Age Range- Grade 8-Adult Newbery Award-winning Jack Gatos’s memoir chronicles his unmoored final year in high school and his subsequent misguided effor...moreAge Range- Grade 8-Adult Newbery Award-winning Jack Gatos’s memoir chronicles his unmoored final year in high school and his subsequent misguided efforts to make enough money to go to college. Smuggling hashish lands him in prison, giving him plenty of time to reflect and write.
Gantos’s Che Guevera-esque mug shot on the cover and the publisher’s summary: The author relates how, as a young adult, he became a drug user and smuggler, was arrested, did time in prison, and eventually got out and went to college, all the while hoping to become a writer, doesn’t incline adults to recommend this book to the teen audience for whom it was intended. Checking my local library system I noted more than half the branches shelve it in adult nonfiction, and when I sought out the title after hearing Gantos’s charming and quirky 2011 Newbery acceptance speech I was nonplussed by the content and passed it by until this assignment. I found the book fascinating and entertaining. Gantos walks a delicate line, revealing gritty details, earnest and knuckle-headed choices and an entirely believable teenage cluelessness that adults and teens will recognize. His fear as he contemplates up to six years in Federal prison is palpable. His experiences leading up to prison, and while incarcerated, feel honest, unforgettable, vulnerable and remarkably, often darkly humorous. Gantos to his credit does not minimize the seriousness of his situation nor does he play his travail for laughs, he simply reports the situation as he experienced it, thoughtfully and without didacticism. I was surprised by how well paced the book was and how beautifully it was written. While there are depictions of drug use, mentions of serious violence and prison rape, the author’s tone and thoughtful reflections make the book suitable for mature 8th graders through adults.
The front matter includes a table of contents and a very apt epigraph by Oscar Wilde: I have learned this: it is not what one does that is wrong, but what one becomes as a consequence of it. There is no back matter and no information on Gantos’s website that addresses the particulars of what came after his release from prison. (less)
Age Range: Grades 8-Adult Six transgender teens from diverse backgrounds share their experiences growing up and transitioning to their preferred gender...moreAge Range: Grades 8-Adult Six transgender teens from diverse backgrounds share their experiences growing up and transitioning to their preferred gender identity. Immersive first-person accounts include brief editorial comments in a distinct typeface and, where permitted by the subject, illuminating photo essays.
Kuklin privileges the reader with an opportunity to hear the thoughtful and heartfelt reflections of six transgender teens. Despite the diversity of their backgrounds, ethnicities and experiences, what comes across clearly is the realization that as regards identity: gender is one variable and sexual orientation is another. Italicized authorial interjections help tie the narrative together and supply context but sometimes feel didactic: “School made Mariah feel like a loser, so she acted like a loser.” However the clear distinction between the teen’s stories and the editorial remarks allows the reader the freedom to keep perspectives clear and form their own judgments.
These personal reflections on identity, sexuality, societal expectations and biases, relations with peers and parents are fascinating in their own right for all readers. They are particularly useful for those who have a personal or professional stake in transgender experience. This is a valuable tool for expanding understanding of a marginalized group.
Back matter includes a detailed author’s note that outlines the research and interview process, essays that describe the work of the two featured organizations that work with transgender youth, commonly asked questions and answers about transgender issues, a glossary, and list of varies resources: including an extensive list of service and advocacy organizations.
Age Range: 8th-12th Awards: A New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year~An ALA Best Book for Young Adults~A School Library Journal Best Book of the Y...moreAge Range: 8th-12th Awards: A New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year~An ALA Best Book for Young Adults~A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
The Chocolate War takes place at an all boys Catholic high school: Trinity, when a financially over-extended acting headmaster uses a boys’ secret society: the Virgils, to enforce the effectiveness of the school’s annual chocolates fundraiser. Because the real power within the Virgils is a sadistic and Machiavellian manipulator, what should be a simple fundraiser does indeed become a descent into hell led by the Virgils.
There are several elements that really distinguish this book. It has a plot complicated by in-depth views into the minds and actions of a dozen or more teenage boys. This depth of insight into so many distinct personalities is both moving and chilling; we see how the peer pressure, insecurities, doubts and frequent cruelties of adolescence play out on an individual scale and how they all connect to enable the far greater, and less excusable, malevolence of adults. The book includes many episodes of masturbation, sexual objectification of girls and vulgar language, all unusual material in a YA book in the early seventies. It also was and is groundbreaking for its bleak ending in which evil and hypocrisy are rewarded and independence and valor are punished.
I found the book a compelling, if claustrophobic, read. Cormier’s two protagonists: Jerry and Goober, are such likable kids and they and the other teens, even the most malignant, are portrayed with subtlety and sympathy. I appreciated the message that adults are not to be trusted; those vested with power over students are likely to have their own agendas, which may require the sacrifice of kids and that kids, who have been brought up to trust and obey authority are at terrible risk. I thought Cormier’s examples of Brother Leon’s hypocrisies were well done, but over all the adult characters, with the exception of Jerry’s father, are not given the same rounded treatment as the teens. There are a few places where the writing felt overly didactic: “And he did see-that life was rotten, that there were no heroes, really, and that you couldn’t trust anybody, not even yourself.” A description of Brother Leon’s hands seems similarly over the top: “…his fingers like the legs of pale spiders with a victim in their clutch.” I had a hard time believing in the final scene, but of course I didn’t want to believe it.
This book is like a rock dropped into a pond and is a great book to read with a class. (less)
A deadly munitions explosion at a San Francisco Naval-yard during World War II leads to a mutiny trial of 50 African-American Navy men. Sheinkin drama...moreA deadly munitions explosion at a San Francisco Naval-yard during World War II leads to a mutiny trial of 50 African-American Navy men. Sheinkin dramatically relates events surrounding the trial and argues their fight for justice precipitated civil-rights gains in the military and society at large.
