Jacqueline Woodson was born on February 12, 1963, in Columbus, Ohio. She had her growing up days in both South Carolina and Brooklyn, New York. One reason that she writes is because she believes that "language can change the world."
When she was young, she rarely saw books that had pictures of people who looked like her or her family or her friends. Her books have helped to fill in that gap, making it easier for libraries to succeed in their mission of letting every child find herself or himself in a book.
“My dad works at an advertising agency and my mom anchors the local evening news. They are both very good-looking for old people, and I’m not being arrogant but just stating a fact when I say I inherited the best from both of them.” – Ashley, We Are All Made of Molecules
Ashley is the best-looking and most popular person in high school. Stewart, not so much. Stewart is a certifiable genius. Ashley? Well, let’s just say she’s a few fries short of a Happy Meal.
Years ago, three-year-old Gerald was left home alone in an apartment where a fire broke out. When authorities discovered that Gerald was home by himself, he was removed from the custody of his substance-addicted mother Monique and sent to live with his aunt. While living with his Aunt, Queen, Gerald is happy. After his aunt dies when he is nine, his mother returns but now she has a new husband, Jordan, and a daughter, Angel. Gerald goes to live with them, but he soon learns that all is not well. Jordan works sporadically and is abusive towards Angel and Monique. Monique does not stand up to Jordan--in fact she spends most of her time trying to please him. Jordan's abusive behavior towards Angel is a constant source of distress for Gerald. Soon the problems escalate to a point that force Gerald's hand in Forged by Fire, by Sharon Draper.
Robbie is in middle school and has a pretty typical life in The End of the Line by Angela Cerrito. His mom runs a day care business from their home, his dad goes to work, and his beloved Uncle Grant--almost ready for deployment to Iraq--trains with Robbie to run long distance. A new boy named Ryan comes to town and befriends Robbie, and Robbie reluctantly accepts Ryan's friendship. Ryan's home life is very different from Robbie's. His mother is in the "hospital," and he hasn't seen his younger sister in months. He lives with his grandparents in a dilapidated old house that is on the verge of being condemned-- so much so that his house is regarded by the other teens in town as a haunted house. He rarely has any food available--certainly none to share when he has a friend over.
Kayla McHenry turned sixteen, and her Mom threw her a huge birthday party. That is what Kayla's mom does for a living --she puts together parties for people. The only problem is that Kayla's mom never asked her what kind of party she wanted or if she even wanted one at all. She didn't. Besides all that, her best friend Nicole has become cute and popular and she is dating the guy Kayla is madly in love with ...Ben McKenzie. In the book You Wish, by Amanda Hubbard, Kayla McHenry is 16 and miserable. After the disappointing birthday party (the one that her best friend completely missed because she was on a date with her boyfriend), Kayla reminisces on the day and cavalierly wishes that all of her birthday wishes that she has ever made would come true. The next morning there is a bright pink pony in her yard. The next day her bedroom is full of gumballs. After that her Raggedy Ann doll comes to life and wants to go everywhere with her, even to school. But wait there is more. Did I mention that Ken shows up to take her out on a date? This brings to mind the phrase "be careful what you wish for."
Eric is thirteen. His family has moved to Long Island. They are in a new place and he is in a new school, but all this happens without his Dad. His Dad did not move with them. He is elsewhere and suffering from depression. In Bystander by James Preller, the reader sympathizes with Eric as he makes all these new adjustments in his new life. He misses his dad, and his mom is very busy trying to create a typical life for her children.
Eric is the new kid in town and in school. He meets a group of middle schoolers while on the basketball court one day. As the dynamics of the group reveal themselves, Eric is quick to realize that Griffin Connelly (the leader of the pack) is not such a nice guy. In fact, he is a bully. One of the main targets for his mean antics is David Hallenback. David is under the mistaken assumption that he is part of the group and a friend of Griffin's. That is not the case.