The Redcoats have killed Willy Freeman’s father and the British have taken her mother to New York City. Willy disguises herself as a boy, finds work at a tavern, and enlists the help of coworkers to begin a long journey toward NYC in search of her captured mother. War Comes to Willy Freeman is one of several James Collier books set during the Revolutionary War. It’s of particular import here because of its exploration of racism.
Joseph Brucha’s Code Talkers follows 16-year-old Ned, a Navajo who has been taught since age 6 to use English rather than his native language. When he enters the Marines during WW II, however, he finds his native language one of his most vital assets, using it to communicate military messages.
Code Talkers is best for readers in Grades 5-9.
The Harlem Hellfighters broke barriers as the first African-American infantry unit to fight in World War I. Their story is retold in a new graphic novel written by Max Brooks, author of World War Z.
As this cover will indicate, Dusu: Path of the Ancient isn’t for young readers. But if the young person in your life is accustomed to/old enough to view violent imagery, Dusu may be a good pick for you. The 4-comic-book story of a human raised by a tribe of black elves, Dusu has breathtaking imagery and a gripping narrative to match it, about family, identity, and defense of a home. Also: it’s free for e-readers.
In 2008, Walter Dean Myers took on war again, this time setting his novel in Iraq. The story of black young man who forgoes college to join the Army after 9/11, Sunrise Over Fallujah examines the complexities and consequences of combat and defense. Suitable for readers in 7th grade and up.
Three childhood friends make a pact to become doctors, against all odds. As much a testament to black male achievement as the strength of friendship, New York Times bestseller The Pact is an inspiring memoir that would make great reading for your teen or young adult.
From The Center for Cartoon Studies, this compelling graphic novel provides a history of Baseball Hall of Famer Leroy “Satchel” Paige, as told by a sharecropper who chronicles Paige’s travels through the segregated South. Gorgeous illustrations and strong narrative will likely keep your reader engaged till the end.
Do you have a budding satirist on your hands? A young person precocious about race commentary and cultural observations? Try Baratunde Thurston’s How To Be Black. For a reluctant reader, ease in with one essay you find particularly strong.