Suburban Mosaic

Suburban Mosaic Book of the Year Past Selections

The Suburban Mosaic Book of the Year Program seeks to confront issues of racial and social justice and promote cross-cultural understanding through literature.

2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 |

2015 :

Because Amelia Smiled

By David Ezra Stein

Grades K - 3 Title

This beautifully told and illustrated story shows the effects of a smile on everyone and everything.

Discussion questions

The Book of Unknown Americans

By Cristina Henríquez

Adult Title

The Riveras emigrate from Mexico to Delaware so that their beautiful but brain-damaged daughter, Maribel, can attend a special school. They are met with numerous obstacles, including a smitten teenager, loss of employment, and worse. Along with the Riveras, the book features other immigrants who give up everything to pursue their American dream.

Discussion questions

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

By A.S. King

High School Title

The Printz Honor author tells the story of a girl coping with devastating loss. Glory O’Brien has no idea the future needs her, and that the present needs her more.

Discussion questions

Gracefully Grayson

By Ami Polonsky

Middle School Title

6th grader Grayson was born male but feels “he” was meant to be a girl. When Grayson wins the lead female role in the play and makes friends who accept her, she begins to embrace who she really is.

Discussion questions

Rain Reign

By Ann M. Martin

Grades 4 - 5 Title

Rose Howard loves words that sound the same (like her name Rose and rows), rules, prime numbers and her dog. When a storm hits her rural town and the dog is loose, Rose's story unfolds into a powerful tale.

Discussion questions

2014 :

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/ Marisol McDonald no combina

By Monica Brown

Preschool Title

Marisol McDonald mixes and matches food (peanut butter and jelly burritos), patterns (green dots/purple stripes), and games (soccer playing pirates) just as she embodies her Peruvian-Scottish- American heritage). Bilingual book with exuberant illustrations.

Discussion questions

The Year of the Book

By Andrea Cheng

Grades 2 - 4 Title

Fourth grader Anna Wang frets about fitting in with friends and instead escapes into books. When a friend reaches out to her for help, Anna sets aside fictional friends and becomes a member of her community.

Discussion questions

The Garden of My Imaan

By Farhana Zia

Grades 4 - 6 Title

Fifth grader Aliya, the only Muslim in her school, does not want to stand out. The arrival of a second Muslim student who wears hijab in school makes Aliya second-guess her religious confusion and work through universal preteen struggles.

Discussion questions

Kids of Kabul

By Deborah Ellis

Middle School Title

Author Deborah Ellis interviewed 27 Afghan children ages 10-17, recording their stories about life in violent and war-torn Afghanistan and the hardships they face. This work provides a glimpse into the poverty and aftermath of war.

Discussion questions

Permanent Record

By Leslie Stella

High School Title

When Badi Hessamizadeh continues to suffer intense racial bullying, he blows up the toilet where he was swirlied every day. Now considered a terrorist, his dad changes his son's name to Bud Hess and enrolls him in a different school.

Discussion questions

Peaches for Monsieur le Curé – [also published as Peaches for Father Francis]

By Joanne Harris

Adult Title

Vianne Rochet, known for near-magical skills with chocolate, returns to the rural French village of Lansquenet and discovers a large Muslim population has grown. Tensions between cultures reach a boiling point when the resident priest is accused of a hate crime, and it will take an outsider to show the two communities how alike they really are.

Discussion questions

2013 : Fostering cultural understanding through literature

Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur

By Halima Bashir

Adult Title

A Medical doctor chronicles her life in Darfur, Sudan. Bashir's memoir tells of her early life as a black African Muslim from the Zaghawa tribe, her trials and tribulations in her Arab Muslim schools, and her and her family's subsequent involvement in the Darfur crisis.

Discussion questions

Sold

By Patricia McCormick

High School Title

Thirteen-year-old Lakshmi, though poor, enjoys her life until the Himalayan monsoons wash away her family's crops and she is sold to a brothel in India by her stepfather. She remembers her mother's wisdom, "Simply to endure is to triumph," until the day comes that she can reclaim her life.

Discussion questions

The Running Dream

By Wendelin Van Draanen

Middle School Title

When a school bus accident leaves sixteen-year-old Jessican an amputee, she returns to school with a prosthetic limb and her track team finds a wonderful way to help rekindle her dream of running again.

Discussion questions

Inside Out & Back Again

By Thanhha Lai

Grades 3 - 5 Title

This novel in verse tells the story of ten-year-old Ha's journey from war-torn Vietnam to her new home in the United States. In America, Ha discovers the foreign world of Alabama. This is the story of her year of change: her dreams, grief, strength and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.

