[Book List] 2020 Releases- Caribbean Children's & YA Books

Happy new year, everybody. Putting together Anansesem's annual list of *English-language* Caribbean children's and young adult (YA) books expected from traditional publishers in the coming year is an end-of-year ritual I always look forward to. (See previous annual lists here). The books below are all 'own voices' books by Caribbean-based and Caribbean self-identified authors. We're happy to see that Hannah Carmona, Anika Denise, Emma Otheguy, Lulu Delacre and Ruth Behar—all past Anansesem contributors—have interesting books (I'm particularly beguiled by the prospect of dragons in the Dominican Republic, as promised by Carmona's picture book) coming out this year, and expect to add more books to the list as the year unfolds. Do leave a comment if you know of a book that needs to be added.

*All book synopses from the publisher's website. Inclusion in the list below does not constitute an endorsement by Anansesem or its editors.

I Am a Promise
by Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce (Main Author) and Rachel Moss (Illustrator), with Ashley Rousseau (Contributing Author)
Picturebook. Black Sheep/Akashic Books. Pub date: February 4, 2020. View on Amazon.

I Am a Promise takes readers on Shelly Ann's journey from her childhood in the tough inner-city community of Waterhouse in Kingston, Jamaica, through her development as a young athlete, to her first Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter sprint in 2008.

The story charts how Shelly Ann's commitment to hard work as well as the encouragement of loved ones helped her achieve her dreams against great odds and challenging life experiences. Most importantly, I Am a Promise encourages young readers to believe in themselves and to maximize their own promise to the world.

If Dominican Were a Color
by Sili Recio (Author) and Brianna McCarthy (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Pub date: September 22, 2020. View on Amazon.

The colors of Hispaniola burst into life in this striking, evocative debut picture book that celebrates the joy of being Dominican.

If Dominican were a color, it would be the sunset in the sky, blazing red and burning bright.
If Dominican were a color, it’d be the roar of the ocean in the deep of the night,
With the moon beaming down rays of sheer delight.

The palette of the Dominican Republic is exuberant and unlimited. Maiz comes up amarillo, the blue-black of dreams washes over sandy shores, and people’s skin can be the shade of cinnamon in cocoa or of mahogany. This exuberantly colorful, softly rhyming picture book is a gentle reminder that a nation’s hues are as wide as nature itself.

When Life Gives You Mangos
by Kereen Getten (Author)
YA novel. Delacorte Books for Young Readers. Pub date: September 15, 2020. View on Amazon.

For fans of deeply poignant middle grade about friendship and loss like The Thing About Jellyfish, comes the story about a young girl who can't remember anything from her previous summer after a hurricane.

Twelve-year-old Clara lives on an island that visitors call exotic. But there's nothing exotic about it to Clara. She loves eating ripe mangos off the ground, running outside in the rain with her Papa during rainy season, and going to her secret hideout with Gaynah--even though lately she's not acting like a best friend.

The only thing out of the ordinary for Clara is that something happened to her memory that made her forget everything that happened last summer after a hurricane hit. Sometimes things come back to her in drips like a tap that hasn't been turned off properly. Other times her Mama fills in the blanks...only she knows those aren't her memories and it is hard feeling like she is not like everybody else.

But this summer is going to be different for Clara. Everyone is buzzing with excitement over a new girl in the village who is not like other visitors. She is about to make big waves on the island--and give Clara a summer she won't forget..

The Mysterious Stones
by Enrique Pérez Díaz (Author) and Yayo (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Tradewinds. Pub date: August 20, 2020.

Kiki is a young boy, growing up in Cuba in a house by the sea. He lives with his uncle and grandmother ever since his father sailed off across the ocean in search of a new life. One night, Kiki dreams about a ghost-like woman in white. He is amazed to encounter her the next day on a nearby beach, the same beach his father sailed off from. She leaves him a mysterious gift of colourful stones that give him newfound hope to be reunited with his father.

A New Kind of Wild
by Zara Gonzalez Hoang (Author and Illustrator)
Picturebook. Dial Books. Pub date: April 21, 2020. View on Amazon.

This sweet author-illustrator debut celebrates imagination, the magic of friendship, and all the different ways we make a new place feel like home.

For Ren, home is his grandmother's little house, and the lush forest that surrounds it. Home is a place of magic and wonder, filled with all the fantastical friends that Ren dreams up. Home is where his imagination can run wild.

For Ava, home is a brick and cement city, where there's always something to do or see or hear. Home is a place bursting with life, where people bustle in and out like a big parade. Home is where Ava is never lonely because there's always someone to share in her adventures.

When Ren moves to Ava's city, he feels lost without his wild. How will he ever feel at home in a place with no green and no magic, where everything is exactly what it seems? Of course, not everything in the city is what meets the eye, and as Ren discovers, nothing makes you feel at home quite like a friend.

