Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Month
Front Desk – Kelly Yang
Kelly Yang’s Front Desk is loosely based on her own experiences as a first-generation American whose ambitious parents manage and live in a motel in southern California. Young Mia, our protagonist, uses her wit, heart, and hard work to help her parents succeed in an unfriendly environment.
I See You – Michael Genhart
I See You is a wordless picture book that depicts a homeless woman who is unseen by everyone around her – except for a little boy. Over the course of a year, the boy is witness to all that she endures. Ultimately, in a gesture of compassion, the boy acknowledges her through an exchange in which he sees her and she experiences being seen. This book opens the door for kids and parents to begin a conversation about homelessness. In a “Note for Parents, Educators, and Neighbours”, there are discussion questions and additional resources about helping the homeless.
Saturday at the Food Pantry – Diane O’Neill
Molly and her mother, who lost her job, are waiting for the food market to open. Happy to see a classmate in line, Molly calls out to Caitlin, who doesn’t immediately respond, but later whispers what she doesn’t want others to hear, “Gran and I need help.” Molly wonders if there’s something wrong with needing food. Soon the girls are drawing pictures to pass out to people waiting in line and, later, those working at the food pantry. Noticing that Mom looks a little sad, Molly reminds her “Everybody needs help sometimes,” words her mother had previously shared with her. The morning ends cheerfully with Caitlin and her grandmother eating lunch with Molly and her mother. An appended note encourages adults experiencing food insecurity to contact local distribution sites. Magro’s nicely composed pictures illustrate the narrative with verve and finesse. Upbeat in tone but acknowledging the discomfort that many people feel when dealing with new experiences, this precisely worded story features a food pantry, a setting familiar to many children but seldom represented in picture books.
Watercress – Andrea Wang
Embarrassed about gathering watercress from a roadside ditch, a girl learns to appreciate her Chinese heritage after learning why the plant is so important to her parents.
A Chair for My Mother – Vera B. Williams
A child, her waitress mother, and her grandmother save dimes to buy a comfortable armchair after all their furniture is lost in a fire.
Last Stop on Market Street – Matt de la Peña
A young boy, CJ, rides the bus across town with his grandmother and learns to appreciate the beauty in everyday things.
Our Little Kitchen – Jillian Tamaki
A crew of resourceful neighbors comes together to prepare a meal for their community. Includes a recipe and an author’s note about the volunteering experience that inspired the book.
A Duet for Home – Karina Yan Glaser
It’s June’s first day at Huey House, and as if losing her home weren’t enough, she also can’t bring her cherished viola inside. Before the accident last year, her dad saved tip money for a year to buy her viola, and she’s not about to give it up now. Tyrell has been at Huey House for three years and gives June a glimpse of the good things about living there: friendship, hot meals, and a classical musician next door. Can he and June work together to oppose the government, or will families be forced out of Huey House before they are ready?
Genesis Begins Again – Alicia D. Williams
Thirteen-year-old Genesis tries again and again to lighten her black skin, thinking it is the root of her family’s troubles, before discovering reasons to love herself as is.
No Fixed Address – Susin Nielsen
Twelve-year-old Felix’s appearance on a television game show reveals that he and his mother have been homeless for a while, but also restores some of his faith in other people.
Hey, Kiddo – Jarrett Krosoczka
Hey, Kiddo is Krosoczka’s graphic memoir in which he illustrates being raised by his outspoken and opinionated, but loving grandparents while his mother dealt with housing insecurity, and poverty related to substance abuse issues.
Sorta Like a Rockstar – Matthew Quick
Although seventeen-year-old Amber Appleton is homeless, living in a school bus with her unfit mother, she is a relentless optimist who visits the elderly at a nursing home, teaches English to Korean Catholic women with the use of rhythm and blues music, and befriends a solitary Vietnam veteran and his dog, but eventually she experiences one burden more than she can bear and slips into a deep depression.
On the Come Up – Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Bri hopes to become a great rapper, and after her first song goes viral for all the wrong reasons, must decide whether to sell out or face eviction with her widowed mother.
The Life I’m In – Sharon G. Flake
Turned out of the only home she has known, Charlese Jones is lured into the dangerous web of human trafficking, and while she is frightened, she remains determined to bring herself and her fellow victims out of danger.
Runner – Carl Deuker
Living with his alcoholic father on a broken-down sailboat on Puget Sound has been hard on seventeen-year-old Chance Taylor, but when his love of running leads to a high-paying job, he quickly learns that the money is not worth the risk.
