Some thought-provoking and highly topical fiction for both middle graders and adults comes to us from across the Atlantic this month – as well as a little piece of publishing history. Look out for these in your local bookshops and libraries!
The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Raúf (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, August 6, 2019)
I’m delighted to see this middle grade book make its way across the ocean. It’s the story of 9-year-old Ahmet, a Syrian refugee, and how some of his classmates learn of what he’s been through and step in to help him.
Book Riot’s own Lucas Maxwell has written about how he uses the book at his school to teach awareness of the plight of refugees. The book has had a starred review from the School Library Journal, been nominated for the CLIP Carnegie Medal Children’s Book Award, and in the UK, where it was published last year, has been named the winner of both the Blue Peter Book Award and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Reviewers online call it “honest about characters being fearful about people they do not know and situations they do not understand,” as well as “filled with engaging characters and a compelling plot” and “a strong story of friendship and kindness and acceptance.” The Boy at the Back of the Class would make a welcome and necessary addition to any middle school library.
Faber & Faber: The Untold Story of a Great Publishing House by Toby Faber (Faber & Faber, August 13, 2019)
You’re reading Book Riot, so I’m going to assume you’re a huge book nerd and, at the very least, a little curious about what goes on behind the scenes of the publishing world. Enter Faber & Faber: The Untold Story of a Great Publishing House. Admittedly, it’s written by a Faber, and published by Faber & Faber, so it may not be entirely objective, but it still sounds like a wonderful history of the publishing house that brought us T.S. Eliot, William Golding, Sylvia Plath, and Seamus Heany.
Founded in 1929, just in time for the Great Depression, Faber & Faber had to battle financial crises as well as wartime paper shortages. The book description promises the following: “This intimate history of Faber & Faber weaves together the most entertaining, moving and surprising letters, diaries and materials from the archive to reveal the untold stories behind some of the greatest literature of the twentieth century.”
What Red Was by Rosie Price (Hogarth, August 27, 2019)
If, like me, you get a lot of your book recommendations from The High Low – a chart-topping weekly show of news and culture both high and low (hence the name), hosted by journalists Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes – you’ll no doubt have heard of this book already, because they raved about it. I always pay attention when they love a book – they have their finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist as well as excellent taste.
What Red Was explores an unequal friendship between university friends with very different backgrounds. At Max’s London home during a party, the newly graduated Kate has her life shattered in a bedroom upstairs.
What does it mean to stay silent, and what do you risk by speaking out? How does trauma affect both the mind and the body? These questions and more are explored in this novel.
If you loved The Party by Elizabeth Day, this sounds like one to add immediately to your TBR list. Stylist Magazine says the following of What Red Was: “Bringing together themes of survival, agency, complicity, self-denial and, ultimately, courage, this assured book is one of the most powerful debuts you’ll ever read.”