Reviews of the 2023 Boston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction Award Winner and Honor Books

Nonfiction Winner

by Jarrett J. Krosoczka; illus. by the author
Middle School, High School    Graphix/Scholastic    240 pp.
4/23    978133856328    $24.99
Paper ed.  9781338356311    $14.99
e-book ed.  9781338747621    $14.99

This follow-up graphic memoir to Hey, Kiddo (rev. 9/18) is aesthetically similar to its predecessor but altogether different in subject and scope. Krosoczka chronicles his time at age sixteen volunteering at Camp Sunshine, a camp for pediatric cancer patients and their families. Jarrett’s assignments are one-on-one time with thirteen-year-old Diego and intermittent check-ins with the Orfao family, who are there with Eric, a lively young camper with leukemia. Diego’s health is in decline, resulting in his use of a wheelchair and his reluctance to attend camp, but through a shared love of superheroes (drawn on command by Jarrett), a connection is made. Similarly, Jarrett grows close to Eric Orfao and his siblings and mother. Joyful camp moments (campfires, fishing, arts and crafts) alternate with earnest conversations regarding mortality, faith, and personal struggles — and the tragic reality that not every camper will reach adulthood. Krosoczka’s illustrations — using a lively holding line colored with orange, yellow, and gray washes, and panel layouts — actively contribute to the heartfelt storytelling, effectively expressing changes in perspective, mood, and significance. Chapter dividers provide artifacts such as letters, photographs, and drawings, etc.; appended with an epilogue and an author’s note. PATRICK GALL

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Honor Books

H Is for Harlem
by Dinah Johnson; illus. by April Harrison
Primary    Ottaviano/Little, Brown    48 pp.    g
7/22    978-0-316-32237-9    $18.99

This engaging and beautiful alphabet book features and celebrates not only Harlem’s history, including the Harlem Renaissance, but also contemporary figures and iconic places that bridge ­Harlem’s past and present. From the Apollo Theater, Harlem Children’s Zone, and The Brownies’ Book to food, sports, and the arts, there is something here to spark any of a wide range of interests. Equal parts love letter and travelogue, this book is a virtual trip through the sights and sounds of one of New York City’s most iconic neighborhoods. Harrison’s (What Is Given from the Heart, rev. 1/19) vibrant paint and collage illustrations are equally adept at representing the ­historical and the contemporary. Every inviting spread is alive in color, detail, and respect for the subject matter. This book is a starting point to learn more about one of the most important artistic, cultural, and intellectual incubators of Black culture in the United States. What a splendid way to learn the alphabet! MONIQUE HARRIS

From the July/August 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement
by Angela Joy; illus. by Janelle Washington
Primary, Intermediate    Roaring Brook    64 pp.    g
8/22    978-1-250-22095-0    $19.99

This powerful picture-book biography reverently portrays the life of Mamie Till-Mobley (1921–2003), whose defiant act of bravery following the 1955 murder of her son, Emmett, brought a spiritual essence to — and helped ignite — the civil rights movement. Joy’s (Black Is a Rainbow Color, rev. 1/20) lyrical free-verse narrative opens on August 31, 1955, when “the sheriff set out to dig a grave…to hide the crime in the mud of Mississippi…But Mamie did the harder thing. She said, ‘No. You send my son home.’” The text then goes back to Mamie’s childhood outside of Chicago, where the family moved from Mississippi during the Great Migration. She excelled in school, graduating at the top of her class, and later married Louis Till. They had a baby, Emmett, whose bout with polio left him with a stutter. One summer, relatives invited Emmett to spend time with them in Mississippi. Mamie said no, fearful of the Jim Crow South. Although she finally agreed, still, “Sometimes a mother gets a feeling, an ache deep down in her soul — a warning.” The heart of the story is what happens following Emmett’s brutal murder. Mamie’s resolve not to let her son be forgotten leads her to a crusade of social justice and advocacy — not only for Emmett but for “sons and daughters still living.” Washington’s dramatic paper-cut art, featuring bold black-and-white silhouettes and figures on brown backgrounds with blue, brown, and red tissue-paper accents, perfectly captures the courage and dignity of the subject. Rich back matter includes author and illustrator notes, a playlist, a timeline, and a bibliography. PAULETTA BROWN BRACY

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The 2023 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winners and honors were announced on June 20th, 2023. For reviews of the other winning titles and more, click on the tag BGHB23.

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