Discussion questions

Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace

By Jen Cullerton Johnson

Grades 1 - 2 Title

Wangari Maathai is the first African woman and environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Unlike most girls in Kenya, Wangari attended school where her love of plants and animals grew and her mind sprouted like a seed.

Discussion questions

Me…Jane

By Patrick McDonnell

Preschool - K Title

As Jane climbs trees, observes and reads about animals, and experiences the joys of nature in England, she dreams of Africa and of "a life living with, and helping, all animals." The story culminates in a striking photo of primatologist Jane Goodall in her twenties, living her dream in Africa, her hand extended to a chimpanzee.

Discussion questions

2012 : Fostering cultural understanding through literature

Spork

By Kyo Maclear

Pre-K Title

Neither spoon nor fork, Spork did not fit in and neither a bowler hat nor a crown could win him a place at the table. Spork wondered about other misfits, until the morning "a messy thing arrived." Simple but expressive illustrations are muted but brought to life by the contrasting red, particularly the red of "the mess."

Discussion questions

How Tia Lola Learned to Teach

By Julia Alvarez

Grades 1 - 4 Title

Miguel and Juanita's great-aunt, Tia Lola, is living with the family in Vermont. She is asked to teach Spanish at their school while learning English. Her visitor's visa is about to expire and the town rallies to extend her visa from the Dominican Republic. Everything Tia Lola does turns into an adventure.

Discussion questions

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

By Phillip Hoose

Grades 5 - 8 Title

A fifteen-year-old girl, fed up with Jim Crow segregation, refused to give up her seat to a white woman on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. Claudette's arrest and conviction was the spark that led to the Montgomery bus boycott and led to the end of Jim Crow laws in the South.

Discussion questions

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

By David Levithan and John Green

Grades 9 & Up Title

One cold night, on a street corner in Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the production of history's most fabulous high school musical.

Discussion questions

The Submission

By Amy Waldman

Adult Title

The chosen winner of a contest to design the memorial for victims of a terrorist attack is an American Muslim, and the judges hesitate. Personal grief and fear of public opinion undermine the healing message of the winning design. Whether or not to name a Muslim the winner creates a national outcry.

Discussion questions

2011 : Making a difference

Say Hello!

By Rachel Isadora

Preschool Title

While Carmelita, her mother, and their dog Manny go to visit Abuela Rose, they run into friends and shopkeepers, and stop to greet them in different languages. Manny greets everyone with "woof." Textured paint and printed patterns invite readers to linger on each page. Text and illustrations provide clues for readers who may be learning these greetings for the first time.

Discussion questions

The Sandwich Swap

By Queen Rania of Jordan

Grades K - 4 Title

Two friends love to play, draw, and spend time together. They eat lunch together at school. One day a comment is made about their different types of sandwiches being "gross." The girls have a falling out, which leads to a food fight. After spending time with the Principal, they decide to taste each other's sandwich. The girls organize a food festival at their school to celebrate our cultures and differences.

Discussion questions

Extra Credit

By Andrew Clements

Grades 3 - 5 Title

To avoid repeating the sixth grade, Abby (a girl from central Illinois) takes on an ambitious extra credit project: she writes letters to a pen pal in a foreign country. Abby thinks she is writing to a 10-year-old Afghani girl named Amira, but her letters are actually being answered by Sadeed, Amira's brother. As Abby and Sadeed exchange letters, they learn that they have far more in common than either could have predicted.

Discussion questions

A Long Walk To Water

By Linda Sue Park

Grades 6 - 8 Title

It's 1985 and Salva is ready for the school day to be over. As the school day ends, however, soldiers attack his village. The civil war has come to his part of the Sudan. In the year 2008, Nya is carrying water for her family to use. She makes 2 trips a day back and forth to the pond. It takes 8 hours of her time every day, in the parched land of the Sudan. Two narratives are told in alternating chapters. How the lives of these two people eventually come together is the heart of this compelling story, written by Newbery Medal winner Linda Sue Park and based on the true life story of Salva Dut.

Discussion questions

Girl in Translation

By Jean Kwok

Adult & High School Title

Kimberly Chang is only eleven when she and her widowed mother immigrate to Brooklyn from Hong Kong, but she soon bears responsibilities beyond her years, working alongside her mother in a sweatshop when not in school. Although Kimberly struggles to find her way in a new country and culture, she is nevertheless determined to use her "knack for school" to lift her and her mother out of poverty.

Discussion questions

2010 : Making a difference

How to Heal a Broken Wing

By Bob Graham

Preschool - K Title

This cartoon-like picture book will delight our youngest readers. Only tiny Will notices a bird, which broke its wing flying into a skyscraper, lying on the sidewalk. Will and his mom nurse the injured bird then set it free. Making a difference, indeed.

Discussion questions

Listen to the Wind

By Greg Mortenson

Grades K - 3 Title

A remarkable story about Greg Mortenson's first building project in Pakistan is told through simple text and colorful collages. A scrapbook follows the story, displaying photographs of the events, the village's inhabitants, and key players who helped ensure the success of the project.

Discussion questions

Notes from the Dog

By Gary Paulsen

Grades 4 - 5 Title

Finn is a loner and plans on spending his summer reading and not talking to a lot of people. His life changes when Johanna moves in next door. She is battling cancer and loves gardening. Johanna makes a difference in the lives of Finn, their families, and neighbors. Everyone pulls together to support Johanna and discovers something about themselves in the process.

Discussion questions

Back Home

By Julia Keller

Middle School Title

The story follows an ordinary family forced to deal with an extraordinary loss and shows what battle-scarred families face when their wounded loved ones return home.

Discussion questions

The Carbon Diaries 2015

By Saci Lloyd

High School Title

In 2015, global warming has done so much damage that the UK enacts severe carbon rationing. Now 16-year-old Laura must make decisions about daily life that she never imagined. Travel, cell phone use, and the toaster are now rationed. Laura's world is crumbling and disaster is becoming normal. Laura describes the first year of rationing through diary entries and emails to her cousin in the United States.

Discussion questions

The Help

By Kathryn Stockett

Adult Title

It's 1962 in Jackson, Mississippi, where maternal Aibileen and her outspoken best friend Minny work as maids for wealthy white families not unlike the one Eugenia ("Skeeter") grew up in. But together, this trio of "ordinary" women bring change to their community, undertaking a risky project to illuminate the experiences of Jackson'sAfrican-American maids and the indignities of segregation.

Discussion questions

2009 : Realities facing our communities

Those Shoes

By Maribeth Boelts

Preschool Title

Jeremy, who longs to have the high tops that everyone at school seems to have but his grandmother cannot afford, is excited when he sees them for sale in a thrift shop and decides to buy them even though they are the wrong size.

Discussion questions

How to Steal a Dog

By Barbara O'Connor

Elementary School Title

Living in the family car in their North Carolina town after their father leaves, Georgina persuades her younger brother to get money by stealing a dog and claiming the reward that the owners are bound to offer.

Discussion questions

The Mailbox

By Audrey Shafer

Middle School Title

When his Uncle Vernon dies, twelve-year-old Gabe, who grew up in foster care, tells no one for fear that he will go back into the system. However, when a strange note arrives in the mailbox and his uncle's body disappears, a unique correspondence begins.

Discussion questions

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

By Ned Vizzini

High School Title

A humorous account of a New York City teenager's battle with depression and his time spent in a psychiatric hospital.

Discussion questions

Breakfast at Sally’s: One Homeless Man’s Inspirational Journey

By Richard LeMieux

Adult Title

A self-made man with his own successful company, Richard LeMieux lived a very comfortable life. After losing everything, he spent two years living out of his van and learning to rely on others' generosity. His uplifting story cuts through stereotypes and offers a powerful look at homelessness in society.

Discussion questions

2008 : Living Between Cultures

The Other Side

By Jacqueline Woodson

Grade Pre K -2 Title

Two girls, on white and one black, gradually get to know each other as they sit on the fence that divides their town.

Discussion questions

The Year of the Dog

By Grace Lin

Grades 3-5 Title

Frustrated by her seeming lack of talent for anything, a young Taiwanese American girl sets out to apply the lessons of the Chinese Year of the Dog, those of making best friends and finding oneself, to her own life.

Discussion questions

American Born Chinese

By Gene Luen Yang

Middle School Title

This graphic novel alternates three interrelated stories about the problems of young Chinese Americans trying to participate in popular culture.

Discussion questions

Persepolis

By Marjane Satrapi

High School Title

This autobiography tells the story of Satrapi’s early life as a girl in late 1970s and early 1980s Iran. Through her young eyes, the reader sees the overthrow of the Shah, the Islamic fundamentalist rise to power, and the war with Iraq.

Discussion questions

Digging to America

By Anne Tyler

Adult Title

When American couple Bitsy and Brad Donaldson and Iranian-American couple Sami and Ziba Yazdan both adopt Korean infant girls, their chance encounter at the Baltimore airport the day their daughters arrive marks the start of a long, intense, and sometimes awkward friendship. A penetrating light on the American way as seen from two perspectives, those who are born here and those who are still struggling to fit in.

Discussion questions

2007 : Immigration

My Name is Yoon

By Helen Recorvits and Gabi Swiatkowska

Grade Pre K -2 Title

When Yoon moves from Koreas to America, she wants to keep her Korean name, Shining Wisdom, and writes her name using Korean symbols. Although everything seems different in American, Yoon finds ways to accept her new home and maintain her Korean heritage.

