See?! Early adolescent literature doesn't HAVE to be drippy and idyllic all the time! This warm, musical narrative of three young sisters encountering...moreSee?! Early adolescent literature doesn't HAVE to be drippy and idyllic all the time! This warm, musical narrative of three young sisters encountering the Black Panther movement in 1960s Oakland is at once edgy and wholesome. Young children will feel compassion for Fern's wrecked white dolly and celebrate Delphine's surges of bravery. Older kids will feel scandalized by Cecile's deadbeat-mother lifestyle and inspired by the take-to-the-streets youth activism. Adults will catch the tragic notes of Cecile's quest for authentic ethnic, maternal, and artistic identity, as well as the irony of Calvin's big "sell-out" to THE MAN. Like many of my favorite African-American authors, Williams-Garcia's voice is so rich with cadence, you'll want to read it aloud and sway with the easy rhythm. Penderwick girls, eat your heart out.(less)
As far as I'm concerned, this is the gold-standard of young-adult literature. Meaty with substance and relevancy to teen issues, brilliantly composed...moreAs far as I'm concerned, this is the gold-standard of young-adult literature. Meaty with substance and relevancy to teen issues, brilliantly composed to teach young ones an appreciation for craft and subtlety, tenderly responsible with its message and ultimate guidance. I will proudly carry this in my classroom library, and I will take this to my next English department meeting. You can't find it in bookstores; I looked for over a year before finally ordering it on Amazon. Please, give it a try. Pass it around. Teach them to trust poetry.(less)
The moral of the story is that no situation, regardless of how awful, is helped by denial or shame. And the book takes exactly 193 pages to make that...moreThe moral of the story is that no situation, regardless of how awful, is helped by denial or shame. And the book takes exactly 193 pages to make that point. Could it have been crafted more artfully, rife with vivid images of human dignity overcoming great odds, weaving and undulating through poignant challenges and carefully applied metaphors, culminating to a grand climax of purpose and grandeur? Sure. But Allan Stratton didn't want to do that. He just wanted to tell a story: first this happened, then this, then this. And at the end he leaped onto a chair and shouted the theme at his readers. "This is why I wrote the book! Aren't you moved?!" Oh, and he threw in a clunky bird metaphor in the last twenty pages as if to say, "Oh crap! I have no figurative language in here to speak of. I'll add some....here."
Okay, I'll give him a break. I DO think that our youth need to know more about what's going on in the southern hemisphere of the globe. I think that when given the opportunity to learn about atrocities such as child soldiers, the AIDS epidemic, civil wars, genocide, etc., young teens can respond with surprising sensitivity and compassion. To that end, Stratton may succeed in educating some youth in the current crisis of AIDS in Africa, particularly the debilitating social stigma it carries with it and the subsequent lack of education or effective treatment. If this topic interests you (and I have had many students for which I know it does) then go ahead and check out this very short, simple read.
As for the maturity rating for parents and teachers, please be advised that while never, ever graphic or distasteful, this book does refer to several extremely disturbing events such as child prostitution, sexual molestation by a step parent, gang rape, alcoholism, AIDS, suicide, tribal witchcraft, adultery, and light profanity. It sounds beyond unacceptable, but keep in mind that this was written specifically for young adults; while difficult and upsetting, the sadly realistic subject matter is not corrosive or indulgent in any way.(less)