Reviews of the 2019 Boston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction Award Winner and Honor Books

Nonfiction Winner

This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality
by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy
Intermediate, Middle School    Bloomsbury    311 pp.    g
1/19    978-1-68119-852-1    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-68119-853-8    $12.59 

In 1956 in the small town of Clinton, Tennessee, twelve African American students integrated the all-white high school. Jo Ann Allen Boyce, one of the “Clinton 12,” narrates this first-person account. She lives with her family up on the Hill, a part of the city that was settled by formerly enslaved people after the Civil War. Jo Ann and her family are active in their church, and her knowledge of religious songs and biblical history is threaded throughout the memoir. The book consists of free-verse passages that often include rhyme and employ various forms such as pantoum and villanelle. (One haiku titled “And Then There Are the Thumbtacks” reads: “Scattered on our chairs / A prank straight out of cartoons / They think we don’t look?”) Boyce’s character evolves throughout the book. Though not naive about racism early on, she later fully experiences the weight of white supremacy. Even her white neighbors on the Hill turn on her family members once they are perceived as stepping “out of their place.” Newspaper headlines and clips, excerpts from the Constitution, and examples of artifacts such as signs held by protesters (“We Won’t Go to School with Negroes”) are interspersed throughout. This fine addition to texts about the integration of public schools during the civil rights era in the United States concludes with an epilogue, biographical information about the Clinton 12, a scrapbook of photographs, source notes, and a timeline. JONDA C. MCNAIR

From the January/February 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Honor Books

Hey, Kiddo
by Jarrett J. Krosoczka; illus. by the author
Middle School, High School    Graphix/Scholastic    320 pp.    g
10/18    978-0-545-90247-2    $24.99
Paper ed.  978-0-545-90248-9    $14.99
e-book ed.  978-0-545-90249-6    $9.99

Krosoczka offers a graphic memoir that is altogether more mature in style, theme, and content than his previous work for younger audiences (the Lunch Lady series; the Platypus Police Squad series). Raised by his grandparents, Krosoczka recounts the triumphs and tragedies he experienced from infancy through his high-school years. Regularly left in the dark regarding his family — including his father’s identity and mother’s transient whereabouts — Krosoczka eventually learns of his mother’s addiction to heroin and of her habitual incarceration. Other serious hardships — verbal abuse, violent crime, family alcoholism — punctuate Krosoczka’s childhood and adolescence, shifting his interest in art from something to impress his friends to a way “to deal with life. To survive.” Krosoczka’s actual childhood artwork (from early crayon drawings to high-school gag comics) and handwritten letters to and from his mother and others are seamlessly inserted into the gracefully rendered ink illustrations. Applied with a brush pen, the emotive line work fluctuates between thick and thin, while blurred panel edges allow moments to blend into one another. A limited palette of gray and orange washes positions the story in the past, as memory. Krosoczka has meticulously crafted an uncompromisingly honest portrayal of addiction, resilient familial love, and the power of art, dedicated in part to “every reader who recognizes this experience.” Heartfelt and informative author notes, art notes, and acknowledgments provide narrative closure. PATRICK GALL

From the September/October 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born
by Miranda Paul; illus. by Jason Chin
Primary    Porter/Holiday    32 pp.
4/19    978-0-8234-4161-7    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-4213-3    $18.99

A pithy quintain describes the moment a fertilized human egg becomes a two-celled zygote: “Small. / Ball. / The point of a pin. / Then it divides… / Our story begins.” It’s the first of nine five-line stanzas that trace a fetus’s development in utero. But this isn’t just a story about the nine months of gestation; it’s also a tale — told mostly with illustrations — of a family happily awaiting a baby’s arrival. As left-hand pages track a zygote’s transformation, first into an embryo (there’s a tail!) and then into a fetus, right-hand pages show slice-of-life scenes of a mom, dad, and soon-to-be big sister (details in the watercolor and gouache illustrations indicate the family is Latinx). Often — and quite cleverly — each stanza’s final line embraces both the future newborn and the future big sister. Take Paul’s “month-five” stanza, for example: “Lips. / Flips. / Curve, dip, and groove. / She has a face. / She likes to move!” Chin’s verso illustration shows a fetus, at week 20, upside-down with legs crossed. On the opposite page, the big sister jumps on her bed while her parents assemble a crib. During the third trimester, the left-hand illustrations begin to push onto the right-hand pages, ultimately taking over the entire double-page spread. It’s another whimsical touch in this joyful celebration of the nine months leading up to a baby’s birth. “Light. / Bright! / Crying and cheer. / Loved ones arrive… / A baby is here.” Back matter includes further details about gestational development as well as a selected bibliography. TANYA D. AUGER

From the May/June 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The 2019 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winners and honors were announced at SLJ’s Day of Dialog and via Facebook Live on May 29th, 2019. For reviews of the picture book and fiction winners and more, click on the tag BGHB19.
Horn Book
Horn Book

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


Get access to reviews of books, ebooks, and more


We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.