We Are Not From Here – Jenny Torres Sanchez
Pulga has his dreams. Chico has his grief. Pequeña has her pride. And these three teens have one another. But, none of them have illusions about the town they’ve grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Even with the love of family, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the trio knows they have no choice but to run: from their country, from their families, from their beloved home. Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico, they follow the route of La Bestia, the perilous train system that might deliver them to a better life — if they are lucky enough to survive the journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and desperation drumming through their hearts, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know there is no turning back, despite the unknown that awaits them. And the darkness that seems to follow wherever they go.
If I Ever Get Out of Here – Eric Gansworth
Seventh-grader Lewis “Shoe” Blake from the Tuscarora Reservation has a new friend, George Haddonfield from the local Air Force base, but in 1975 upstate New York there is a lot of tension and hatred between Native Americans and Whites–and Lewis is not sure that he can rely on friendship.
When We Make It – Elisabet Velasquez
Sarai uses verse to navigate the strain of family traumas and the systemic pressures of toxic masculinity and housing insecurity in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn, questioning the society around her, her Boricua identity, and the life she lives.
A first-generation Puerto Rican eighth grader, Sarai can see with clarity the truth, pain, and beauty of the world both inside and outside her Bushwick apartment. Together with her older sister Estrella she navigates the strain of family traumas and the systemic pressures of toxic masculinity and housing insecurity in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. As she questions the society around her, her Boricua identity, and the life she lives with determination and an open heart, Sarai learns to celebrate herself in a way that she has been denied.
Find Layla – Meg Elison
Underprivileged and keenly self-aware, SoCal fourteen-year-old Layla Bailey isn’t used to being noticed. Except by mean girls who tweet about her ragged appearance. All she wants to do is indulge in her love of science, protect her vulnerable younger brother, and steer clear of her unstable mother. Then a school competition calls for a biome. Layla chooses her own home, a hostile ecosystem of indoor fungi and secret shame. With a borrowed video camera, she captures it all. The mushrooms growing in her brother’s dresser. The black mold blooming up the apartment walls. The unmentionable things living in the dead fridge. All the inevitable exotic toxins that are Layla’s life. Then the video goes viral. When Child Protective Services comes to call, Layla loses her family and her home. Defiant, she must face her bullies and friends alike, on her own. Unafraid at last of being seen, Layla accepts the mortifying reality of visibility. Now she has to figure out how to stay whole and stand behind the truth she has shown the world.
I Wish You All the Best – Mason Deaver
After coming out as nonbinary, Ben must leave home and goes to live with a sister and her husband to finish the last year of high school.
Gods of Jade and Shadow – Silvia Moreno Garcia
From the author of Mexican Gothic, Gods of Jade and Shadow is an adventure featuring Gods from Mayan mythology set in Mexico City at the dawn of the Jazz Age.
A Long Petal of the Sea – Isabel Allende
In the late 1930s, civil war gripped Spain. When General Franco and his Fascists succeed in overthrowing the government, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee in a treacherous journey over the mountains to the French border. Among them is Roser, a pregnant young widow, who finds her life irreversibly intertwined with that of Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and the brother of her deceased love. In order to survive, the two must unite in a marriage neither of them wants, and together are sponsored by poet Pablo Neruda to embark on the SS Winnipeg along with 2,200 other refugees in search of a new life. As unlikely partners, they embrace exile and emigrate to Chile as the rest of Europe erupts in World War. Starting over on a new continent, their trials are just beginning. Over the course of their lives, they will face test after test. But they will also find joy as they wait patiently for a day when they are exiles no more, and will find friends in the most unlikely of places. Through it all, it is that hope of being reunited with their home that keeps them going. And in the end, they will find that home might have been closer than they thought all along.
Maid – Stephanie Land
A journalist describes the years she worked in low-paying domestic work under wealthy employers, contrasting the privileges of the upper-middle class to the realities of the overworked laborers supporting them.
A Street Cat Named Bob – James Bowen
When London street musician James Bowen found an injured cat curled up in the hallway of his apartment building, he had no idea how much his life was about to change.
Nomadland – Jessica Bruder
From the beet fields of North Dakota to the National Forest campgrounds of California to Amazon’s CamperForce program in Texas, employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans. Finding that social security comes up short, often underwater on mortgages, these invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans, forming a growing community of nomads: migrant laborers who call themselves “workampers.” In a secondhand vehicle she christens “Van Halen,” Jessica Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects more intimately. Accompanying her irrepressible protagonist, Linda May, and others, from campground toilet cleaning to warehouse product scanning to desert reunions, then moving on to the dangerous work of beet harvesting, Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of the dark underbelly of the American economy–one that foreshadows the precarious future that may await many more of us. At the same time, she celebrates the exceptional resilience and creativity of these quintessential Americans who have given up ordinary rootedness to survive. Like Linda May, who dreams of finding land on which to build her own sustainable “Earthship” home, they have not given up hope.