Inspired by the stories her father told her about moving from Puerto Rico to New York as a child, Zara González Hoang's author-illustrator debut is an imaginative exploration of the true meaning of "home."

Crazy Legs: A B-Boy from the Boogie Down Bronx
by Linda J. Acevedo (Author) and Frank Morrison (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Lee & Low Books. Pub date: June 2, 2020. View on Amazon.

A boogie-down picture book biography about the innovative dancer Richard Colón--better known as Crazy Legs--who became one of the pioneers of breaking.

Step back, step back! Crazy Legs about to bust a move.

Born in the South Bronx, Richard Colón grew up with salsa dance parties at home and DJs battling on turntables on the street. Inspired by these new beats and the moves of James Brown, neighborhood boys and girls started dancing with a mix of twists, slides, and shuffles. The rhythm of the Toprock. Drop of the Six-step. Wiggle of the Worm. A new dance form called breaking was being created, and Richard wanted to be a part of it.

With a signature style of quick and fiery footwork, Richard became known as Crazy Legs. Together with the Rock Steady Crew, he went on to perform for the president of the United States and the Queen of England, travelling the world to showcase his moves. Then Hollywood came calling and breaking was everywhere. Crazy Legs and his crew had come a long way from dance battles on the streets!

Debut author Linda J. Acevedo introduces young readers to a Puerto Rican boy who pioneered a new style of dance inspired by his surroundings. Coupled with award-winning illustrator Frank Morrison's sinuous and pulsating art, Crazy Legs is an energizing ode to the Boogie Down Bronx and to Hip Hop--a movement that would forever change the course of music, art, and culture. To the beat, y'all!

Category Five
by Ann Dávila Cardinal (Author)
YA novel. Tor Teen. Pub date: June 2, 2020. View on Amazon.

Category Five is a new supernatural YA thriller from Ann Dávila Cardinal, set against the backdrop of a post-hurricane Puerto Rico.

After the hurricane, some see destruction and some smell blood.

The tiny island of Vieques, located just off the northeastern coast of the main island of Puerto Rico, is trying to recover after hurricane Maria, but the already battered island is now half empty. To make matters worse, as on the main island, developers have come in to buy up the land at a fraction of its worth, taking advantage of the island when it is down.

Lupe, Javier, and Marisol are back to investigate a series of murders that follow in the wake of a hurricane and in the shadow of a new supernatural threat.

Facing the Sun
by Janice Lynn Mather (Author)
YA novel. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Pub date: August 4, 2020. View on Amazon.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants meets The Education of Margot Sanchez in this Caribbean-set story about four friends who experience unexpected changes in their lives during the summer when a hotel developer purchases their community’s beloved beach.

Change is coming to Pinder Street…

Eve is the rock in her family of seven, the one they always depend on. But when her dad is diagnosed with cancer, she wants nothing more than to trade her worries for some red lipstick and a carefree night.

Faith is the dancer all the boys want, but she only has eyes for the one she can’t have. Only thing is, all the flirting in the world can’t distract her from her broken home life...or the secrets that she hides.

KeeKee is the poet who won’t follow the rules, not even to please her estranged father. But after a horrible betrayal, she’ll have to choose between being right and losing everyone she loves.

Nia is the prisoner longing to escape her overprotective mother. A summer art program might be her ticket to freedom, yet it comes with a terrible price—and the risk may not be worth the reward.

Ready or not, it’s time for these four friends to face the sun.

Home Home
by Lisa Allen-Agostini (Author)
YA novel (revised edition). Delacorte Press. Pub date: May 26, 2020. View on Amazon.

Fans of Monday's Not Coming and Girl in Pieces will love this award-winning novel about a girl on the verge of losing herself and the unlikely journey to recovery after she is removed from anything and everyone she knows to be home.

Moving from Trinidad to Canada wasn't her idea. But after being hospitalized for depression, her mother sees it as the only option. Now, living with an estranged aunt she barely remembers and dealing with her "troubles" in a foreign country, she feels more lost than ever.

Everything in Canada is cold and confusing. No one says hello, no one walks anywhere, and bus trips are never-ending and loud. She just wants to be home home, in Trinidad, where her only friend is going to school and Sunday church service like she used to do.

But this new home also brings unexpected surprises: the chance at a family that loves unconditionally, the possibility of new friends, and the promise of a hopeful future. Though she doesn't see it yet, Canada is a place where she can feel at home--if she can only find the courage to be honest with herself.

by Peter Tosh (Author) and Rachel Moss (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Akashic Books. Pub date: June 2, 2020. View on Amazon.

A beautiful children's picture book featuring the lyrics of Peter Tosh's global classic celebrating children of African descent.

So don't care where you come from
As long as you're a black man, you're an African
No mind your nationality
You have got the identity of an African

African is a children's book featuring lyrics by Peter Tosh and illustrations by Jamaican artist Rachel Moss. The song "African" by Peter Tosh was originally released in 1977 on his second solo record, Equal Rights. He wrote the song during a time of civil unrest in Jamaica as a reminder to all black people that they were part of the same community. The album is considered one of the most influential reggae works of all time.

