The results are in for this year’s Michigan Library Association Youth Literary Awards. Every year, the MLA selects a handful of books to receive awards for their ability to communicate through literature to young audiences.
There are three awards: the YouPer Award, the Mitten Award, and the Thumbs Up! Award. These awards cover everything from standout picture books to exciting middle grade novels to thought-provoking young adult books, so whether you’ve been looking for a new book or wondering if you should give one of these a try, you can rest assured that these have a quality seal of approval from Michigan’s librarians.
The YouPer Award
The YouPer (Young Person) Award is given to notable chapter books published in English during the calendar year that received significant attention from the librarians of Michigan for the quality of their stories. These are the books that made the top 10 list this year.
When Donovan left his copy of The Adventurers on the kitchen counter, he didn't think his mom would read it—much less have a problem with it. It's just an adventure novel about two characters trying to stop an evil genius... right? But soon the entire town is freaking out about whether the book's main characters are gay, Donovan's mom is trying to get the book removed from the school curriculum, and Donovan is caught in the middle. Donovan doesn't really know if the two boys fall in love at the end or not—but he does know this: even if they do, it shouldn't matter. The book should not be banned from school.
Interweaving three connected storylines, David Levithan delivers a bold, fun and timely story about taking action (whether it's against book censors or deadly alligators), being brave, and standing up for what's right.
In his village in Upper Kwanta, 11-year-old Kofi loves his family, playing oware with his grandfather and swimming in the river Offin. He’s warned though, to never go to the river at night. His brother tells him “There are things about the water you do not know.” Like what?” Kofi asks. “The beasts,” his brother answers. One fateful night, the unthinkable happens and in a flash, Kofi’s world turns upside down. Kofi soon ends up in a fight for his life and what happens next will send him on a harrowing journey across land and sea, and away from everything he loves.
Isaac and Marco already know 6th grade is going to change their lives. But it won't change things at home—not without each other's help. This year, star basketball player Isaac plans on finally keeping up with his schoolwork. Better grades will surely stop Isaac's parents from arguing all the time. Meanwhile, straight-A student Marco vows to finally win his father's approval by earning a spot on the school's basketball team. But will their friendship and support for each other be enough to keep the two boys from falling short?
Thirteen-year-old Andi feels stranded after the loss of her mother, the artist who swept color onto Andi's blank canvas. When she is accepted to a music camp, Andi finds herself struggling to play her trumpet like she used to before her whole world changed. Meanwhile, Zora, a returning camper, is exhausted trying to please her parents who are determined to make her a flute prodigy even though she secretly has a dancer's heart.
At Harmony Music Camp, Zora and Andi are the only two Black girls in a sea of mostly white faces. In kayaks and creaky cabins, the two begin to connect, unraveling their loss, insecurities, and hopes for the future. And as they struggle to figure out who they really are, they may just come to realize who they really need: each other.
It's been 50 years since a sun shift wiped out nearly all mammal life across the earth.
Towns and cities are abandoned relics, autonomous machines maintain roadways, and the world is slowly being reclaimed by nature. Isolated pockets of survivors keep to themselves in underground sites, hiding from the lethal sunlight by day and coming above ground at night.
Ten-year-old Elvie and her caretaker, Flora, a biologist, are the only two humans who can survive during daylight because Flora made an incredible discovery; a way to make an antidote to sun sickness using the scales from monarch butterfly wings. Unfortunately, it can only be made in small quantities and has a short shelf life.
Free to travel during the day, Elvie and Flora follow monarchs as they migrate across the former Western United States, constantly making new medicine for themselves while trying to find a way to make a vaccine they can share with everyone. Will they discover a way to go from a treatment to a cure and preserve what remains of humanity, or will their efforts be thwarted by disaster and the very people they are trying to save?
Meet Resilience, a Mars rover determined to live up to his name. Res was built to explore Mars. He was not built to have human emotions. But as he learns new things from the NASA scientists who assemble him, he begins to develop human-like feelings. Maybe there's a problem with his programming.
