With the Fire on High (Book Review)

In my opinion, a good writer is more than just someone who can weave together a compelling story.  It is someone who do can that while simultaneously eliciting emotions from readers. Book Lovers, I am here to inform you that Elizabeth Acevedo is a good writer. No, that’s too small. Acevedo is a phenomenal writer. In, With the Fire on High, she presents the story of Emoni Santiago who is a teenager starting her senior year of high school.  Emoni has more responsibilities than your average teenager. She balances parenthood with helping her grandmother (who is her sole guardian) pay the household bills. The kitchen is Emoni’s safe space. It is where she gets to unleash her creativity and tell stories through her dishes.

Emoni is settled into a routine of sorts until 12th grade begins and everything gets turned on its head.  There is the new culinary arts class that has the potential to teach her lessons and take her places she never could have fathomed. There’s the cute new boy who…likes her? And so much more! Throughout the story, Acevedo presents readers with a nuanced character. Yes, Emoni was forced to grow up quicker than most and has learned to handle her responsibilities head on. However, that does not stop the insecurities from making Emoni question herself and her future.  How she rises about everything will have you wanting to knock some sense into her on one page and crying happy tears over her victories a few chapters later.
With the Fire on High is a young adult book recommended for readers 13 years or older. Some of the themes, such as teenage parenthood and sexual interactions, may call for guided dialogue with younger readers.  Those themes, along with ones around caring for family and persevering through difficult times, are presented with care and readers of a slightly younger age will probably have the capacity to handle it. This book makes for excellent discussions so enjoy it with your young readers!

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation (Book Review)

Years before the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education found racial segregation of public schools across the United States unconstitutional, Mendez v. Westminster School District found victory for students in California. In Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, we find our protagonist Sylvia frustrated by teasing at school.  She feels like she doesn’t want to return to school because the other students are mean.  Her mother sits her down to remind her that a lot of people fought for her ability to get an education and encourages her to remember that.

Why did they have to fight? Flashing back three years earlier, author Duncan Tonatiuh explains how the journey began.  Sylvia and her brothers were denied admission to their neighborhood school. They were told that, “Mexican children must attend the Mexican school.” Their father questioned everyone from the local principal to the superintendent and received unsatisfactory responses. It ultimately escalated to two trials where the case was argued that all children should have a right to receive a solid education and attend neighborhood schools.  Racial segregation was causing students more harm than good. In both cases, Sylvia and her family were found to be in the right and won their trials against segregation is California schools! A battle that began in 1944 did not reach full resolution until 1947.

For me, the biggest takeaway from Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation is that it is always necessary to fight for one’s human rights.  It may not be a quick fix, but it is certainly worth it in the end to make life better for future generations.

This book is for young readers 6-9 years old.

Sasha Savvy Loves to Code (Review)

It’s the last day of school and Sasha Savvy is excited to put fourth grade behind her and start summer vacation. She is looking forward to visiting local museums and traveling with family. The biggest excitement of all? Summer camp! As she tries to decide on what classes to take, her mother introduces her to a new option–coding.

Sasha Savvy Loves to Code, written by Sasha Ariel Alston and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, tells the story of how Sasha Savvy becomes interested in coding. This book provides readers with a high level understanding of the computer language and how programmers use it develop apps, games, and more. It breaks down the process of coding with a helpful acronym- Communicate, Organize, Demonstrate, Express. In addition to informing, Sasha Savvy also promotes girls getting involved in STEM and having the tenacity to achieve all of their dreams.

My favorite part of Sasha Savvy Loves to Code is that it takes readers on a realistic journey. We start with Sasha being unfamiliar with coding and questioning if she’ll enjoy it.  Then she learns enough to peak her interest and goes on to persuade her best friends to join her. Once in coding class, Sasha’s enthusiasm is temporarily dampened but she receives the support necessary to regain her focus. All of that feels so realistic of children that age!