Muse Squad: The Cassandra Curse
by Chantel Acevedo (Author)
Middle grade novel. Balzer + Bray. Pub date: July 7, 2020. View on Amazon.

When a young Cuban American girl discovers that she's one of the nine muses of Greek mythology, she must use her newfound powers to help a brilliant classmate who is destined to save humanity.

The Madre de Aguas of Cuba (The Unicorn Rescue Society)
by Emma Otheguy (Author), Adam Gidwitz (Author) and Hatem Aly (Illustrator)
Middle grade novel. Dutton Books for Young Readers. Pub date: May 12, 2020. View on Amazon.

Critically acclaimed author Emma Otheguy joins Newbery Honor-winning Adam Gidwitz as co-author of the newest adventure in the NYT bestselling Unicorn Rescue Society series as the kids travel to Cuba to help the legendary Madre de aguas.

In Cuba, it is believed that a mysterious water serpent--the Madre de aguas--is responsible for providing and protecting the fresh water of the island. But the serpent is missing, and a drought has gripped the island. Uchenna, Elliot, and Professor Fauna fly to Cuba and endeavor to rescue the Madre de aguas. Unfortunately, it tries to kill them. Meanwhile, the Schmoke Brothers' goons are driving around Havana, dumping pink sludge into the sewers. What is going on? Can Elliot and Uchenna end the drought? Stop the Schmokes? Or will the creature they are trying to save just eat them instead?

The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez
by Adrianna Cuevas (Author)
Middle grade novel. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Pub date: May 12, 2020. View on Amazon.

In this magical middle-grade debut novel from Adrianna Cuevas, a Cuban American boy must use his secret ability to communicate with animals to save the inhabitants of his town when they are threatened by a tule vieja, a witch that transforms into animals.

All Nestor Lopez wants is to live in one place for more than a few months and have dinner with his dad.

When he and his mother move to a new town to live with his grandmother after his dad’s latest deployment, Nestor plans to lay low. He definitely doesn’t want to anyone find out his deepest secret: that he can talk to animals.

But when the animals in his new town start disappearing, Nestor's grandmother becomes the prime suspect after she is spotted in the woods where they were last seen. As Nestor investigates the source of the disappearances, he learns that they are being seized by a tule vieja―a witch who can absorb an animal’s powers by biting it during a solar eclipse. And the next eclipse is just around the corner…

Now it’s up to Nestor’s extraordinary ability and his new friends to catch the tule vieja―and save a place he might just call home.

Caribbean Dozen: Poems from Thirteen Caribbean Poets
by John Agard (Editor) and Grace Nichols (Editor)
Poetry anthology (new edition). Walker Books. Pub date: March 5, 2020. View on Amazon.

Fire in the treetops, / Fire in the sky. / Blossoms red as sunset / Dazzling to the eye... Full of the amazing sights, sounds, smells and rhythms of Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica, Barbados and the Bahamas, this cornerstone anthology vividly evokes the childhood memories of thirteen poets (a Caribbean dozen!). With over fifty poems, an autobiography of each poet, bibliographies, sumptuous illustrations and an easy-reference index, A Caribbean Dozen is a collection to be savoured for years to come.

The Caribbean Dozen: Valerie Bloom, Faustin Charles, Telcine Turner, David Campbell, Opal Palmer Adisa, Marc Matthews, Dionne Brand, Pamela Mordecai, John Lyons, Frank Collymore, James Berry, Grace Nichols and John Agard.

This Train Is Being Held
by Ismée Williams (Author)
YA novel. Amulet Books. Pub date: February 11, 2020. View on Amazon.

Alex is a baseball player. A great one. His papi is pushing him to go pro, but Alex maybe wants to be a poet. Not that Papi would understand or allow that.

Isa is a dancer. She'd love to go pro, if only her Havana-born mom weren't dead set against it...just like she's dead set against her daughter falling for a Latino. And Isa's privileged private-school life—with her dad losing his job and her older brother struggling with mental illness—is falling apart. Not that she'd ever tell that to Alex.

Fate—and the New York City subway—bring Alex and Isa together. Is it enough to keep them together when they need each other most?

A Story About Afiya
by James Berry (Author) and Anna Cunha (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Lantana Publishing. Pub date: April 7, 2020. View on Amazon.

Afiya has fine black skin that shows off her white clothes, big brown eyes that laugh, and long limbs that play. This joyful book provides a celebration of Caribbean identity and a whimsical meditation on the impressionable and irrepressible nature of children, written by Coretta Scott King Book Award–winning poet James Berry.

Ghost Squad
by Claribel Ortega (Author)
Middle grade novel. Scholastic Press. Pub date: April 7, 2020. View on Amazon.

The hurricane-swept town of St. Augustine is the only home Lucely Luna has ever known. It's the same home her father grew up in, and his parents before him. In fact, all of the deceased relatives in the Luna family now live as firefly spirits in the weeping willow tree in their backyard.

Shortly before Halloween, a mysterious storm appears on the radar heading towards St. Augustine, causing Lucely's firefly spirits to lose their connection to this world. In an effort to save them, Lucely finds a spell to bring them back to life, but accidentally brings more spirits to the town than she'd planned. Ghosts start showing up all around town, some more dangerous than others, wreaking havoc.

Lucely will have to band together with her best friend and occult buff, Syd, along with Syd's witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head on, save the town, and save her firefly spirits all before the full moon culminates on Halloween.

What Lane?
by Torrey Maldonado (Author)
Middle grade novel. Nancy Paulsen Books. Pub date: April 14, 2020. View on Amazon.

"STAY IN YOUR LANE." Stephen doesn't want to hear that--he wants to have no lane.

Anything his friends can do, Stephen should be able to do too, right? So when they dare each other to sneak into an abandoned building, he doesn't think it's his lane, but he goes. Here's the thing, though: Can he do everything his friends can? Lately, he's not so sure. As a mixed kid, he feels like he's living in two worlds with different rules--and he's been noticing that strangers treat him differently than his white friends . . .

So what'll he do? Hold on tight as Stephen swerves in and out of lanes to find out which are his--and who should be with him.

Torrey Maldonado, author of the highly acclaimed Tight, does a masterful job showing a young boy coming of age in a racially split world, trying to blaze a way to be his best self.

Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story
by Julia Alvarez (Author) and Raúl Colón (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Henry Holt and Co. Pub date: June 16, 2020. View on Amazon.

Already a Butterfly is a gentle picture book tale about self-soothing practices and self-confidence beliefs.

With so much to do in so little time, Mari is constantly on the move, flitting from flower to flower, practicing her camouflage poses, and planning for migration. She’s the busiest butterfly around. But does being productive mean she is happy? Mari couldn’t say. The only way she feels like a butterfly is by acting like one. Little does Mari know, the secret to feeling like herself is simply to focus her breath, find her quiet place, and follow her instincts. With the guidance of a thoughtful flower bud, Mari soon learns to meditate and appreciate that she was a butterfly all along.

Acclaimed author Julia Alvarez extolls the importance of mindfulness, reflection, and self-care for young children in this gratifying picture book, stunningly illustrated by award-winning artist Raúl Colón.

Clean Up!
by Nathan Bryon (Author) and Dapo Adeola (Illustrator)
Picturebook. PEN UK. Pub date: July 9, 2020. View on Amazon.

Join lovable, passionate Rocket as she sets off on a mission to save a Caribbean island from plastic pollution!

When Rocket goes for a holiday to visit her grandparents, she's shocked by the pollution that is spoiling their island home and putting the local sea life at risk. Can she think of a way to save the day?

This is a heartwarming, timely and empowering picture book, showing how we ALL can make a difference. It's a sequel to Nathan and Dapo's bestselling, award-winning debut Look Up!, shortlisted for the Sainsbury's Children's Book Awards 2019 and the Foyles Book of the Year 2019.

Clap When You Land
by Elizabeth Acevedo (Author)
YA novel. HarperTeen. Pub date: May 5, 2020. View on Amazon.

In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times-bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Luci Soars
by Lulu Delacre (Author and Illustrator)
Picturebook. Philomel Books. Pub date: August 4, 2020. View on Amazon.

From the New York Times-bestselling illustrator of Turning Pages by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor comes an emotionally resonant picture book about learning that what sets you apart is often what makes you great.

Luci was born without a shadow. Mama says no one notices. But Luci does. And sometimes others do too. Sometimes they stare, sometimes they tease Luci, and sometimes they make her cry. But when Luci learns to look at what makes her different as a strength, she realizes she has more power than she ever thought. And that her differences can even be a superpower.

From three-time Pura Belpré Award honoree Lulu Delacre comes a heartfelt and uplifting story with a timeless message: what sets you apart is often what makes you great.

Granny Ting Ting
by Patrice Lawrence (Author) and David Dead (Illustrator)
Chapter book (new edition). Bloomsbury Education. Pub date: May 14, 2020. View on Amazon.

A quirky family comedy set in the Caribbean from prize-winning author Patrice Lawrence. Shayla can't wait to see her cousin Michael again. Last time, they had great fun chasing Granny's chickens and playing hide-and-seek in the bamboo by the river. But Michael thinks everything in London is better than in Trinidad where Shayla lives, which makes him better than her, doesn't it? Soon everything's a competition, especially when there's hot pepper sauce involved!

This humorous story featuring characters from Trinidad by Patrice Lawrence, the winner of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2017 for Older Fiction, has fun black-and-white illustrations by David Dean and is perfect for children who are developing as readers.