Human emotions or not, launch day comes, and Res blasts off to Mars, accompanied by a friendly drone helicopter named Fly. But Res quickly discovers that Mars is a dangerous place filled with dust storms and giant cliffs. As he navigates Mars's difficult landscape, Res is tested in ways that go beyond space exploration.
Bree can't wait for her first day at her new middle school, Enith Brigitha, home to the Mighty Manatees—until she's stuck with the only elective that fits her schedule, the dreaded Swim 101. The thought of swimming makes Bree more than a little queasy, yet she's forced to dive headfirst into one of her greatest fears. Lucky for her, Etta, an elderly occupant of her apartment building and former swim team captain, is willing to help.
With Etta's training and a lot of hard work, Bree suddenly finds her swim-crazed community counting on her to turn the school's failing team around. But that's easier said than done, especially when their rival, the prestigious Holyoke Prep, has everything they need to leave the Mighty Manatees in their wake.
Can Bree defy the odds and guide her team to a state championship, or have the Manatees swum their last lap for good?
Three months after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the incarceration of all Japanese and Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the United States. Families, teachers, farm workers—all were ordered to leave behind their homes, their businesses, and everything they owned. Japanese and Japanese Americans were forced to live under hostile conditions in incarceration camps, their futures uncertain.
Three photographers set out to document life at Manzanar, an incarceration camp in the California desert:
- Dorothea Lange was a photographer from San Francisco best known for her haunting Depression-era images. Dorothea was hired by the U.S. government to record the conditions of the camps. Deeply critical of the policy, she wanted her photos to shed light on the harsh reality of incarceration.
- Toyo Miyatake was a Japanese-born, Los Angeles–based photographer who lent his artistic eye to portraying dancers, athletes and events in the Japanese community. Imprisoned at Manzanar, he devised a way to smuggle in photographic equipment, determined to show what was really going on inside the barbed-wire confines of the camp.
- Ansel Adams was an acclaimed landscape photographer and environmentalist. Hired by the director of Manzanar, Ansel hoped his carefully curated pictures would demonstrate to the rest of the United States the resilience of those in the camps.
In Seen and Unseen, Elizabeth Partridge and Lauren Tamaki weave together these photographers' images, firsthand accounts, and original art to examine the history and injustice of Japanese American incarceration.
For most kids, catching fireflies is a fun summer activity. For 12-year-old Serwa Boateng, it's a matter of life and death. That's because Serwa knows that some fireflies are really adze, shapeshifting vampires from the forests of Southeastern Ghana. Adze prey on the blood of innocents, possessing their minds and turning them into hulking monsters, and for generations, slayers like Serwa and her parents have protected an unknowing public from their threats.
Serwa is the best adze slayer her age, and she knew how to use a crossbow before she could even ride a bike. But when an obayifo (witch) destroys her childhood home while searching for a drum, do Serwa's parents take her with them on their quest to defeat her? No. Instead, they dump Serwa with her hippie aunt and cryptic-obsessed cousin in the middle of Nowheresville, Maryland "for her own safety." Now, instead of crossbows and battle armor, she's dealing with mean girls and algebra, and for the first time in her life, she doesn't have to carry a staff everywhere she goes, which is kind of nice, actually.
Just as Serwa starts to get the hang of this whole normal girl who doesn't punch vampires everyday thing, an adze infiltrates her school. It's up to her to whip some of her classmates into monster-fighting shapes before all of them become firefly food. And when she uncovers a secret that upends everything she thought she knew about her family's role in the slayer vs adze war, Serwa will have to decide which side of herself, normal girl or slayer, is the right one. After all, 7th grade is hard enough without adding vampires to the mix.
When the skies dried up, Gloria thought it was temporary. When the dust storms rolled in, she thought they would pass. But now the bank man’s come to take the family farm, and Pa’s decided to up and move to California in search of work. They’ll pick fruit, he says, until they can save up enough money to buy land of their own again.
