Featured books will be available for the public today. To place them on hold, call the Walla Walla Public Library at 527-4550 or go to wallawallapubliclibrary.org.

Nonfiction

“This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality,” by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

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oyce, one of 12 black students who integrated public high school in Clinton, Tenn., in August 1956, following racial desegregation, relays the story of that harrowing experience in verse. 

Levy (“I Dissent”) notes poetry is a particularly appropriate choice, given the “musicality” of her co-author’s voice, which is also insightful, immediate and passionate. Recognizing the duplicity of the court-ordered integration, Boyce writes: “We’re in, yes./But it’s more complicated than that./Or, looked at another way — it’s simpler./ ... You can’t stay after school,/when the fun stuff is whites-only./Glee club, football, cheerleading?/No, no, and no./Simple. That’s the complication.”

Boyce poignantly describes the cruelty of white students, as “the little shoves” become “the shove that almost knocks Gail Ann out the window ... From the little slights/come the larger evils,/and they feel/monstrous.”

 Boyce never loses hope in the belief racial equality is attainable and she can help make it happen. Though her parents (fearing for their safety) moved the family to California in December 1956, and Boyce left Clinton, readers will appreciate that she did make a difference by standing up for her beliefs with resolve and persistence, attributes that shine through in this lyrical yet hard-hitting account of a pivotal chapter in the history of desegregation. (Ages 8—14)

— Publishers Weekly

“For Every One,” by Jason Reynolds

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 poem provides hope and reassurance to teens as they try to make sense of their dreams for the future.

Award-winning writer Reynolds (“Long Way Down,” 2017, etc.) offers a letter in the form of a long poem that acknowledges and encourages young people’s dreams and aspirations. The poem uses the author’s own experiences to show common ground with his readers, making it clear that he is presenting himself as a fellow traveler on the journey: “This letter /is being written /from the inside. /From the front line /and the fault line. /From the uncertain thick of it all.” 

He shares observations of others and the ways they coped and speaks of the futility of finding answers in the usual places: “Though the struggle /is always made to /sound admirable /and poetic, /the thumping uncertainty /is still there.” 

This short piece is full of the elements that make Reynolds such a successful writer: honesty, rich imagery, great facility with language and an irresistible cadence. At times conversational, other times uplifting, this intimate and powerful piece connects on many levels. Inspirational reading for any occasion. (Ages 12-up)

— Kirkus Reviews

Fiction

“Dream Country,” by Shannon Gibney

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his expansive tale, composed of interwoven stories, features members of a family tree that spans five generations and two continents, united in their sense of displacement and longing for a homeland where they can thrive. 

Alternating between the United States and Liberia, Gibney (“See No Color”) captures moments of wrenching decision-making in her characters’ lives. 

The opening story, set in 2008 in a Minnesota community roiled by ethnic tensions between Liberians and African-Americans, features drug-dealing teenager Kollie, whose parents return him to Liberia to learn to “be a good boy there again.” 

In the second story, set in 1926 Liberia, 18-year-old Togor flees brutal Congo soldiers.

The third story follows Yasmin and her family as they move from 1827 Norfolk, Va., to Monrovia, Liberia, to escape slavery and establish a home.

The final stories circle back to Kollie’s immediate family — concluding with a chapter devoted to his queer younger sister, Angel, in 2018 Minneapolis. (Ages 14 — up)

— Publishers Weekly

“Inventing Victoria,” by Tonya Bolden

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n 1880s Savannah, an African-American girl seizes the opportunity to enter a different life.

Essie has many questions about the life she’s lived with her mother, her “aunties,” and the white men who visit, feeling closer to their cleaner, Ma Clara. But tough as life is, she knows it’s better than the times of slavery. 

It is Ma Clara who urges Essie’s Mamma to send her to school. When she leaves home for a housekeeping job, her mother furiously accuses Essie of snobbery, revealing Essie’s father was a white Union soldier. At the boardinghouse, Essie does her tasks and delights in reading books from the parlor. A guest, Dorcas Vashon, takes an interest in Essie, offering her the chance to start a new life in Baltimore.

The lessons that will turn Victoria, Essie’s new chosen name, into a member of the emerging African-American elite are demanding. She meets noteworthy figures such as Frederick Douglass, falls in love, and wonders if she can marry without revealing her past. 

This unique work seamlessly weaves aspects of black history into the narrative. The depiction of Washington, D.C.’s African-American elite is rich and complex, never shying away from negatives such as colorism and social climbing.

A compelling and significant novel. (Ages 13-up)

— Kirkus Reviews

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