I want to take a moment to acknowledge some of the best voices in children and young adult literature. Their books are profound, beautifully written, and excellent examples of the writing craft at its finest. Below are links to their author websites and recommendations of my favorite books written by them (however, all of their books are fantastic).
Kwame Alexander– My son and I are huge fans of Kwame Alexander’s work. He is an author, speaker, and educator. I recommend starting with The Crossover, but you can’t go wrong with any of his novels. The verses are authentic, real, and full of energy. The pacing is perfect and will engage any young reader.
Nikki Grimes– I discovered Nikki Grimes while I was getting my MFA. Her novels in verse are a requirement for anyone looking to explore that style of craft. If you haven’t read her work, I recommend starting with her novel Ordinary Hazards. It is hauntingly beautiful. I also loved Planet Middle School, along with many of her other works.
Varian Johnson– I was lucky enough to have met Varian while I was a student at VCFA. He’s an incredible faculty member, person, and writer with immersurable talent. His latest graphic novel Twins will be released later this year (October 6, 2020), but while you’re waiting to pick it up, I recommend his award winning novel The Parker Inheritance.
Kekla Magoon– Kekla is the award winning author of The Rock and the River, How It Went Down, X: A Novel, The Season of Styx Malone, and many more. She is a force in the children’s literature community. If you haven’t read her work, I recommend starting with her young adult novels How It Went Down and then Light It Up. Another personal favorite of mine is The Season of Styx Malone.
Jason Reynolds– I’m not sure I can say enough about Jason Reynolds. His work is among my all-time favorite. I pick up his books over and over again. His craft is superior, his topics timely, hugely profound, and meaningful. He was recently named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, a title well deserved. If you haven’t read his work, my favorites include Long Way Down, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (a collaboration with Ibram X. Kendi), Ghost, or All American Boys.
Jacqueline Woodson– Woodson is a recent recipient of The Hans Christian Andersen Award for Children’s Literature for her impact and lasting impression on the industry. Her work is lyrical, stunning, beautiful, and spans all age groups. The Day You Begin is one of my favorite picture books (illustrated by Rafael Lopez). I would also recommend Brown Girl Dreaming, Another Brooklyn, and Hush. But really, you can’t go wrong with any of her books. Her talent is awe-inspiring.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash