The Cover Wars

When Wesley Boone writes a poem for his high school English class, some of his classmates clamor to read their poems aloud too. Soon they’re having weekly poetry sessions and, one by one, the eighteen students are opening up and taking on the risky challenge of self-revelation. There’s Lupe Alvarin, desperate to have a baby so she will feel loved. Raynard Patterson, hiding a secret behind his silence. Porscha Johnson, needing an outlet for her anger after her mother OD’s. Through the poetry they share and narratives in which they reveal their most intimate thoughts about themselves and one another, their words and lives show what lies beneath the skin, behind the eyes, beyond the masquerade.

Jane: Oh WOW, I love this new cover! Nikki Grimes is an incredible talent who regularly makes poetry exciting and accessible, drawing in even the most reluctant poetry readers. Her words are real and authentic, and challenge the feeling many students develop that poetry is the realm of dead white people, stuffy and meaningless and as far removed from their daily realities as could be. This cover is so vibrant, it thrums with energy, and I love that it shows a male POC teen on the cover – YA isn’t just for girls, folks, and nor is poetry! Love, love, LOVE.

Nafiza: YES PLEASE. I really need to get on board with this board. I love the cover, I love the premise. I want to read it now.

Yash: I was just trying to figure out what was unusual about this cover, but Jane got to it first–there’s a boy of colour on the cover and it doesn’t obstruct his face or portray him as a silhouette. I just love this cover. And the synopsis is so compelling. I’m pretty sure we have this in our store and I’m pretty sure I’m gonna buy it.

The kidnapping and murder of Emmett Till is famous as a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old Black teenager from Chicago, was visiting family in a small town in Mississippi during the summer of 1955. Likely showing off to friends, Emmett allegedly whistled at a white woman. Three days later his brutally beaten body was found floating in the Tallahatchie River. The extreme violence of the crime put a national spotlight on the Jim Crow ways of the South, and many Americans-Black and white-were further outraged at the speedy trial of the white murderers.  Although the two white men were tried and acquitted by an all-white jury, they later bragged publicly about the crime. It was a galvanizing moment for Black leaders and ordinary citizens, including such activists as Rosa Parks.  In clear, vivid detail Chris Crowe investigates the before-and-aftermath of the crime, as well as the dramatic court trial, and places it into the context of the nascent Civil Rights Movement.With lively narrative and abundantly illustrated with forty fascinating contemporaneous photographs, this impressive work of nonfiction brings fresh insight to the case in a manner that will be accessible and eye-opening for teenagers and adults alike.

Jane: I actually have an older copy of this book in my library, with a much less appealing cover. I really appreciate that this newer cover puts Emmett front and center – the case is a watershed moment in Civil Rights history, but its important that we never forget that Emmett was a real young man, barely a teen, with hopes and dreams for the future, whose life was brutally snatched away in an act of hate. It’s all too easy when studying historical events to forget that the people involved were real people, just like us, and not just names in a textbook. I also really appreciate that the cover uses the words “hate crime”, which is exactly what this murder was. This is definitely a much better cover than the one I have in my collection, and I definitely want to upgrade!

Nafiza: I’m only passing familiar with the Emmett Till case and what I do know of it makes me so angry. I want to read this though I reckon it will take a lot of courage to do so. Where do I put the anger?

Yash: Literally everything about Emmett Till makes me want to punch a wall. What happened to Emmett Till was beyond inhuman. I’m not sure if I will ever be calm enough to read this book, but I know I will anyway. That said, I don’t … get this cover? I think it’s important they used a photograph, but the rest? I don’t know.

Both Elisha (Ellie) and Jeremiah (Miah) attend Percy Academy, a private school where neither quite fits in. Ellie is wrestling with family demons, and Miah is one of the few African American students. The two of them find each other, and fall in love — but they are hesitant to share their newfound happiness with their friends and families, who will not understand. At the end, life makes the brutal choice for them.

Jane: I’ve seen a few versions of this classic novel, and this is by far my favourite. It’s much more colourful than any I’ve seen before, and the vine details are just beautiful. It’s heartbreaking that the conflict in this novel, two decades old, is still as relevant today as it was when first written. My one concern is that readers might get turned off by the “they fall in love but their families won’t understand” line, which suggests that the book is just another spin on the Romeo and Juliet / Westside Story cliche. It is, of course, but in Woodson’s hands, of course, it’s much more.