Sasha Savvy Loves to Code is an informative and inspirational read. It is an early reader chapter book for book lovers 7-10 years old

Young, Gifted and Black (Book Review)

Here at Peachy Reads, we believe that learning about Black history and culture should happen all year long–not just during the month of February. So we’re happy to present Jamia WIlson’s Young, Gifted and Black a book with biographical profiles of 52 Black heroes from past and present times. I love that this book goes beyond the icons we typically study in school and introduces readers to figures who may be completely unfamiliar. For example, I learned about Mo Farah, a long-distance runner from England.  Farah won two gold medals during the 2016 Rio Olympics. A few pages later, however, readers will encounter contemporary figures such and Beyoncé Knowles and Esperanza Spalding.

The bios are written in a brief manner that provide high level information about each figure.  They spark intrigue that may prompt readers to do additional research. Colorful illustrations by Andrea Pippins practically jump off the pages. This book is excellent for families to read over time, supporting the process with dialogue and research. Be sure to add Young, Gifted and Black to your reading list today!

This book is for young readers 9-12 years old.

Issa Rae Options Tayari Jones’ Silver Sparrow

Hey Book Lovers! Making a small departure from our typical content to share exciting book news for the adults. Yesterday it was announced that Issa Rae has acquired rights to the film version of  Tayari Jones’ 2011 novel, Silver Sparrow. Rae will also produce the project.

Silver Sparrow is a compelling tale of an Atlanta-based family whose patriarch is bigamist. The “secret” daughter, Dana, goes through a journey that takes her from anger over her family situation to jealousy over her half-sister’s life and finally, acceptance. The story unfolds beautifully and while you may not agree with the actions of every character, Jones sets the stage in a way that helps you understand their intentions a bit more.

Kudos to Issa Rae for adding this to her portfolio of upcoming projects. I can’t wait to see Silver Sparrow on the big screen!

Silver Sparrow

Artist Spotlight: Kadir Nelson

In my opinion, illustrations make a book just as much as the words on the page.  I love reading children’s books with vibrant pictures that do an amazing job of carrying the essence of the story. As such, we here at Peachy Reads want to take time to highlight an amazing illustrator and author– Kadir Nelson.  You may be familiar with the work Nelson has done for the United States Postal Service, designing commemorative stamps  for notable figures such as Wilt Chamberlain, Richard Wright, and Marvin Gaye. You may have heard that Nelson designed the cover of rapper Drake’s Nothing Was the Same album.

Beyond that, Kadir Nelson is also an esteemed writer and illustrator of children’s books. With his bold use of color and strong brush strokes/lines, his work definitely stands out. Here are books written and/or illustrated by Kadir Nelson that you should share with your young readers!


Nelson Mandela (Written and Illustrated by Kadir Nelson)

Nelson Mandela

Please, Baby, Please (Written by Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee ; Illustrated by Kadir Nelson)

Please Baby

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands (Written and Illustrated by Kadir Nelson)

he's got th whole world

Dancing in the Wings (Written by Debbie Allen ; Pictures by Kadir Nelson)

Dancing in the wings


Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans (Written by Debbie Allen ; Pictures by Kadir Nelson)

Heart and Soul



The Undefeated (Written by Kwame Alexander ; Illustrated by Kadir Nelson)

The Undefeated

Who Will I Be, Lord? (Review)

And what will I be, Lord? What will I be? Who will I be?

These are all questions that the protagonist of Who Will I Be, Lord? asks herself. As she looks at the the members of her family, she sees that everyone works in different careers that plays to their various strengths. Her cousin is musician. Although music is his passion, he works at a diner to pay the bills. He dreams and puts forth the work to make his dreams come true. Her mother is a stay at home mom. She cares for members of the community and her family. People say she was born with the ability to nurture. Our protagonist has very accomplished people in her family and knows that the possibilities for her life are endless.  Ultimately, she realizes that all decisions for her future are up to her to make. And that is certainly a valuable lesson for everyone.