There are only three rules at the Santa Ana Holdsten Peach Orchard: No stealing product. No drunkenness or gambling. And absolutely no organizing.
Well, Gloria Mae Willard isn’t about to organize any peaches, no ma’am. She’s got more on her mind than that. Like the secret, all-boys baseball team she’s desperate to play for, if only they’d give her a chance. Or the way that wages keep going down. The way their company lodgings are dirty and smelly, and everyone seems intent on leaving her out of everything.
But Gloria has never been the type to wait around for permission. If the boys won’t let her play, she’ll find a way to make them. If the people around her are keeping secrets, then she’ll keep a few of her own. And if the boss men at the Santa Ana Holdsten Peach Orchard say she can’t organize peaches, then by golly she’ll organize a whole ball game.
The Mitten Award
The Mitten Award is given to notable picture books that promote quality literature in picture book form. This year, there were so many wonderful books that 11 books were chosen for the top 10. These are the top 10 titles for this year.
On an island at the edge of a wide, wild sea, a girl and her grandmother gather gifts from the earth. Salmon from the stream, herring eggs from the ocean, and in the forest, a world of berries. Salmonberry, Cloudberry, Blueberry, Nagoonberry. Huckleberry, Snowberry, Strawberry, Crowberry.
Through the seasons, they sing to the land as the land sings to them. Brimming with joy and gratitude, in every step of their journey, they forge a deeper kinship with both the earth and the generations that came before, joining in the song that connects us all.
When a big truck and its big load get stuck on a narrow road, traffic on the little island comes to a halt. Some cars need to go south and some have to travel north. How will Meg get to her swim meet? What about Barry’s ballet class? Luckily, the kids come up with an ingenious solution: why not just swap cars?
Louis wants a dog, but his Grandma insists, "There are enough dogs in the neighborhood already." But how many dogs are in the neighborhood? Surely a sternly worded letter to City Hall will clear this up. When it turns out that City Hall doesn't keep an official count of this essential demographic, Louis and his Grandma do their civic duty and take matters into their own hands. Together they meet all sorts of dogs with hilarious names and personalities. When they're done, Louis's grandmother is sure he's missed one particularly lovable dog, a mutt named Baklava in need of a new home.
If a puppy is in danger or a cafe is on fire, Fire Chief Fran is ready to help! Featuring a strong female role model, a huge fire truck, and an action-packed story, this read-aloud is a dynamic introduction to a day in the life of a firefighter. Follow along as Fire Chief Fran and her team respond not only to fires, but also to injuries, blocked roads and more.
Meet Lou. Lou has an important job... as the neighborhood toilet for dogs on their walks. Useful as he may be, he gets the feeling that deep down inside, there might be more to him than that. He just doesn't seem to know exactly what yet. When disaster strikes, will Lou find out what he's made of and save the day?
Mariana is visiting her abuelita and extended family in Mexico for the first time. Her tummy does a flip as she and Mami cross the frontera. There are all new sights, smells, and sounds. And at Abuelita's house, Mariana is overwhelmed by new faces and Spanish phrases she doesn't understand. But with a story, some kindness, and a few new words from Abuelita, Mariana discovers that the love of family knows no cultural divide.
Mina and her father live in a hollowed-out tree stump on the edge of a pond on the edge of a forest. Nothing ever bothers Mina, until one day, her father brings home a suspicious surprise from the woods. Should Mina trust her father—or listen to her own instincts?
Learn the importance of speaking up for what you want through this fun and empowering picture book. When a little girl walks into her local barbershop, she knows she wants the flyest, freshest fade on the block. But there are so many beautiful hairstyles to choose from, and the clients and her mother suggest them all: parts, perms, frizzy fros, dye jobs, locs, and even cornrows! But this little girl stays true to herself and makes sure she leaves the shop feeling on top with the look she picks.
