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Missouri Literacy Association

An Affiliate of International Literacy Association

The mission of the Missouri Literacy Association is to empower educators, ensure equity, inspire students & encourage leaders with the equitable resources they need to make literacy accessible for all in our diverse community.

Chapter Books for High School Readers

Click on book cover to go to Goodreads for more information on the book.

 All-American Muslim Girl

All-American Muslim Girl

by Nadine Jolie Courtney

Themes: Identity, Religion, Discrimination

Published 2019

Even though she's moved several times due to her father's job as a professor, sixteen-year-old Allie Abraham seems to fit in wherever she goes due to her white skin and her reddish hair. Allie knows that people wouldn't be so quick to accept her if they knew her name is Alia and that she and her parents are Muslim. Her Circassian-Jordanian father was raised Muslim but is no longer practicing; her white American mother converted when she got married.

Eager to connect with her heritage and her religion Allie joins her school's Muslim Student Association and a Quran study group. However, she keeps her involvement in both of these groups a secret from her father, to whom she has always been close, because she knows he would not approve. At the same time, Allie must decide whether or not to be honest about her identity with her new boyfriend, whose father is a well-known, xenophobic host of cable TV news show.

The author skillfully explores issues of discrimination, religion, politics, and feminism while adroitly incorporating instructive passages that address misconceptions about Islam. All of this combined with appealing characters and realistic family drama makes for a great read that addresses important contemporary issues.

Salt to the Sea

by Ruta Sepetys

Themes: Survival, Historical Memory, Race/Ethnicity, Family

Published 2016

Four young adults. Four secrets.The worst maritime disaster in history. All of these elements collide in Ruta Sepetys’ unforgettable historical novel, Salt to the Sea. Set in East Prussia in early 1945, tens of thousands of refugees are desperately fleeing to the port city of Gotenhafen to board ships to the West in order to escape the approaching Soviet army. Among the refugees are Joana, Florian, and Emilia. They encounter many perils -- bitter cold, hunger, bombs, medical crises -- on their long journey to the Wilhelm Gustloff, the ship they hope will take them to safety and freedom. Once onboard, they encounter Alfred, a German sailor with problems of his own.

Although the events depicted in the novel occurred more than seventy years ago, the story is still timely due to its focus on refugees and its themes of war and the human suffering it causes. In fact, it almost serves as a memorial to the most innocent and forgotten victims of war. Salt to the Sea is historical fiction at its best. Sepetys mixes personal drama, true events, and historical tragedy to concoct a literary treasure. Her admirable sense of humanity, detailed research, and gift for prose remind us that in the direst of circumstances, hope binds us together. This book is a must-read for teens and adults.


by LJ Alonge

Theme: Identity

Published 2016

(Book #1 in the BLACKTOP series)

Fifteen-year-old Justin is a good kid who longs to fit in with his peers while staying true to himself. In an attempt to prove he’s tough, Justin commits an act of vandalism that does more damage than he intended. As a result, he’s more confused than ever about who he is. Living in Oakland with his mother and his dull stepfather, Justin is embarrassed by his drunken father, a presence in the neighborhood whom Justin tries to avoid. Justin spends time at the park with his friends as they play basketball, but he often feels out of place there. He wishes he were a star player, but in reality, he’s "a mess of arms and legs, uncoordinated like you wouldn't believe." However, he stumbles across a chance to defend his neighborhood’s honor and prove himself when he and his best friend assemble an unlikely team of misfits to play the unbeatable team from Ghosttown.

This short novel has enough basketball action to satisfy sports fans and a sympathetic main character facing a universal problem readers will relate to. This urban novel will likely have fans asking for the sequels, each of which is written from the point of view of a different character on the basketball team. A great choice for reluctant readers or any student looking for a quick read.

"You can't improve competence

until you improve confidence."

--Kylene Beers

What Unites Us:  Reflections on Patriotism

by Dan Rather with Elliot Kirschner

Themes: Patriotism, National (American) Identity

Published 2019

This eloquent and thoughtful collection of essays is a civics lesson, a walk through recent American history, and a study in good expository writing from a legendary journalist who has enjoyed a front-row seat last 60 years of American history. The individual essays would make excellent mentor texts for high school Language Arts classes.

Essay topics include science, the environment, empathy, inclusion, the press, voting rights, and much more. Rather addresses each topic through a modern lens and a historical one, showing how the past has influenced the present. Moreover, a storyteller at heart, Rather sprinkles in anecdotes from his own life, including his boyhood in Texas during the Great Depression and his long career as a journalist. His ability to employ a conversational tone while seamlessly blending expository and narrative writing adds depth to his essays and makes them more relatable to the reader. In true Rather style, the author uses vivid language and imagery, such as “We need elected officials who represent wide swaths of the population, not narrow gerrymandered silos.”The descriptive passages help make the author’s point clear and interesting.

WHAT UNITES US explores what it means to be an American, an identity not owned by any one group. It’s an identity that should bring us all together, and Dan Rather (with help from his senior producer, Elliot Kirschner) reminds us of this fact at a time when our country seems more divided than at any point since the Vietnam War.

This Time Will Be Different

By Misa Sugiura

Themes: Identity, Family, Racism

Published 2019

Seventeen-year-old CJ Katsuyama feels that she doesn't live up to the expectations of her mother, an ambitious and successful corporate executive. CJ hasn't found her passion in life and is content to work with her aunt at the family's flower shop, Heart's Desire. CJ's late grandparents owned the small business prior to World War II and were forced to sell it to well below market value when they were forced into an internment camp for Japanese Americans. Upon their release from the camp, they tried to buy their business back, but the new owner wanted full market value. It took CJ's grandparents 28 years to save enough money to get their business back. When CJ's mom decides to sell the shop to the family of the man who cheated her parents all those years ago, CJ and her aunt are furious and determined to stop her.

Sugiura packs a lot into this captivating story. She skillfully explores how the Japanese- American internment camps affect one family and one community seventy-five years later as she touches on themes of identity, family, racism, sexism, and stereotyping. There's also a subplot that adds a touch of romance to the story. Add all of that to the realistic and relatable characters, and you have a book young adults will recommend to each other.

Thirteen Doorways

Wolves Behind Them All

By Laura Ruby

Published 2019

National Book Award 2019 Finalist!

From the author of Printz Medal winner Bone Gap comes the unforgettable story of two young women—one living, one dead—dealing with loss, desire, and the fragility of the American dream during WWII.  

When Frankie’s mother died, her father left her and her siblings at an orphanage in Chicago.  Now Frankie and her sister, Toni, are abandoned alongside so many other orphans—two young, unwanted women doing everything they can to survive.

And as the embers of the Great Depression are kindled into the fires of World War II, and the shadows of injustice, poverty, and death walk the streets in broad daylight, it will be up to Frankie to find something worth holding on to in the ruins of this shattered America—every minute of every day spent wondering if the life she's able to carve out will be enough.

This heartfelt read touches on the American Dream during World War I.

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