Children’s Book Review: Biddy Mason Speaks Up

Multiculturalism Rocks! Children’s Book Review: Biddy Mason Speaks Up
Author: Arisa White and Laura Atkins
Illustrator: Laura Freeman
Publisher: Heyday
Age Range: 10 and up

I am both thrilled and honored to review this week’s book selection, Biddy Mason
Speaks Up. Part of the Fighting for Justice series spear-headed by Atkins for
Heyday Books, she and White have a shining achievement in capturing the trials
and triumphs of one of California’s first civil rights activist, Bridget “Biddy” Mason.
The story starts with Biddy as a young girl foraging through the woods with Granny 
Ellen; the woman who has become a mother figure since Biddy was sold into
slavery and away from her mother as a baby. Granny Ellen is teaching Biddy about
herbs, a skill that will become of much use to Biddy throughout her life.

"Even though Granny isn't allowed to read or write, she knows how to read plants."
It is this knowledge of medicinal plants and midwifery that is the beginning 
stages of Biddy understanding the importance of helping people; even when you
don’t have much yourself. She further learns about community when her master
forces her and her girls to walk from Mississippi to Great Salt Lake, Utah, and then
to San Bernadino, California. Unlike the most of the country at this time,
California had been declared a free state. It's here she would meet a freed black
family, the Owens, who would orchestrate the freedom of Biddy and her two girls
when her master tries to move them to Texas.
“There will be a trial. Robert Smith is accused of taking Biddy, Hannah, and their
children by force from California.”
When her lawyer doesn’t appear for trial, Mason is given the rare opportunity to 
speak for herself in the judge’s chambers. It is through her own words that she and
her family are granted freedom.  
Mason would go on to become a powerful force in the development of the city of
Los Angeles. Through her philanthropy, she would also become the richest woman
– woman, not Black woman – in the city. All of these accomplishments would stem
from this belief that Granny Ellen had taught her as a child:
“If you hold your hand closed, nothing good can come in. The open hand is
blessed, for it gives in abundance, even as it receives.” – Biddy Mason
This book is an incredible accomplishment for White and Atkins, which is evident 
in the pages that are thoughtfully filled with historical information, definitions and
timelines relevant to both Mason’s life and injustices throughout the United
States during her time. White also does an exemplary job of telling Mason’s story
through rich and sobering prose – and responsibly touches on themes of sexual
assault and violence against women. And Freeman's lush illustrations illuminate 
Biddy's warmth and bravery.
Biddy Mason Speaks Up is perfect for: 
The future activist
The future medical practitioner
The future philanthropist
The future historian

Learn More:
Arisa White
Laura Atkins
Laura Freeman
New York Times California Today Article
Where to Buy:
Heyday Books

2017 Debut Authors of Color & Native Americans


1) The list will be updated as needed for additional author names, book release dates, and book covers.
2) All book titles link to Teaching for Change bookstore, which carries multicultural and social justice books for all ages. Proceeds from sale benefit Teaching for Change, a non-profit that “provides teachers and parents with the tools to create schools where students learn to read, write and change the world.”



after-the-fall-coverKate Hart (member of Chikasaw Nation with Choctaw heritage)
After the Fall; Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, January 24th, 2017
Seventeen-year-old Raychel is sleeping with two boys: her overachieving best friend Matt…and his slacker brother, Andrew. Raychel sneaks into Matt’s bed after nightmares, but nothing ever happens.

9780545767033Celeste Lim (Malaysian American)
The Crystal Ribbon; Scholastic, January 31st, 2017
In the village of Huanan, in medieval China, the deity that rules is the Great Huli Jing. Though twelve-year-old Li Jing’s name is a different character entirely from the Huli Jing, the sound is close enough to provide constant teasing-but maybe is also a source of greater destiny and power.

9780544785106Linda W Jackson (African American)
Midnight Without A Moon; HMHKids, January 3rd, 2017
It’s Mississippi in the summer of 1955, and Rose Lee Carter can’t wait to move north. But for now, she’s living with her sharecropper grandparents on a white man’s cotton plantation.

9780062422644Tiffany D. Jackson (African American)
Allegedly; Harper Collins, January 24th, 2017
Orange Is the New Black meets Walter Dean Myer’s Monster in this gritty, twisty, and haunting debut by Tiffany D. Jackson about a girl convicted of murder seeking the truth while surviving life in a group home.

Jennifer Torres
Stef Soto, Taco Queen; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, January 17th, 2017
A heartwarming and charming debut novel about family, friends, and finding your voice all wrapped up in a warm tortilla.
Estefania “Stef” Soto is itching to shake off the onion-and-cilantro embrace of Tia Perla, her family’s taco truck. She wants nothing more than for Papi to get a normal job and for Tia Perla to be a distant memory. Then maybe everyone at school will stop seeing her as the Taco Queen.


9780062498533Angie Thomas (African American)
The Hate U Give; Balzer + Bray, February 28th, 2017
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’s searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty.

