Happy Birthday to Harper Lee, born on April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama! Lee’s name is inextricably linked with her first novel To Kill a Mockingbird which has been both celebrated and challenged since its publication in 1960. Throughout it all, Mockingbird and Lee have remained as a staple of literature and continue to be a springboard for discussing the history of racial tensions in the American South.
In a powerful memoir and manifesto, George M. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue has made waves since the book’s publication in 2020. With its accolades keeping pace with the number of states Johnson’s book has been challenged in, All Boys Aren’t Blue is a captivating, personal narrative told for those who have been erased—and continue to face erasure.
Today is bestselling author Simone Elkeles’ 52nd birthday. To date, she has penned 11 novels, including the award winning young adult Perfect Chemistry series. She is also a dog lover, former hockey and Girl Scout mom, and Chicago native living in Florida.
In 2017, Perfect Chemistry faced a book challenge at Academy School District 20’s Challenger Middle School Library in Colorado Springs. A mother of a 6th grade student found the book amongst her child’s things and, after reading the book, objected to its place at a middle school library due to profanity, alcohol use, gangs and gun violence, and sexual situations.
April 23, 2022 marks author Alex Sanchez’s 65th year on the planet. Happy Birthday, Alex Sanchez! Sanchez is a Mexican American author who has written the award winning young adult books Rainbows Boys and Getting It, as well as a middle grade novel So Hard to Say. Sanchez also collaborated with DC comics and illustrator Jul Maroh on You Brought Me the Ocean, which is a reimagining of the story of Aqualad for a modern teen audience. His most recent work The Greatest Superpower (2021) is about twin boys whose dad comes out as transgender. Thank you Alex Sanchez for writing books that affirm the experiences of young people and get them excited about reading!
Despite efforts to keep a new generation of students from a transformative encounter with Morrison’s work, The Bluest Eye remains relevant and reflective of American society over 50 years after its original publication in 1970. This cultural relevance is the reason why it maintains its place on recommended reading lists for Advanced Placement assessments across the country. It is why the novel still brings me to tears, and still has important things to teach us about reckoning with racialized concepts like beauty and gender, and how ugliness renders one invisible.
When critically acclaimed author Brandy Colbert was asked to speak to a school district in Texas for African American Read-In Day during Black History Month, she never could have imagined that the school district would find her non-fiction book about the Tulsa Race Massacre to be “too controversial.”
Author Ellen Hopkins celebrates her birthday today. A staunch fighter against censorship, and with more individual titles challenged than any other author in 2020, Ellen Hopkins is no stranger to challenges or bans to her books. Hopkins uses a unique, lyrical format to tell stories that reach us in our souls despite their uncomfortable topics that continue to be banned as recently as March of 2022.
Happy Birthday, Louis Sachar! The weird and wonderful world of Wayside School continues to delight readers for nearly 25 years.
Besides the pure enjoyment one receives from reading, my favorite benefit is increased empathy and decision-making. Children often apply the lessons and decisions their favorite characters go through to help them deal with situations in their own lives. If my daughter decides to read Maas’ books one day, I hope she finds encouragement from Calaena’s courage and strength or Feyre’s loyalty and kindness. We may not always agree with the books a child selects, but as Neil Gaiman says,
“Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer.”
As a teen, Acevedo first aspired to be a rapper, then realized her passion for performing poetry after working with an influential teacher. She attended George Washington University and the University of Maryland, where she earned her BA in a self designed degree and an MFA in Creative Writing. She went on to teach 8th grade, but noticed that her students struggled with reading because they did not see themselves in any of the characters in their books.
So she wrote a book for them.