Nafiza: I’m actually totally unfamiliar with this title. The cover is gorgeous and though the back copy as Jane said seems a bit done, it’s Jacqueline Woodson, you guys. I have complete trust in her ability to make any story beautiful.

Yash: I still haven’t read this one, but that cover is gorgeous. Maybe I will brave the heartbreak. I agree with Nafiza and Jane: I have complete faith in Woodson’s writing to make this so much more than the synopsis implies. (I mean, every book should do that, but we know that every book cannot do that.)

From New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz comes a debut picture book about the magic of memory and the infinite power of the imagination.

Every kid in Lola’s school was from somewhere else.
Hers was a school of faraway places.

So when Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can’t remember The Island—she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories—joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening—Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island. As she draws closer to the heart of her family’s story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”

Gloriously illustrated and lyrically written, Islandborn is a celebration of creativity, diversity, and our imagination’s boundless ability to connect us—to our families, to our past and to ourselves.

Jane: GASP. OH. MY. GIDDY. AUNT. Look at that face! Just look at that face! How can you not just fall in love with that sweetheart!! What a wonderful message, too – we are all the product of all the places our families have been, even if we cannot remember them, or have not even seen them. Oh Lola, I cannot wait to meet you, and I just know that children are going to be eagerly pulling this one off the shelves.

Nafiza: Jane has said everything so all I am going to say is: Yes. Please.

Yash: Already pre-ordered. 🙂

A young Muslim girl spends a busy day wrapped up in her mother’s colorful headscarf in this sweet and fanciful picture book from debut author and illustrator Jamilah Tompkins-Bigelow and Ebony Glenn.

A khimar is a flowing scarf that my mommy wears.
Before she walks out the door each day, she wraps one around her head.

A young girl plays dress up with her mother’s headscarves, feeling her mother’s love with every one she tries on. Charming and vibrant illustrations showcase the beauty of the diverse and welcoming community in this portrait of a young Muslim American girl’s life.

Jane: Hurray, I’m so glad to see a couple of picture book covers this week! And oh, what glorious covers they are! Look how joyous this cover is! It just glows with light and love, look at how happy that mother and daughter are, cuddle together. Little children all want to be just like the grownups they love, and this little one wants to be just like her mommy, who wears beautiful headscarves. I cannot wait for this one – it just looks so beautiful, and lovely, and joyful, and all around wonderful.

Nafiza: This looks so absolutely beautiful. I have seen some of the illustrations inside and oh goodness. On my list, definitely.

Yash: I have been seeing so much buzz for this sweet picturebook on Twitter and I’m so glad we are getting more picturebooks that centre Muslim characters and stories and we didn’t stop with the two or three we got a couple of years ago. The cover is so enchanting too, all those lovely colours and patterns. And their smiles are contagious. You’d have to be the biggest grouch to pass by this book and not smile.

Sixteen-year-old Indy struggles to conceal her pregnancy while searching for a place to belong in this stunning debut novel that’s perfect for fans of Amber Smith and Sara Zarr.

Indira Ferguson has done her best to live by her Grammy’s rules—to study hard in school, be respectful, and to never let a boy take advantage of her. But it hasn’t always been easy, especially while living in her mother’s shadow.

When Indy is sent to live with distant relatives in Nassau, trouble follows her. Now she must hide an unwanted pregnancy from her aunt, who would rather throw Indy out onto the street than see the truth.

Completely broke with only a hand-me-down pregnancy book as a resource, Indy desperately looks for a safe space to call home. After stumbling upon a yoga retreat, she wonders if perhaps she’s found the place. But Indy is about to discover that home is much bigger than just four walls and a roof—it’s about the people she chooses to share it with.

Nafiza: The cover model is so beautiful that I wish the cover designers had allowed her to remain on it uninterrupted by the coloured leaves–I understand their purpose but they strike a discordant note against the otherwise beautifully understated photograph which manages to convey so much. This book is going to be so important for so many important reasons. I am really really glad it exists.

Yash: This is not a story I would gravitate towards, but that cover is definitely swaying me. I like the addition of leaves and colour, but I also see Nafiza’s point about the photograph. It’s going to be a stressful read, but I think I might just do it …

Jane: This sounds like a heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful read. I’m undecided about the cover – I do love the combination of black and white with vibrant colour, but I don’t know if they quite work together in this combination. Still, it’s a striking cover that I feel will definitely draw readers in.