Katie Honors is a really nice kid. But there’s one little secret that sometimes makes her feel not-so-nice deep inside: her little brother, Chuck. Katie loves her brother and works hard to be the perfect big sister but it can be hard. Chuck can sometimes be just so icky and messy. Sometimes it makes Katie secretly wish she had a trampoline or a treehouse or a giraffe instead of a brother. When all these emotions bubble up to the surface, Katie can no longer grumblesquinch them down. She explodes, but she also learns an important lesson: that there’s room for all of her feelings, even the scary ones.
A mule, a milk cow, a miniature horse, standing in a barn door, waiting for the sun to rise. As this trio rests in their comfortable barn, a realization slowly dawns on them... the sun is late to rise. After consulting the barn owl (who always knows what to do), they take Rooster and set off on an epic journey further than they've ever gone before; through the acre of tall corn, past the sleeping giant, all the way to the edge of the world.
Once there was a bridge and a terrible and very hungry troll lived underneath it. When the three Billy Goats Gruff decide to clip-clop across the bridge to get to the grassy ridge, the troll is already imagining all the ways to prepare a delicious goat dinner. But the troll underestimates those seemingly sweet but oh-so-savvy goats!
The Thumbs Up! Award
The Thumbs Up! award “recognizes and promotes an outstanding contribution to teen literature that has both literary quality and teen appeal for those 13 to 18 years of age.” These are the top 10 titles for this year.
Lahore, Pakistan. Then. Misbah is a dreamer and storyteller, newly married to Toufiq in an arranged match. After their young life is shaken by tragedy, they come to the United States and open the Cloud’s Rest Inn Motel, hoping for a new start.
Juniper, California. Now. Salahudin and Noor are more than best friends; they are family. Growing up as outcasts in the small desert town of Juniper, California, they understand each other the way no one else does. Until The Fight, which destroys their bond with the swift fury of a star exploding. Now, Sal scrambles to run the family motel as his mother Misbah’s health fails and his grieving father loses himself to alcoholism. Noor, meanwhile, walks a harrowing tightrope: working at her wrathful uncle’s liquor store while hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him—and Juniper—forever. When Sal's attempt to save the motel spirals out of control, he and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth—and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst.
Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She had a normal teenager’s life. Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors daily. Secretly, though, she is desperate to find a way out of her beloved country before her sister-in-law, Layla, gives birth. So desperate, that she has manifested a physical embodiment of her fear in the form of her imagined companion, Khawf, who haunts her every move in an effort to keep her safe.
But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, Salama is torn between her loyalty to her country and her conviction to survive. Salama must contend with bullets and bombs, military assaults, and her shifting sense of morality before she might finally breathe free. And when she crosses paths with the boy she was supposed to meet one fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all. Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are—not a war, but a revolution—and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria’s freedom.
Jay is living his best life at Karloff Country, one of the world’s most famous resorts. He’s got his family, his crew, and an incredible after-school job at the property’s main theme park. Life isn’t so great for the rest of the world, but when people come here to vacation, it’s to get away from all that. As things outside get worse, trouble starts seeping into Karloff.
First, Jay’s friend Connie and her family disappear in the middle of the night and no one will talk about it. Then, the richest and most powerful families start arriving, only they aren’t leaving. Unknown to the employees, the resort has been selling shares in an end-of-the-world oasis. The best of the best at the end of day. And in order to deliver the top-notch customer service the wealthy clientele paid for, the employees will be at their total beck and call. Whether they like it or not. Yet Karloff Country didn’t count on Jay and his crew—and just how far they’ll go to find out the truth and save themselves. But what’s more dangerous: the monster you know in your home or the unknown nightmare outside the walls?
Mars has always been the lesser twin, the shadow to his sister Caroline's radiance. But when Caroline dies under horrific circumstances, Mars is propelled to learn all he can about his once-inseparable sister who'd grown tragically distant. Mars's genderfluidity means he's often excluded from the traditions—and expectations—of his politically-connected family. This includes attendance at the prestigious Aspen Conservancy Summer Academy where his sister poured so much of her time. But with his grief still fresh, he insists on attending in her place.
