Books I’ve written: Middle grade titles

Brown Girl Dreaming

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Brown Girl Dreaming tells the story of my childhood, in verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, I always felt halfway home in each place. In these poems, I share what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and my growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement.

It also reflects the joy of finding my voice through writing stories, despite the fact that I struggled with reading as a child. My love of stories inspired and stayed with me, creating the first sparks of the writer I was to become.

Where it takes place:

Columbus, Ohio, Greenville, South Carolina and Brooklyn, New York

Where I wrote it:

In all of those places but mostly in Brooklyn.

Why I wrote it:

I wanted to understand who my mom was before she was my mother and I wanted to understand exactly how I became a writer. So I started researching my life, asking relatives and talking to friends – and mostly, just letting myself remember.

Between Madison And Palmetto

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When Maizon returns to Brooklyn from Blue Hill, the boarding school she’s been attending, she’s not sure if she and Margaret will still be best friends.

Where it takes place:

In the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York

Where I wrote it:

In Bushwick and in Provincetown, Massachusetts

Why I wrote it:

A lot of readers wrote and asked what happened after Maizon got home from boarding school. I decided I’d write a trilogy.

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Maizon At Blue Hill

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Maizon Singh is one of the few black girls at an all-white boarding school. She doesn’t feel like she belongs there and misses Madison Street and the family and friends she left behind.

Where it takes place:

In Connecticut in the fictionalized town of Canturbury

Where I wrote it:

In the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn, New York and in San Francisco, California

Why I wrote it:

I wanted to write Maizon’s side of the story and about what happens when she went away to boarding school. It was the first book I wrote that really dealt with racism.

Japanese language version of
“Maizon at Blue Hill” Japanese book cover

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Last Summer With Maizon

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Margaret and Maizon are best friends. When Margaret’s father dies and Maizon gets accepted to a boarding school in Connecticut, Margaret wonders if life on Madison Street will ever be the same again.

Where it takes place:

In the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York

Where I wrote it:

In the apartment I grew up in on Madison Street in Brooklyn, New York and in Garden City, Long Island.

Why I wrote it:

Growing up, there were very few books about black girls and even fewer about people like the people I knew in my neighborhood in Brooklyn. I wanted to write about the people I loved and the neighborhood that had been my home for many years. Last Summer With Maizon was my first novel.

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Locomotion

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Lonnie C. Motion has had some tough breaks in his life. But this fall, Lonnie’s fifth grade class is learning to write poetry and suddenly, Lonnie is finding the words to tell the world about his family, the fire that took his parents away, his little sister, his world.

Where it takes place:

In the Bedford Stuyvesant and Park Slope sections of Brooklyn, NY

Where I wrote it:

In Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Why I wrote it:

Lonnie’s voice was in my head. The poems started coming and the rest…the rest is this book, I guess.

Awards
  • National Book Award Finalist
  • Coretta Scott King Honor
  • 2003 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award (Fiction Honor)
  • Horn Book Fanfare List
  • School Library Journal Best Book
  • IRA-CBC Children’s Choice for 2004
  • 2004 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts (sponsored by the Children’s Literature Assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English)
  • 2005 New Mexico Battle of the Books (Middle School/Grades 7-9)
  • 2004-2005 Dorothy Canfield Fisher Master List (children’s choice award for Vermont)
  • 2005 Kentucky Bluegrass Master List (Grades 3-5)
  • 2006 Louisiana Young Readers Choice Award Nominee (Grades 3-5)
  • 2004-2005 Maine Student Book Award Nominee (Grades 4-8)
  • 2004-2005 William Allen White Children’s Book Award Nominee (Kansas children’s choice award)

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Feathers

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“Feathers” takes place in the 1970s and begins when a boy walks into the classroom who is very different from the other kids there. Or maybe he isn’t so different…

Where it takes place:

I never name the place but was imagining this point between the Brooklyn and Queens border — right near Kennedy Airport.

Where I wrote it:

Here in Brooklyn and over the year while I was on the road.

Why I wrote it:

“Feathers” is a book I wrote because I wanted to write about the many ways people find Hope in the world.

Awards
  • Newbery Honor Medal

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Peace Locomotion

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Lonnie and his sister Lili are in foster care after the death of their parents. They live with separate families and this book is Lonnie’s letters to Lili that he writes to stay connected to her and as he says “to be the rememberer” while they are living separately.

Where it takes place:

In Brooklyn.

Where I wrote it:

In Brooklyn and also parts were written on planes as I traveled.

Why I wrote it:

I wanted Lonnie and Lili to find peace – within themselves and in the bigger world. The book started out being about one kind of peace and then became about the many ways we search for and eventually all kinds of peace.

Awards
  • Sunshine State Young Reader’s Award Master List for 2011-2012, Awarded by Florida State
  • Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award
  • Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards
  • Keystone to Reading Book Award
  • North Carolina Children’s Book Award
  • Kansas State Reading Circle
  • Capitol Choices, Virginia
  • Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Book Award

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After Tupac and D Foster

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The first time Tupac is shot, D Foster walks into the lives of Neeka and her best friend. From that point on, no one’s world is ever the same. D Foster lives with her foster mom who lets her ‘roam’ while Neeka and the narrator aren’t even allowed to leave their block. But the three soon realize they have a lot in common – including their love of Tupac – his lyrics, his life, the way he keeps on keeping on and this helps them move through the years between 11 and 13 in search of their Big Purpose even as the narrator’s brother is wrongly accused of a crime and gets sent to jail and D’s absent mom keeps disappointing her.

Where it takes place:

In Queens, New York.

Where I wrote it:

Mostly here in Brooklyn.

Why I wrote it:

I think Tupac was an amazing activist and I wanted to create a story around his story. The more I wrote, the more there was to say Ð about Tupac and about the girls.

Awards
  • Newbery Honor Medal
  • 2009 Josette Frank Award

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