Malden Reads Selects Companion Books for 2021

Malden Reads Selects Companion Books for 2021

Malden Reads is pleased to announce the selection of companion books for young readers, all of which complement the themes of the 2021 main book selection, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. These books were chosen by a group of educators, librarians, and other individuals in the community offering their support and input.

Relating to Born a Crime, through these companion books, we will be exploring themes related to racism and its history in South Africa and the U.S., and looking at how we can do better. Trevor Noah’s book reminded us of the perseverance toward equity, and the importance of community dialogue and engagement. His book also moved us through his power of storytelling and humor, and we were delighted that there is a young readers version of Born a Crime. Other major themes we will be exploring this year include:

  • Sharing and listening to everyone’s unique story
  • The role of humor in coping with life’s challenges
  • Racial disparity and inequity

Malden Reads is providing the books listed below to the Malden Public Schools at no charge, and will provide resource materials for teachers, school librarians, and literacy coaches. In a typical year, we provide class sets of books to the Malden Public Schools, but this year, while students are learning remotely, we were thrilled that the Malden Public Schools asked for 2,000 copies of Born a Crime for students at Malden High School to engage with, along with 450 copies of Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, for students in the eighth grade. Malden Reads is providing this significant amount of the books in the requested amounts (thanks in part to a small donation from the NAACP Mystic Valley Branch). Individuals wishing to help defray these significant costs are invited to email

All Malden Reads book selections will be available at the Malden Public Library for Malden families to borrow. Due to COVID protocols, the Malden Public Library is using a reserve-and-curbside-pickup method for library patrons. Books will also be available for purchase at The Gallery@57 on Pleasant Street in Malden, where a portion of the proceeds will benefit Malden Reads.

Nonprofit organizations that are interested in receiving a small amount of these book selections for use with children should email

Here are the titles and descriptions for the companion books, along with suggested grade levels (which can be adapted based on level of interest and reading level).


It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Adapted for Young Readers) by Trevor Noah (Suggested for Grades 5–12)

The young readers version of Born a Crime doesn’t adapt the storyline, but does include more context about apartheid in South Africa and does remove curse words. This version of the book is appropriate for readers with a fifth-grade reading level and up. In an interview with The New York Times, Trevor Noah said “I was lucky to grow up in a household where my mother gave me respect and treated me like an adult. That’s important to do with younger readers — they may not have the experience, but they are still functioning human beings and they can grasp the concepts.”


March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin (Suggested for Grades 7–12)

March is a graphic-novel version, first-hand account of Georgia Congressman John Lewis’s struggles for civil and human rights through the U.S. civil rights movement. Book One includes reflections on Lewis’s youth, to his meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the Nashville Student Movement and their battle to dismantle segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, to a climax on City Hall steps. School Library Journal says “This insider’s view of the civil rights movement should be required reading for the young and old; not to be missed.”

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi (Grades 7–12)

This #1 New York Times bestselling book is an accessible, young-people’s version of Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. While described as “not a history book,” it provides historical context for racism in the U.S., as well as a description of influential people, and current events. Author Jason Reynolds, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, said in an interview with NPR that this book is filled with “the things that I needed someone to say to me when I was 15 years old.”

Tell Me Who You Are: Sharing Our Stories of Race, Culture & Identity by Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi (Suggested for grade 9 and up)

The authors deferred their college admission for a year, after realizing they had graduated high school without any substantive discussions on racism, to do a cross-country trip to hear stories from individuals about their experiences. This book includes over a hundred interviews, and most importantly, offers a toolkit for dialogue on race and how students can tell their own stories and interview others.

This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell (Grades 6–10)

One of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2020, their review calls this book “essential” and a “guidebook for taking action against racism.” This brightly illustrated book written by a Montessori educator in western Massachusetts takes young readers on a journey exploring their own identity, understanding the origins of racism still experienced, and gives a framework for undoing racism. The book contains activities at the end of each chapter that parents and educators can discuss with young readers.


The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko (Suggested for grades 4–5)

This picture book tells the true story of the husband and wife and their family from the 1967 case that went to the Supreme Court, which made it legal throughout the U.S. to marry someone of another race.

Journey to Jo’burg by Beverley Naidoo (Suggested for grades 3–6)

This bestselling book, set in South Africa during apartheid, tells the story of a tween-age sister and her younger brother, who take a long and adventurous journey from their village to the big city of Johannesburg, where their mother lives and works, when their younger sister becomes very sick.


We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices Editors: Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson (Suggested for grades 4–7)

A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2018, and a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2018. This collection of poems, short stories, and other works by 50 diverse authors seeks to answer the question: “In this divisive world, what shall we tell our children?” This anthology, which seeks to empower youth to create a better tomorrow, includes a piece by author and Malden native Lesa Cline-Ransome.

PreK–Early Elementary


The Day Gogo Went to Vote by Elinor Batezat Sisulu (Suggested for grades PreK –2)

Narrated by a six-year old girl, this story tells about her 100-year old great-grandmother’s experience voting for the first time in South Africa’s first elections. Emotions are beautifully captured in the illustrations, which evoke the community’s excitement during the historic moment of voting, and the heartwarming bond between grand-daughter and great-grandmother.

Get up, Stand up based on the song by Bob Marley; adapted by Cedella Marley (Suggested for grades PreK–2)

A picture book celebrating Bob Marley’s beloved song, “Get up, Stand up,” this book “encourages children to take ownership of their convictions and stand up for themselves and others,” as Publishers Weekly states.

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson (Suggested for grades PreK–3)

Kirkus Reviews summarizes the book as follows. “Race relations, a complex issue, is addressed in a simple manner through the eyes of two young girls, one black and one white, on either side of a fence that divides their yards and, in fact, the town…What a great metaphor Woodson has created for knocking down old beliefs and barriers that keep people apart. Children learn that change can happen little by little, one child at a time.” Beautifully illustrated by award-winning illustrator E.B. Lewis, National Book Award winning author Jacqueline Woodson describes the trepidation, ambivalence, and ultimately, the friendship between the two young girls.