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A Review of Recommended Books for 2021

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Throughout the year, a member of the Worlds of Words community recommends a book for others to enjoy. In 2021, we highlighted 12 books, and I thought it would be great to see them all together to get a sense of how 2021 unfolded. There are six middle/secondary school novels, one graphic novel and five picturebooks worthy of a second look. Here are the books we recommended:

JANUARY
Cover art for Cane Warriors features a blue and black photograph of a young Black boy with an ink drawing of Tacky's Rebellion in the background.
Cane Warriors (2020) by Alex Wheatle. Set in 1760 Jamaica, Moa is an enslaved 14-year-old boy who works the sugar cane fields. While his family is also on the plantation, he rarely sees them, but does affiliate with a small group of others to consider escaping over the celebration of the Easter holiday. Moa is frightened, but believes in the cause of freedom, and thus is resolved to join the others in either escape or a fight for freedom. This narrative chronicles Tacky’s Rebellion, an actual historical event, and one seldom studied in schools or written about for younger readers. While written in common usage English, the dialogue is Jamaican patois, giving it an authentic richness. A narrative that is both insightful and uplifting, Cane Warrior is a critical addition to Caribbean literature.

Alex Wheatle is a finalist for the 2021 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature and Cane Warriors was Shortlisted for the 2020 Caribbean Readers’ Awards. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Unsettled

Cover of Unsettled depicting a young girl in a light blue hijab walking towards the left on a yellow background, her hijab spilling out behind her to hold aspects of Pakastani culture suck as food, flowers, and street cars.
In Unsettled by Reem Faruqi, readers meet Nurah, who loves her life in Karachi, Pakistan. She loves her extended family, the sounds and tastes of home, and the local pool, where she and her brother Owais feel like they belong. So when her family moves to Peachtree City, Georgia in 2001 for a more stable job for her father, Nurah is not especially happy about it. She and her brother Owais, however, discover the community pool, and life in Georgia begins to show promise. They both make the swim team and work hard not only to excel in the pool, but to blend in to the local culture. But Nurah’s bright clothes, strong accent, and shy ways prove to be a hindrance to that blending in—as does September 11th and a horrific incident at the pool involving her brother. Nurah finally recognizes that she has stood on the sidelines of her own life and her family’s cultural heritage and well-being for too long. She must decide if she wants to fit in or stand out, knowing that her decision will make a difference in not only her happiness, but her sense of self. Continue reading