Books Make Good Pets
by John Agard (Author) and Momoko Abe (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Orchard Books. Pub date: September 3, 2020. View on Amazon.

Books make good pets and don't need going to the vet.
You don't have to keep them on a lead or throw them a stick.
They'll wag their words whenever you flick their dog-eared pages.
Even howl an ancient tale for the inward-listening ear.

Did you know that a book can take you anywhere? You only need to turn the pages of a story, and in a moment, you and your book could be crossing the waves in a pirate ship... or diving with mermaids... or even snoozing with a dragon.

Books really DO make good pets! Why don't you peep inside this one, and take your mind on an adventure?

This delightful original picture book poem is the perfect gift for anyone who delights in the magic of a good book. Agard's evocative, lyrical style is perfectly complemented with illustrations by Momoko Abe, whose colourful visuals add character, transporting the reader into an enchanting world of imagination.

Salty, Bitter, Sweet
by Mayra Cuevas (Author)
YA novel. Blink. Pub date: March 3, 2020. View on Amazon.

A slow-burn romance in a cutthroat kitchen! There’s more to becoming a top chef for 17-year-old Isabella Fields than just not getting chopped. . .especially when the chances of things heating up with an intriguing boy and becoming a food star in the kitchen are both on the chopping block.

Aspiring chef Isa’s family life has fallen apart after the death of her Cuban abuela and the divorce of her parents. She moves in with her dad and her new stepmom, Margo, in Lyon, France, where Isa feels like an outsider in her father’s new life. Isa balances her time between avoiding the awkward, “why-did-you-cheat-on-Mom” conversation with figuring out how a perpetually single woman can at least be a perpetually single chef.

The upside of Isa’s world being turned upside-down?

Her father’s house is located only 30 minutes away from the restaurant of world-famous Chef Pascal Grattard, who runs a prestigiously competitive international kitchen apprenticeship. The prize job at Chef Grattard’s renowned restaurant also represents a transformative opportunity for Isa who is desperate to get her life back in order—and desperate to prove she has what it takes to work in an haute kitchen. But Isa’s stress and repressed grief begin to unravel when the attractive, enigmatic Diego shows up unannounced with his albino dog.

How can Isa expect to hold it together when she’s at the bottom of her class at the apprenticeship, her new stepmom is pregnant, she misses her abuela dearly, and things with the mysterious Diego reach a boiling point?

Blazewrath Games
by Amparo Ortiz (Author)
YA novel. Page Street Publishing. Pub date: October 6, 2020. View on Amazon.

How to Train Your Dragon meets Quidditch through the Ages in this debut fantasy, set in an alternate contemporary world, in which people compete with dragons in an international sports tournament.

Seventeen-year-old Lana Torres has always preferred dragons to people. In one week, sixteen countries will ship out riders and their dragons to the dunes of Dubai, where the Blazewrath World Cup is being held. Lana is gunning for a spot in her native Puerto Rico’s team as their Runner—the only player without a dragon steed. While dragon riders score points in the skies, the runners must race past flames from rival dragons to be the first to get the Iron Scale to the top of the tallest dune.

After rescuing a prized dragon from an attacker, Lana finds herself with an unexpected gift from the International Federation of Blazewrath: A spot on the team. Reality sets in, however, when faced with the actual prospect of fleeing the seven-headed Hydras of Greece, dodging fireballs from the Russian Gorynych, and battling against the Chinese Shen-lung. What's worse, Lana has to deal with the return of The Sire, an ancient dragon who’s been cursed to remain in human form. He might not be able to wield magic anymore, but The Sire’s army is burning down dragon sanctuaries, freeing the captive dragons and murdering humans. And he will not stop until the Blazewrath World Cup is shut down. Permanently. All Lana ever wanted to be was a Runner, but now she must choose between playing the game she’s been chosen for, or fighting the war no one asked her to.

Your Corner Dark
by Desmond Hall (Author)
YA novel. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books. Pub date: October 27, 2020. View on Amazon.

American Street meets Long Way Down in this searing and gritty debut novel that takes an unflinching look at the harsh realities of gang life in Jamaica and how far a teen is willing to go for family.

Things can change in a second:

The second Frankie Green gets that scholarship letter, he has his ticket out of Jamaica.

The second his longtime crush, Leah, asks him on a date, he’s in trouble.

The second his father gets shot, suddenly nothing else matters.

And the second Frankie joins his uncle’s gang in exchange for paying for his father’s medical bills, there’s no going back...or is there?

As Frankie does things he never thought he’d be capable of, he’s forced to confront the truth of the family and future he was born into—and the ones he wants to build for himself.

Charming as a Verb
by Ben Philippe (Author)
YA novel. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Pub date: September 8, 2020. View on Amazon

From William C. Morris YA Debut Award-winning author Ben Philippe comes a whip-smart and layered romantic comedy with two Black leads. Perfect for fans of Nicola Yoon and Jenny Han.

Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy NYC neighbors. But his easy smiles mask his tireless work ethic and burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.

There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing potential upside for himself.

Soon, what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for...

Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe
by Carlos Hernandez (Author)
Middle grade novel. Rick Riordan Presents. Pub date: May 5, 2020. View on Amazon

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents the sequel to the critically acclaimed Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, a brilliant sci-fi romp with Cuban influence. Among many other challenges, Sal and Gabi have to try to make everything right with our world when there is a rogue Gabi from another universe running loose.

Sal Vidon doesn't want to live a Mami-free life. Pulling different versions of his mother from other universes is how he copes with missing his own, who died years ago. But Sal's father, a calamity physicist, is trying to shut down all the wormholes Sal creates, because Papi thinks they are eroding the very fabric of our world. All of Papi's efforts are in vain, however, because a Gabi from another universe has gone rogue and is popping up all over the place, seeking revenge for the fact that her world has been destroyed. While Sal and Gabi work together to keep both Papi and Rogue Gabi under control, they also have to solve the mystery of Yasmany, who has gone missing from school. Could it have something to do with the wormhole in the back of his locker?

Readers who enjoyed Sal and Gabi Break the Universe will relish being back in the world of Culeco Academy and the Coral Castle along with such unforgettable characters as American Stepmom, the Gabi-Dads, Principal Torres, and the sassy entropy sweeper. With multiple Sals and Gabis in charge, it's no wonder this sequel offers even more hilarious weirdness and love than the first book.

Coming to England
by Floella Benjamin (Author) and Diane Ewen (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Macmillan Children's Books. Pub date: October 29, 2020.

The inspiring true story of Baroness Floella Benjamin: from Trinidad, to London as part of the Windrush generation, to the House of Lords.

When she was ten years old, Floella Benjamin, along with her older sister and two younger brothers, set sail from Trinidad to London, to be reunited with the rest of their family. Alone on a huge ship for two weeks, then tumbled into a cold and unfriendly London, coming to England wasn't at all what Floella had expected.

Coming to England is both deeply personal and universally relevant – Floella's experiences of moving home and making friends will resonate with young children, who will be inspired by her trademark optimism and joy. This is a true story with a powerful message: that courage and determination can always overcome adversity.

Coqui in the City
by Nomar Perez (Author and Illustrator)
Picturebook. Dial Books. Pub date: May 6, 2020. New release date, due to the pandemic: April 13, 2021.

A heartfelt picture book based on the author-illustrator’s own experiences, about a boy who moves to the U.S. mainland from Puerto Rico and realizes that New York City might have more in common with San Juan than he initially thought.

Miguel’s pet frog, Coquí, is always with him: as he greets his neighbors in San Juan, buys quesitos from the pandería, and listens to his abuelo’s story about meeting baseball legend Roberto Clemente. Then Miguel learns that he and his parents are moving to the U.S. mainland, which means leaving his beloved grandparents, home in Puerto Rico, and even Coquí behind. Life in New York City is overwhelming, with unfamiliar buildings, foods, and people. But when he and Mamá go exploring, they find a few familiar sights that remind them of home, and Miguel realizes there might be a way to keep a little bit of Puerto Rico with him–including the love he has for Coquí–wherever he goes.

Letters from Cuba
by Ruth Behar (Author)
Middle grade novel. Nancy Paulsen Books. Pub date: August 25, 2020. View on Amazon.

Pura Belpré Award Winner Ruth Behar's inspiring story of a young Jewish girl who flees Poland on the eve of WWII and makes a new life for herself in Cuba, while she works to rescue the rest of her family—based on Ruth's family history.

Things have gotten dire for Esther's family in Poland as discrimination against Jews has intensified. With the family store shuttered, her father has fled to Cuba to work to bring his family over, and now Esther's made sure she's the first child to join him.

Being separated from her beloved sister is heart-wrenching, but Esther promises to write everything down that happens until they're reunited. And many good things do happen. First of all, the Cuban people are welcoming and treat her with dignity. Then she chances upon a way to make more money than her peddler father could dream of when she discover her talent for making lightweight dresses. All of a sudden there is a demand for her designs, and it looks like they will soon be able to afford to bring the family over. But it turns out not everyone is pleased with her success and there are pockets of anti-Semitism in Cuba too. Now it's a race to get her family out of Poland and into Cuba before it's too late, and to see if there is a way to stop the hate from spreading through Cuba too.

We Laugh Alike/Nos Reaimos Igual
by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand (Author) and Alyssa Bermudez (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Charlesbridge Publishing. Pub date: December 1, 2020. New release date, due to the pandemic: April 13, 2021.

Six kids are ready to play: three speak English. Y tres hablan español [and three speak Spanish]. But all of them laugh alike and together! This clever playground adventure weaves together bilingual English and Spanish conversations, allowing two groups of children to express similar thoughts in their own languages.