Who Will I Be, Lord? is by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson ; illustrations by Sean Qualls. For readers 5-9 years old.


Solo Girl (Book Review)

Cass is a math wizard. She memorized her times tables and can solve any problem placed before her.  But when her family moves to a new neighborhood, her math skills don’t seem as impressive as they were before and she doesn’t have her friends nearby.  Instead of socializing, she spends lonely hours wishing she could unlock the side of her brain that would allow her to double dutch.

As fate would have it, Cass gets the opportunity to help the most popular double dutch girl in the neighborhood with her math lessons. In exchange, Cass will get jump rope lessons from the best. Will that be enough to give Cass graceful feet? Will she make new friends? Check out Solo Girl by Andrea Davis Pinkney for the answers!

This book is for young readers ages 7-9.

In the comments below, tell me something difficult that you learned to do during childhood.

My Brother Charlie (Book Review)

April is National Autism Awareness Month and here at Peachy Reads we wanted to take the time to highlight a book that teaches readers about autism.  Since that doesn’t always happen through the lens of characters of color, we also wanted to represent diversity in our selection. 

Actress Holly Robinson Peete joined forces with her daughter Ryan Elizabeth Peete to write My Brother Charlie. In the story, Callie and her twin brother Charlie have a lot in common.  They both love the family dog, hot chocolate, and music. However, Callie begins to realize that they are also very different. Charlie doesn’t make friends easily and sometimes his words get stuck inside him. It is even difficult for him to express his love to family members.  The family learns that Charlie is autistic.

In time, Charlie shows his mom and sister that love takes many different forms and that embracing one another, differences and all, is key. His talents are what make him special and that is bigger than him having autism. As Callie realizes, while her brother has autism it doesn’t mean that it defines him.

My Brother Charlie is written by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete with pictures by Shane W. Evans. It is for young readers 7-10 years old.

Top 5 Reasons Why Kweli Is the Best Literary Conference for Creators of Color

This past weekend I attended the Kweli Color of Children’s Literature Conference.  As a first timer, I didn’t quite know what to expect but I knew that I was excited to be surrounded by other creators dedicated to increasing diversity within children’s literature. I walked in with an open mind, ready to learn.

The experience was phenomenal! The lessons learned and connections forged far surpassed my expectations. If you are a person of color who is interested in writing or illustrating, here are the top five reasons why Kweli is the best conference for creators of color.

5. Rare opportunity to mingle with writers and illustrators you’ve admired for years. There are so many notable people milling around, participating in panels, and signing books that it can feel a tad surreal.  Like, you mean I can just walk up to this literary ICON and say hello?? Yes, that’s precisely what we mean. During the lunch break I was able to speak with Pat Cummings and tell her that her illustrations have heightened some of my favorite childhood books.  Just Us Women anyone? Classic.

Selfie with Pat Cummings!

4. Infectious energy. Everyone at Kweli was so welcoming and genuinely excited for the day. People were reconnecting with friends made during past conferences and meeting new folks. My introverted side tends to show up more during events like this. Fortunately, Kweli was more family reunion than scary and I appreciated that.

3. Diverse workshop tracks means there’s something for EVERYONE!  Do you have a fully developed manuscript that needs feedback? There are special sessions for that. Are you new to the field and curious about the publishing world? There are workshops for that. Regardless of your stage in writing/illustrating, there was truly something for everyone at the Kweli. 

2. The speakers and panelists are all leading experts in the field. I think this speaks for itself. Everyone from the master class instructors to the keynotes speakers to the panelists are leaders in the field of literature. They were tapped to participate because they’ve honed their craft and have the ability to teach others.

Panel discussing how to break into publishing.

1. It’s for us and by us. This is a conference planned by people of color, for creators of color, to help children of color see themselves represented more frequently in literature.  And that, dear readers, is a beautiful thing!

I am forever changed by my experience at the Kweli Color of Children’s Literature Conference. I can’t wait until 2020!