American Made – Farah Stockman
Shannon, Wally, and John built their lives around their place of work. Shannon, a white single mother, became the first woman to run the factory’s dangerous furnaces at the Rexnord manufacturing plant in Indianapolis and was proud of producing one of the world’s top brands of steel bearings. Wally, a black man known for his initiative and kindness, was promoted to become chairman of efficiency, one of the most coveted posts on the factory floor, and dreamed of starting his own barbecue business one day. John, a white machine operator, came from a multigenerational union family and clashed with a work environment that was increasingly hostile to organized labor. The Rexnord factory had served as one of the economic engines for the surrounding community. When the factory closed, hundreds of people lost their jobs. What had life been like for Shannon, Wally, and John, before the factory closed? And what became of them after the factory moved to Mexico and Texas? American Made is a story about people and a community struggling to reinvent itself. It is also a story about race, class, and American values, and how jobs serve as a bedrock of people’s lives and drive powerful social justice movements. This revealing book is also about this political moment, when joblessness and uncertainty about the future of work have made themselves heard at a national level. Most of all it is a story about people: who we consider to be one of us, and how the dignity of work lies at the heart of who we are.
Tightrope – Nicolas D. Kristof
With stark poignancy and political dispassion, Tightrope draws us deep into an “other America.” The authors tell this story, in part, through the lives of some of the children with whom Kristof grew up, in rural Yamhill, Oregon, an area that prospered for much of the twentieth century but has been devastated in the last few decades as blue collar jobs disappeared. About one-quarter of these children died in adulthood from drugs, alcohol, suicide, or reckless accidents. And while these particular stories unfolded in one corner of the country, they are representative of many places the authors write about, ranging from the Dakotas and Oklahoma to New York and Virginia. But here too are stories about resurgence, among them- Annette Dove, who has devoted her life to helping the teenagers of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, as they navigate the chaotic reality of growing up poor; Daniel McDowell, of Baltimore, whose tale of opioid addiction and recovery suggests that there are viable ways to solve our nation’s drug epidemic. Altogether, there emerges a picture of working-class families needlessly but profoundly damaged as a result of decades of policy mistakes. With their superb, nuanced reportage, Kristof and WuDunn have given us a book that is both riveting and impossible to ignore.
Broke In America – Joanne Samuel Goldblum
Joanne Samuel Goldblum, CEO and founder of the National Diaper Bank Network, and Colleen Shaddox, a journalist and activist, give a book shedding light on the realities faced by those living in poverty across the United States and provide a road map for eradicating poverty via policy changes.
Invisible Child – Andrea Elliott
Invisible Child follows eight dramatic years in the life of Dasani Coates, a child with an imagination as soaring as the skyscrapers near her Brooklyn homeless shelter. Born at the turn of a new century, Dasani is named for the bottled water that comes to symbolize Brooklyn’s gentrification and the shared aspirations of a divided city. As Dasani grows up, moving with her tightknit family from shelter to shelter, her story reaches back to trace the passage of Dasani’s ancestors from slavery to the Great Migration north. By the time Dasani comes of age in the twenty-first century, New York City’s homeless crisis is exploding amid the growing chasm between rich and poor. In the shadows of this new Gilded Age, Dasani must lead her seven siblings through a thicket of problems: hunger, parental addiction, violence, housing instability, pollution, segregated schools, and the constant monitoring of the child-protection system. When, at age thirteen, Dasani enrolls at a boarding school in Pennsylvania, her loyalties are tested like never before. As she learns to “code-switch” between the culture she left behind and the norms of her new town, Dasani starts to feel like a stranger in both places. Ultimately, she faces an impossible question: What if leaving poverty means abandoning the family you love?
The Pursuit of Happyness – Chris Gardner
After a rocky childhood with an abusive step-father, Chris Gardner made himself a life promise: I’ll never leave my children. It’s a vow that he kept, despite many hardships. In this painfully honest memoir, Gardner goes from the highs of landing an apprenticeship at one of Wall Street’s toniest firms to the lows of being jobless and unable to pay his rent. Eventually he found himself caught in a web of incredibly challenging circumstances that left him homeless with his toddler son. Gardner never gave in to despair but chose, instead, to persevere, and who pulled himself up by his bootstraps to achieve the American Dream.