9780062473042Ibi Zoboi (Haitian American)
American Streets; Balzer + Bray, February 14th, 2017
American Street is an evocative and powerful coming-of-age story perfect for fans of Everything, Everything; Bone Gap; and All American Boys. In this stunning debut novel, Pushcart-nominated author Ibi Zoboi draws on her own experience as a young Haitian immigrant, infusing this lyrical exploration of America with magical realism and vodou culture.

9781101999103Rhoda Belleza (Asian American)
Empress of a Thousand Skies; Razorbill, February 7th, 2017
Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.

9781250079213S. “J.J.” Jae-Jones (Korean American)
Wintersong; A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin’s Griffin, February 7th, 2017
Dark, romantic, and unforgettable, Wintersong is an enchanting coming-of-age story for fans of Labyrinth and Beauty and the Beast. The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…

9781481472111Lilliam Rivera (Latinx)
The Education of Margot Sanchez; Simon and Schuster, February 21st, 2017
Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

see-you-in-the-cosmosJack Cheng (Chinese American)
See You in the Cosmos; Dial Books, February 28th, 2017
11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan–named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977.



9781481486965Karuna Riazi (Muslim American)
The Gauntlet; Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, March 28th, 2017
A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.



9781101997239Pablo Cartaya (Cuban American)
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora; Viking Books for Young Readers, May 17th, 2017
Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?

9781481478687Sandhya Menon (Indian American)
When Dimple Met Rishi; Simon Pulse, May 30th, 2017
A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Misa Sugiura
It’s Not Like It’s a Secret; Harper Teen, May 9th, 2017
This charming and bittersweet coming-of-age story featuring two girls of color falling in love is part To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and part Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.
Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like the fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.


S. K. Ali (Muslim American)
Saints and Misfits; Simon and Schuster, June 17th, 2017
How much can you tell about a person just by looking at them?
Janna Yusuf knows a lot of people can’t figure out what to make of her…an Arab Indian-American hijabi teenager who is a Flannery O’Connor obsessed book nerd, aspiring photographer, and sometime graphic novelist is not exactly easy to put into a box.

5142dan-2ol-_sx320_bo1204203200_Leah Henderson (African American)
One Shadow On the Wall; Atheneum, June 6th, 2017
An orphaned boy in contemporary Senegal must decide between doing what is right and what is easy as he struggles to keep a promise he made to his dying father in this captivating debut novel laced with magical realism.



Rebecca Barrow
You Don’t Know Me But I Know You; HarperTeen, August 29th, 2017
There’s a box in the back of Audrey’s closet that she rarely thinks about.
Inside is a letter, seventeen years old, from a mother she’s never met, handed to her by the woman she’s called Mom her whole life. Being adopted, though, is just one piece in the puzzle of Audrey’s life—the picture painstakingly put together by Audrey herself, full of all the people and pursuits that make her who she is.

Celia C. Perez (Mexican-Cuban)
The First Rule of Punk; Viking Books for Young Readers, August 22th, 2017
The First Rule of Punk is a wry and heartfelt exploration of friendship, finding your place, and learning to rock out like no one’s watching.
There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school—you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malú (María Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process.

F. C. Yee
The Epic Crush of Genie Lo; Amulet Books, August 8th, 2017.
The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie’s every waking thought. But when she discovers she’s a celestial spirit who’s powerful enough to bash through the gates of heaven with her fists, her perfectionist existence is shattered.

Tochi Onyebuchi (African American)
Beasts Made Of Night; Razorbill, September 26th, 2017
Packed with dark magic and thrilling action, Beasts Made of Night is a gritty Nigerian-influenced fantasy perfect for fans of Paolo Bacigalupi and Nnedi Okorafor.
In the walled city of Kos, corrupt mages can magically call forth sin from a sinner in the form of sin-beasts – lethal creatures spawned from feelings of guilt.

Akemi Dwan Bowman
Starfish; Simon Pulse, September 26th, 2017
A gorgeous and emotionally true debut novel about a half-Japanese teen who grapples with social anxiety and her narcissist mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school.
Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

Julie C. Dao (Vietnamese American)
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns; Philomel Books, October 10th, 2017
Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her.

tigers-daughterK Arsenault Rivera (Latinx)
The Tiger’s Daughter; Tor Books, October 3rd, 2017
Even gods can be slain
The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

dear-martin-coverNic Stone (African American)
Dear Martin
; Crown Books for Young Readers, October 17th, 2017
Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs.



Heny Lien (Taiwanese American)
Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword; Razorbill/Random Penguin House, Fall 2017

Axie Oh (Korean American)
Rebel Seoul; Tu Books, Fall 2017

Ki-Wing Merlin
Weaving a Net is Better Than Praying for Fish; Balzer+Bray / HarperCollins, Fall 2017


February 28, 2017 to add Jack Cheng’s See You in the Cosmos, Celia C Perez’s website and book cover;
April 1st, 2017 to add F. C. Yee, Misa Sugiura, Akemi Dawn Bowman, Jennifer Torres, and Ki-Wing Merlin.
Book Cover Release: Rebbeca Barrow’s You Don’t Know Me But I Know You, S. K. Ali’s Saints and Misfits, Julie C. Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns