"Jabari Jumps," by Gaia Cornwall (Candlewick)

It’s a summertime rite of passage: jumping off the diving board for the first time. In Jabari Jumps (Candlewick, ages 4-8) Gaia Cornwall brings to vivid life this moment for one little boy. At the center of the story is Jabari — he’s not a very big boy, but he’s cautiously determined that today is the day he will take the leap into the pool. He’s finished his swim lessons and passed his swim test, and his father and baby sibling are nearby. Still, that diving platform is quite high and the ladder is long. Jabari’s dad is comfortably encouraging as Jabari pauses partway up the ladder: “Maybe you should climb down and take a tiny rest.” Jabari agrees, remembering that he forgot to do his stretches. The blue of the pool and the impressive view from the top of the tall diving board ladder will have young listeners completely empathetic with Jabari’s predicament. When it’s clear that Jabari really wants to jump, his dad is right there, too, with a bit of wisdom: “Sometimes if I feel a little scared I take a deep breath and tell myself I am ready.”Jabari considers his father’s words, and a few pages later he’s into the water with a satisfying “SPLASH!” Cornwall’s pencil and watercolor illustration is friendly, full of the light blue of summer sky and water and attuned to the perspective of a small boy whose ambition is just a little bit bigger than he is. For young listeners, this lovely book is a reminder that the best summers have both challenging surprises and fun

Kathie Meizner

"Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time," by Tanya Lee Stone (Wendy Lamb Books)

Thanks in part to the Nobel Prize, the world knows about the courage of Malala Yousafzai, who defied the Taliban and insisted that girls in her native Pakistan be given an education. With Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time (Wendy Lamb Books, ages 14 and up), Tanya Lee Stone shows that Yousafzai’s demand is being bravely echoed around the globe by other young women. Inspired by the 2013 film “Girl Rising,” which featured dramatized portraits of nine young women, Stone brings readers deeper into their stories and examines why millions of girls are prevented from going to school. Drawing on 45 hours of the filmmakers’ raw footage as well as her own research, she shows that the common denominator — in nations as varied as Cambodia, Nepal, India, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Egypt, Peru and Haiti — is some degree of family poverty. With delicacy and great empathy, Stone shows how economic struggles have helped entrap girls in child marriages, indentured servitude and human trafficking. Throughout the book, Stone’s subjects look to the future — to professions such as medicine or teaching. Her careful consideration of their childhoods will prod young readers to think of what better sort of girlhood is possible for the next generation.

Abby McGanney Nolan

"The Hate U Give," by Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray)

In Angie Thomas’s compelling, timely first novel, The Hate U Give (Balzer + Bray, ages 14 and up), Starr Carter walks a careful line between her wealthy, largely white private school and her poor, predominantly black neighborhood. The former is characterized by safety, strong academics and casual racism, the latter by caring family and friends, sudden violence, and gangs. Starr’s two worlds converge when she witnesses the murder of her childhood friend Khalil by a white police officer. Starr struggles with what to say, and to whom, and begins, with the help of her activist lawyer, to push back against the media’s portrayal of Khalil as a thug and drug dealer. As the movement for justice for Khalil goes national, Starr deals with dismissive criticism from school friends, danger to her family, and rioting and looting in her community. This big, important novel is fueled by vividly drawn characters and large themes of systemic racism and speaking truth to power. Especially memorable is Starr’s fierce, sometimes sharply humorous first-person voice as she reflects on things including politics and her loving, strong-willed parents. The book closes with the young hero urging change, placing herself among people who are “realizing and shouting and marching and demanding” — an example that may resonate with readers as well.

Mary Quattlebaum