Reviews: Chapter 510’s New Youth-Written Books Full of Imagination and Creativity (Part 2)

A group of books with an African woman on the cover are on a brightly lit table
Photo by Robbie Sweeny courtesy of Chapter 510.

Some Oakland Voices correspondents read and reviewed newly published books by Chapter 510, a literary nonprofit based in Old Oakland. The youngest writers were 8 years old when they wrote their books. The published books include illustrations by diverse local authors, bringing their stories to life. 

The organization offers free writing programs for Oakland youth, and also partners with OUSD classrooms and teachers. An example is a novel-writing club at Westlake Middle School with teacher Tiffany Golden, leading to six published chapter-books. 

The books featured here, and other books, can be purchased from Chapter 510’s online store or by visiting their Department of Make / Believe storefront in Old Oakland. Read part one of our reviews.

three African American youth stand on a stage holding books they wrote
Photo by Robbie Sweeny courtesy of Chapter 510.

Was it You?

By Violet Wu, illustrations by Mara Ramirez

Author Violet Wu uses vivid imagery and sensory details to expose a secret that consumes the life of Reya. In “Was it You?,” Wu blends suspense and humor to engage the reader as we anxiously await for Reya and her friend Omo to uncover the neighborhood mystery. -KR

Our Hero 

By Maya Makonnen, illustrations by Todd German

If solving crimes wasn’t hard enough, try doing it under the legacy of your older brother. In, Our Hero, Maya Makonnen takes the reader on a journey of courage as Valentina Lopez fearlessly enters her family business as a detective. Detective Lopez proves that even when the world doubts your abilities, trusting your intuition will keep you on your path to victory. -KR

The Good or Bad Rob

By Raqia Izaath Dilshad, illustrations by Breena Nuñez

Can looks be deceiving? In The Good and Bad Rob, author Raqia Izaath Dilshad leads her readers into the woods to challenge their preconceived notions about monsters! Dilshad’s story is illuminated with vivid images by illustrator Breena Nuñez. -KR

Bravery is in Us

By Nafissatou Ndiaye, illustrations by Zhanné Easter

In Bravery is in Us, Coumba Saq’s school project on her family’s history turns into a magical mission to discover her ancestral gifts. Author Nafissatou Ndiaye and illustrator Zhanné Easter provide readers with a rich and vibrant lesson on bravery and self discovery. -KR

Making Friends

By Sofia Wang, illustrations by Natalia Anciso

In Making Friends, author Zofia Wang recalls the early stages of the pandemic to discuss the challenges of making friends. As the main character Zofia becomes acclimated to her new school, she learns how to open up and build lasting relationships during tough times. -KR

Making Friends by Sofia Wang. Photo by Robbie Sweeny courtesy of Chapter 510.

The Man in the Black Trench Coat 

By Emily Cho, illustrated by Mara Ramirez

The Man in the Black Trench Coat is full of mystery, starting with a man wearing a trench coat who drops a photo of the protagonist, Ellie, on a train. Ellie is a girl with the superpower of invisibility and a mysterious family background—and she could be in danger The concise story is action-packed, leaving readers wanting for the sequel. -MC

The Ghost Detective

By Ka’tara Jackson, illustrations by ColB

Ka’tara Jackson weaves a dark and thrilling tale in this supernatural detective story. The main character Jason W wakes up to find himself dead, murdered because he was getting too close to the truth of a cruel tragedy at the local hospital. The only person who can see him is the hospital receptionist, and together they confront the evil forces at work in their community. Ka’tara Jackson could easily become a great supernatural thriller writer; keep your eyes open for her work in the future! The evocative character art by illustrator ColB is a great pairing. -SR

Chubby: The Last Salmon Catcher

By Jaylen Perry, illustrated by Felicia Hoshino

The fantastical storybook, Chubby: The Last Salmon Catcher, is the tale of an innocent puppy who catches a fish that gives superpowers. The book is full of funny dialogue and lessons about human nature. In the end, goodness and friendship wins. Go on a magical journey, with illustrations by Felicia Hoshino, who brings the dog friends to life, through this amazing story. -MC

The Missing Case of Rose Gutierrez

By Sarah Guerrero, illustrated by Kanya Abe

A young middle school girl goes through life as a student while investigating the disappearance of her best friend, who went missing on their shared birthday. She drums up support from fellow classmates, and, using their detective skills and teamwork, plus the help of some adults, solve the mystery in this chapter book. -MC

The Missing Boy 

By Christian Veasey, illustrated by Lawrence Lindell

A group of friends save up money for a fun-filled trip of a lifetime to Vegas. But, one of them goes missing. The whodunnit chapter-book story is full of clues, pool time, and eating at waffle restaurants. Finally, the ending shows that one or more friends from the group brought the mischief upon themselves. -MC

The Ghost Guardian

By Su Myet Tun, illustrated by Kamakshi Duvvuru

A girl named Sky who passed away in a fire turns into her best friend Alex’s guardian over the years, making sure she does not get hurt. Many years later, Alex returns the favor by helping a young girl who reminds her of Sky. The remarkable fictional story takes us through decades of friendship, showing that even after we leave this world, we are not forgotten by our loved ones. -MC

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Editor’s note: Oakland Voices Alumna Marabet Morales Sikahall is a staff member at Chapter 510 and worked on the books.

Author Profile

Momo Chang is a freelance journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the Oakland Voices Co-Director. Her work focuses on healthcare, immigration, education, Asian American communities, food and culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Momo has received journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for investigative reporting and the Asian American Journalists Association, among others. Her work has appeared in the East Bay Express, San Francisco Chronicle, Wired, and The New York Times. Momo is primarily a print journalist who also produces audio and visual stories for documentary film and radio. She is a Senior Contributing Editor for Hyphen and formerly the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM).

Author Profile

Kristal Raheem (also known as Raheem Divine) is an ethnographic researcher, educator, and consultant from Oakland. She has earned a B.A. in Sociology and a master’s in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership. Her work calls attention to health and educational disparities among Black, Queer, and other systematically oppressed communities around the world. Through literary and visual storytelling, she aims to help people remember and remain on their path of healing and liberation.

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