Discussion questions

Lowji Discovers America

By Candace Fleming

Grades 3-4 Title

When nine-year-old Lowji Sanjana moves from busy Bombay to a small, rural town in Illinois, he has great hopes of having a pet and making friends. He creatively wins over his grumpy landlady as he accomplishes both.

Discussion questions

Project Mulberry

By Linda Sue Park

Grades 5-6 Title

When Julia's mother suggests a project raising silkworms as she did as a girl in Korea, Julia and her friend Patrick learn not just about silkworms but about tolerance, prejudice, friendship and patience.

Discussion questions

Ask Me No Questions

By Marina Budhos

Grades 7-10 Title

In the months following September 11th many Muslim men were arrested, detained, and eventually deported along with their families. When her father is arrested, fourteen-year-old Nadira must find a way to bring her family back together, all the while feeling like a dangerous outsider in the country she thought was her home.

Discussion questions

Enrique’s Journey: the Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with his Mother

By Sonia Nazario

High School - Adult Title

When Enrique was five years old, his single mother made the trek from Honduras to the United States in search of work, hoping to make enough money to come home for her children. When she doesn't return, Enrique decides to make the difficult and dangerous journey north to find her.

Discussion questions

2006 :

The Colors of Us

By Karen Katz

Preschool Title

Lena, born in Guatemala, learns she is the color of cinnamon. She and her Mom go for a walk to observe many other sades of brown. Lena realizes that every shade is beautiful and paints portraits of each of her friends.

Discussion questions

Mrs. Katz and Tush

By Patricia Polacco

Grades K-2 Title

Mrs. Katz is a lonely Jewish widow and Larnel is a young African American boy. Their friendship begins when Larnel gives the old woman a scagly kitten. During their daily visits, Mrs. Katz tells stories of her life and of the similar experiences Jews and African Americans had in coming to this country.

Discussion questions

Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear

By Lensey Namioka

Grades 3-5 Title

Newly arrived in Seattle from China, nine-year-old Yangtao is tone deaf. His parents, both professional musicians, assume his problem is lack of practice and chide him for playing baseball. Yangtao and a musically gifted friend team up to solve the problem.

Discussion questions

Seedfolks

By Paul Fleischman

Grades 6-8 Title

Kim, a Vietnamese girl mourning her dead father, plants six seeds in a vacant lot hoping to attract her father's spirit. Other neighbors become involved in the garden. The story illustrates how members of a multi-ethnic neighborhood overcome language barriers and prejudice to enrich one another's lives.

Discussion questions

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

By Barack Obama

High School - Adult Title

President Obama's mother was a white American and his father was a black Kenyan whom he never knew. After completing college, Obama went to Kenya to experience the world of his late father. Readers will find his search for identity both moving and familiar.

Discussion questions

2005 :

Margaret and Margarita, Margarita y Margaret

By Lynn Reiser

Grade Pre K -1 Title

Margaret, who speaks only English, and Margarita, who speaks only Spanish, meet in the park and have fun plying together even though they speak different languages.

Discussion questions

Baseball Saved Us

By Ken Mochizuki

Grades 2-4 Title

A Japanese American boy learns to play baseball when he and his family are forced to live in an internment camp during World War II. His ability to play helps him after the war is over.

Discussion questions

The Watsons Go to Birmingham

By Christopher Paul Curtis

Grades 5-8 Title

The mindsets and daily routines of the Watsons, an African American family living in Flint, Michigan, change drastically after they go to visit their grandmother in Alabama in the summer of 1963.

Discussion questions

Kite Runner

By Khaled Hosseini

High School - Adult Title

Amir and Hassan are young boys growing up in Afghanistan in the 1970's. They are inseparable until an unspeakable event changes the nature of their relationship forever.

Discussion questions

2004 :

Everybody Cooks Rice

By Norah Dooley

Grades K -3 Title

As Carrie travels from one of her neighbors' homes to the next, she is treated to samples of their ethnically divers dinners. She is surprised to find that although they all hail from different countries, there is one dish they have in common.

Discussion questions

Breadwinner

By Deborah Ellis

Grades 4-7 Title

After the Taliban takes over Afghanistan, women are no longer allowed to go to school or to play in the streets, let alone work outside the home. When her father is arrested, Parvana must disguise herself as a boy in order to support her struggling family.

Discussion questions

The House on Mango Street

By Sandra Cisneros

Teen - Adult Title

After her family moves to the Hispanic area of Chicago, Esperanza learns to empower herself through her writing. She uses poems and stories to express thoughts and emotions about her neighborhood environment.

Discussion questions