A brand new barrier-breaking and friendship-affirming bilingual picture book from award-winning author Carmen T. Bernier-Grand (Diego: Bigger Than Life). Three kids are playing at the park when three more arrive. The groups can’t understand each other because one trio speaks only English and the other only Spanish. But they can express similar thoughts in their own languages. Aquí interactúan el inglés y el español. Can they find a way to play? Of course they can! By watching each other, both groups learn that they are more alike than different and end up discovering new words and making new friends in this adventure propelled by clever integrated Spanish dialogue.

The Jungle Outside
by Joanne C. Hillhouse (Author) and Unknown (Illustrator)
Picture Storybook. HarperColllins UK. Pub date: November 19, 2020.

Set in the Caribbean, The Jungle Outside tells the story of Dante and his grandmother, Tanti, as they explore Tanti’s garden. At first reluctant, Dante soon comes to realise the adventures that await him outside and we follow them as he climbs trees, tastes fruit, and finally notices the nature around him.

The Lost Sketchbook
by Imam Baksh (Author) and Unknown (Illustrator)
Picture Storybook. HarperColllins UK. Pub date: November 19, 2020.

This charming, humorous and imaginative story tells of two friends who find a sketchbook and realize that it can bring drawings to life. At first this seems too good to be true, but they’re soon faced with a problem they didn’t expect! Set in the Caribbean, this is a colourful and amusing story which will delight young readers and encourage imagination and discussion.

Finny the Fairy Fish
by Diana McCaulay (Author) and Unknown (Illustrator)
Picture Storybook. HarperColllins UK. Pub date: November 19, 2020.

Finny is a rare fairy fish living on a Caribbean coral reef. He has never seen another fairy fish, until one day he sees himself in a conch shell mirror and realizes he is different from everyone else. Finny believes he is ugly and worthless, but his friends persuade him to leave the reef and journey to the deep sea where an elder dolphin explains to him that difference it to be celebrated.

Finny the Fairy Fish deals with themes of tolerance, belonging and celebration of diversity, using a Caribbean coral reef as the setting. The book introduces the types of creatures living on a reef and some of the threats facing the sea. It also encourages children to identify and talk about emotions.

A Cuban Girl's Guide To Tea and Tomorrow
by Laura Taylor Namey (Author)
YA novel. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Pub date: October 6, 2020. View on Amazon.

Love & Gelato meets Don’t Date Rosa Santos in this charming, heartfelt story following a Miami girl who unexpectedly finds love—and herself—in a small English town.

For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panadería, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.

Worried about Lila’s mental health, her parents make a new plan for her: Spend three months with family friends in Winchester, England, to relax and reset. But with the lack of sun, a grumpy inn cook, and a small town lacking Miami flavor (both in food and otherwise), what would be a dream trip for some feels more like a nightmare to Lila…until she meets Orion Maxwell.

A teashop clerk with troubles of his own, Orion is determined to help Lila out of her funk, and appoints himself as her personal tour guide. From Winchester’s drama-filled music scene to the sweeping English countryside, it isn’t long before Lila is not only charmed by Orion, but England itself. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind—one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.

Belly Full Soup
by Heidi Fagerberg (Author) and Ann-Cathrine Loo (Illustrator)
Picturebook. CaribbeanReads. Pub date: July 31, 2020.

Belly Full Soup follows a young boy and his father as they search for provisions to add to their soup. Journey with them through their garden full of provisions of all colors and sizes. These root vegetables and starchy fruits are sure to make their soup 'belly full’ good.

The second book in the Little One series, Belly Full Soup depicts the magical beauty of the Caribbean region and uses an engaging rhyming style to teach kids about the rich, abundant provisions found in the ground and on the trees on the Caribbean islands.

A Girl Named Rosita: The Story of Legendary Puerto Rican Performer Rita Moreno
by Anika Denise (Author) and Leo Espinosa (Illustrator)
Picturebook. HarperCollins. Pub date: November 3, 2020. View on Amazon.

Pura Belpré Honor winner Anika Aldamuy Denise (Planting Stories) and New York Times bestselling illustrator Leo Espinosa (Islandborn) tell the story of Rita Moreno, the Puerto Rican superstar best known for her Oscar-winning performance in the original West Side Story film, in this gorgeous picture book biography.

When young Rosita moved from Puerto Rico to the mainland United States, she didn’t know what to expect—but she knew she loved to sing and dance. Working to overcome the language barrier and bullying she experienced in a strange new country, Rita eventually made her way to Hollywood with a dream to be a star. There, she fought to be seen and heard and eventually reached the pinnacle of success, landing her iconic role in West Side Story and, finally, winning her groundbreaking Oscar.

Brought to life by Leo Espinosa’s bold and vibrant illustrations and Anika Aldamuy Denise’s lyrical text, this gorgeous tribute to the life and career of the first Latinx person to have earned an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award will inspire little dreamers everywhere.

