arrives from Canada and Amrith’s ordered life is storm-tossed. (S)

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Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth

Leela has been spoiled all her life. She doesn’t care for school and barely marks the growing unrest between the British colonists and her own countrymen. Why should she? Her future has been planned since her engagement at two and marriage at nine. Leela’s whole life changes, though, when her husband dies. She’s now expected to behave like a proper widow: shaving her head and trading her jewel-toned saris for rough, earth-colored ones. Leela is considered unlucky now, and will have to stay confined to her house for a year—keep corner—in preparation for a life of mourning for a boy she barely knew. When her schoolteacher hears of her fate, she offers Leela lessons at home. For the first time, despite her confinement, Leela opens her eyes to the changing world around her. She learns about a new leader of the people, a man named Gandhi, whose quiet strength may liberate her country. Could she use the same path to liberate herself? (M, S)

 

Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples

Life is both sweet and cruel to strong-willed young Shabanu, whose home is the windswept Cholistan Desert of Pakistan. The second daughter in a family with no sons, she’s been allowed freedoms forbidden to most Muslim girls. But when a tragic encounter with a wealthy and powerful landowner ruins the marriage plans of her older sister, Shabanu is called upon to sacrifice everything she’s dreamed of. Should she do what is necessary to uphold her family’s honor—or listen to the stirrings of her own heart? (M, S)

 

Chanda’s Secrets by Alan Stratton

The statistics of the millions infected with HIV/AIDS in southern Africa find a human face in this gripping story of one teenager, Chanda Kabele, who sees the disease threaten her family and community. Chanda’s stepfather and baby stepbrother died of the disease. Now Mama may have it. No one will talk about the cause. Is Chandra infected? (S)

 

Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman

Fifteen-year-old Vidya dreams of going to college— an unusual aspiration for a girl living in British-occupied India during World War II. Then tragedy strikes, and Vidya and her brother are forced to move into a traditional household with their extended family, where women are meant to be married, not educated. Breaking the rules, Vidya finds refuge in her grandfather’s library. But then her brother does something unthinkable, and Vidya’s life becomes a whirlwind of political and personal complications. The question is, will she be strong enough to survive? (M, S)

 

My Name is Number Four by Ting-Xing Ye

Number Four will have a difficult life. These are the words that were uttered upon Ting-xing Ye’s birth. Soon this prophecy would prove only too true…Here is the real-life story about the fourth child in a family torn apart by China’s Cultural Revolution. After the death of both of her parents, Ting-xing and her siblings endured brutal Red Guard attacks on their schools and even in their home. At the age of sixteen, Ting-xing is exiled to a prison farm far from the world she knows. This is her personal account of living through a horrific period in history. (S)

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