What Mars finds is a bucolic fairytale not meant for him. Folksy charm and sun-drenched festivities camouflage old-fashioned gender roles and a toxic preparatory rigor. Mars seeks out his sister's old friends: a group of girls dubbed the Honeys, named for the beehives they maintain behind their cabin. They are beautiful and terrifying—and Mars is certain they're connected to Caroline's death. But the longer he stays at Aspen, the more the sweet mountain breezes give way to hints of decay. Mars’s memories begin to falter, bleached beneath the relentless summer sun. Something is hunting him in broad daylight, toying with his mind. If Mars can't find it soon, it will eat him alive.
Blair Scott is in her second season as a wildland firefighter when the Forest Service puts out a call for an additional class of smokejumpers. She and her best friend Jason both apply, though neither expects to get in since they’re only 19. But it’s been a devastating fire season, and they are both accepted. But going to training camp is only the first step—everyone expects the teenage rookies will wash out in the first week.
Blair has always been touchy about people telling her she isn’t good enough, so she begins taking unnecessary risks to prove herself. It doesn’t take long before everything spins out of control, leaving Blair struggling to cope. A story of courage, self-knowledge, and ultimate triumph over the elements, Jumper is a dramatic wilderness adventure that explores what it takes to survive—in every sense of the word.
Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved here from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.
But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes. On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair and square. Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.
Romania, 1989. Communist regimes are crumbling across Europe. Seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu dreams of becoming a writer, but Romanians aren’t free to dream; they are bound by rules and force. Amidst the tyrannical dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu in a country governed by isolation and fear, Cristian is blackmailed by the secret police to become an informer. He’s left with only two choices: betray everyone and everything he loves—or use his position to creatively undermine the most notoriously evil dictator in Eastern Europe. Cristian risks everything to unmask the truth behind the regime, give voice to fellow Romanians, and expose to the world what is happening in his country. He eagerly joins the revolution to fight for change when the time arrives. But what is the cost of freedom?
As each new decade begins, the Sun’s power must be replenished so that Sol can keep traveling along the sky and keep the evil Obsidian gods at bay. Ten semidioses between the ages of 13 and 18 are selected by Sol himself as the most worthy to compete in The Sunbearer Trials. The winner carries light and life to all the temples of Reino del Sol, but the loser has the greatest honor of all―they will be sacrificed to Sol, their body used to fuel the Sun Stones that will protect the people of Reino del Sol for the next 10 years.
Teo, a 17-year-old Jade semidiós and the trans son of Quetzal, goddess of birds, has never worried about the Trials, or rather, he’s only worried for others. His best friend Niya―daughter of Tierra, the god of the earth―is one of the strongest heroes of their generation and is much too likely to be chosen this year. He also can’t help but worry (reluctantly, and under protest) for Aurelio, a powerful Gold semidiós and Teo’s friend-turned-rival who is a shoo-in for the Trials. Teo wouldn’t mind taking Aurelio down a notch or two, but a one-in-10 chance of death is a bit too close for Teo’s taste.
But then, for the first time in over a century, Sol chooses a semidiós who isn’t a Gold. In fact, he chooses two: Xio, the 13-year-old child of Mala Suerte, the god of bad luck, and Teo. Now they must compete in five mysterious trials, against opponents who are both more powerful and better trained, for fame, glory, and their own survival.
It's been three months since The Night on the Bathroom Floor—when Lily found her older sister Alice hurting herself. Ever since then, Lily has been desperately trying to keep things together, for herself and for her family. But now Alice is coming home from her treatment program and it is becoming harder for Lily to ignore all of the feelings she's been trying to outrun.
Enter Micah, a new student at school with a past of his own. He was in treatment with Alice and seems determined to get Lily to process not only Alice's experience but her own. Because Lily has secrets, too. Compulsions she can't seem to let go of and thoughts she can't drown out. When Lily and Micah embark on an art project for school involving finding poetry in unexpected places, she realizes that it's the words she's been swallowing that desperately want to break through.