Informative author’s note and timeline also included.

A Spanish-language edition is also available.

Freedom, We Sing
by Amyra León (Author) and Molly Mendoza (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Flying Eye Books. Pub date: July 1, 2020. View on Amazon.

I wonder, then, what freedom is. Is it a place? Is it a thought? Can it be stolen? Can it be bought?

As powerful as it is beautiful, Freedom, We Sing is a lyrical picture book designed to inspire and give hope to readers around the world. Molly Mendoza's immersive, lush illustrations invite kids into the text, to ask themselves what it means to be free, while lyrical and emotive text is provided by musician Amyra Leon.

Cane Warriors
by Alex Wheatle (Author)
YA novel. Andersen Press (UK) and Akashic Books (USA). Pub date: October 20, 2020. View on Amazon.

Irresistible, gripping and unforgettable, Cane Warriors follows the true story of Tacky’s War in Jamaica, 1760. A powerful YA tale told through the eyes of a young slave on a Jamaican plantation during the Tacky Rebellion of 1760, the most significant rebellion of the time, rarely mentioned in history books, never taught in schools.

Never Look Back
by Lilliam Rivera (Author)
YA novel. Bloomsbury Publishing. Pub date: September 1, 2020. View on Amazon.

Acclaimed author Lilliam Rivera blends a touch of magical realism into a timely story about cultural identity, overcoming trauma, and the power of first love.

Eury comes to the Bronx as a girl haunted. Haunted by losing everything in Hurricane Maria--and by an evil spirit, Ato. She fully expects the tragedy that befell her and her family in Puerto Rico to catch up with her in New York. Yet, for a time, she can almost set this fear aside, because there’s this boy . . .

Pheus is a golden-voiced, bachata-singing charmer, ready to spend the summer on the beach with his friends, serenading his on-again, off-again flame. That changes when he meets Eury. All he wants is to put a smile on her face and fight off her demons. But some dangers are too powerful for even the strongest love, and as the world threatens to tear them apart, Eury and Pheus must fight for each other and their lives.

Featuring contemporary Afro-Latinx characters, this retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice is perfect for fans of Ibi Zoboi's Pride and Daniel José Older's Shadowshaper.

Anita and the Dragons
by Hannah Carmona (Author) and Anna Cunha (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Lantana Publishing. Pub date: September 1, 2020. View on Amazon.

Anita watches the dragons high above her as she hops from one cement roof to another in her village in the Dominican Republic. But being the valiant princesa she is, she never lets them scare her. Then one day, Anita must face her fears to begin a new life in a new country. Will she be brave enough to enter the belly of the beast and take flight to new adventures?

My Big Family
by Yanitzia Canetti (Author) and Micha Archer (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Reycraft Books. Pub date: April 30, 2020. View on Amazon.

Alex is excited his family is coming to visit. First grandma arrives and Alex rearranges his room so she can fit. Then Aunt Celia arrives, and the cousins start to pile in. The smells of yummy Cuban food fill the house and everyone is happy—except Alex. He can’t even find space to sit down and papa believes more can always fit. When mama announces Cousin Beto is arriving too, Alex has had it! “No one else can fit in this house!” What can Alex do?

The Legend of the Coqui
by Georgina Lázaro (Author) and Bruno Robert (Illustrator)
Picturebook. Reycraft Books. Pub date: April 30, 2020. View on Amazon.

Long ago, in Puerto Rico, the animals ate, slept, and snacked all day—every day. The queen of the forest, the parrot, knew this wasn’t good so she challenged them to a race. They each had great skills—the snake slithered, the pelican cawed, and the turtle just yawned—but they were excited and got ready to run. Everyone strutted their stuff except the frogs. No one paid attention them. They were too tiny. Could this be their chance to get noticed?

Wygenia and the Wonder of the World Leaf
by Summer Edward (Author) and Unknown (Illustrator)
Picture Storybook. HarperCollins UK. Pub date: November 19, 2020. New release date due to the pandemic: April 1, 2021.

“I’m Wygenia. On my island, we speak a language that’s all our own, so you might not be familiar with it. I’m going to tell you about the time my grannie got sick and how my mooma and I helped her get better. I’ll tell you exactly how it happened, using the exact words Mooma and Grannie used.”

When her beloved Grannie falls ill, ten-year-old Wygenia feels lonely and helpless. Then she learns about a healing plant so powerful it’s called 'Wonder of the World.' But will it really work? Set in the Caribbean island of Trinidad, this realistic fiction tale tells the story of Wygenia’s quest to restore her Grannie to the high-spirited companion she used to know.

About the Author

Summer Edward is the Editor-in-Chief here at Anansesem. Her writing and art have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. Her home on the web is

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About Anansesem

Anansesem is an online magazine of Caribbean children's and young adult literature by adults and children. We strive to bring you the best in news, reviews and creative content from the world of Caribbean children's publishing.
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