Once again Sheinkin brings strong writing and cinematic flair to a thoroughly researched and engrossing topic. Quotes based on interviews and primary sources combined with historic and contemporary photographs bring to life the riveting and chilling story of the systematic racism and segregation that precipitated the largest loss of life on U.S. soil during World War II as well as the largest mutiny trial in U.S. history. The evidence is compelling that these mens' sacrifice and courage effected military and societal integration.
Front-matter includes a list of the Port Chicago 50, and contents. Back-matter includes extensive source notes, a list of works cited, acknowledgements, picture credits, and an index. (less)
I knew something of Margaret Sanger but after reading Bagge's graphic novel biography of her I feel like carrying a placard in the street: MARGARET SA...moreI knew something of Margaret Sanger but after reading Bagge's graphic novel biography of her I feel like carrying a placard in the street: MARGARET SANGER:THE LEAST KNOWN MOST INFLUENTIAL ACTIVIST OF THE 20TH CENTURY. READ THIS BIOGRAPHY NOW!
The cartoons are masterful: odd Gumby armed creatures redolent of the late 70's Mad magazine. The humor Bagge infuses into Sanger's story never seems forced, but does work to leaven her story. Some have criticized or praised his treatment as irreverent, but I didn't find that. What came across was his admiration for someone who was indomitable and whose life was jaw dropping and jaw droppingly influential.
Bagge gets a double gold star for his extremely informative and entertaining back matter. There is a two page essay on 'Why Sanger', and extensive page notes that provide lots of supporting background information. His bibliography is helpfully annotated. (less)
This is Homer, played for laughs, but not in any obnoxious way. Chwast's interpretation uses many of the comic book tropes to good effect: thought bub...moreThis is Homer, played for laughs, but not in any obnoxious way. Chwast's interpretation uses many of the comic book tropes to good effect: thought bubbles, side bars, explanatory arrows and thunderbolts. The story chugs along enlivened by the conceit that Odysseus has a space ship and he and Telemachus battle the suitors with Ray guns. There is some contextual female nudity, but it's hard to imagine anyone in a swivet over Chwast's simplistic rendering of a half circle with a dot.
What I can't forgive: and what knocked this from a high four to a three, is some missed opportunities that should have been total soft-balls for a graphic novel.
In a climactic scene Odysseus wins Penelope's hand by shooting an arrow through a dozen axes. The text is confusing, the contest is hard to imagine, so it is a perfect opportunity for a graphic novel to shine, but sadly a missed one. Chwast pictures a dozen axes balanced on their handles, each with a hole through the head of the axe, with the handle protruding directly above and below the hole. ( How could that work?) It makes no visual or physical sense. Less than two minutes on google revealed scholars believe the hole the arrows shot through were the holes in the head of the axe that the handle fits in; these were axe-heads without handles. Now I get it.
One of the most famous pieces of trivia from the Odyssey is the secret-fact only Odysseus knew about his and Penelope's marital bed. It is his knowledge that the bed can not be moved because one of it's posts was a living olive tree that he built the bed, and then the house, around, which convinces Penelope the beggar is really the returned Odysseus. So why would Chwast picture the bed on the second floor and show it with ordinary posts just a few frames before Odysseus describes it as a rooted olive tree? Very perplexing and irritating.
And a final minor quibble is- why not name Odysseus' dog? Argos has been famous for centuries for being faithful. Why deprive readers of his name?(less)
Ramon Perez's art and design elevates Jim Henson's found screenplay, creating a memorable and gorgeous work sure delight teens who enjoy a head-scratc...moreRamon Perez's art and design elevates Jim Henson's found screenplay, creating a memorable and gorgeous work sure delight teens who enjoy a head-scratching, perspective bending romp. A rustic everyman is finds himself caught up in a town's festival: he is feted as a hero, given a giant key and a map and impelled on a quest, pursued by a suave and diabolic individual and bedeviled by a beautiful and unreliable blonde. There are lots of humorous, dream-like and menacing breaks with reality. Henson and collaborator Jerry Juhl wrote the screenplay in the late 60's and revised it in the the early 70's. The script is full of planned and unplanned anachronistic elements and stereotypes: scimitar wielding Arabs, African tribesmen and White-Hunters, hulking football players, alluring cigarettes. In the cartoon context: in which all characters are stereo-types, and the surreal environment: does any of this actually exist, none struck me as problematic. There is one PG rated moment, involving drawn female breasts, but a plot twist undercuts any salacious content. The real star is Pereze's art and design which employ a brilliant variety of format to advance the quixotic plot. The images manage to be stylish, cohesive, witty, innovative, retro and surprising. Tale of Sand deservedly won three Eisner Awards: best graphic album-new, best penciller/inker and best publication design. http://sequart.org/magazine/17848/tal... (less)
An astonishing and insightful work of scholarship, this book explores Washington's relationship with slavery. Sensitive, principled and nuanced, Marfe...moreAn astonishing and insightful work of scholarship, this book explores Washington's relationship with slavery. Sensitive, principled and nuanced, Marfe Ferguson Delano explores the cultural context of slavery and how Washington's ideas about, and behavior towards slaves, changed during his life time. She uses lots of primary documents and features several detailed biographies of individuals owned by Washington. A personal endnote, chronology, bibliography, sources and index are included. Absolutely fascinating.(less)
Zero Fade by Chris Terry Published by Curbside Splendor, Chicago, IL. September 2013 (Only published digitally and as an oddly small paperback- 5.9 x 4...moreZero Fade by Chris Terry Published by Curbside Splendor, Chicago, IL. September 2013 (Only published digitally and as an oddly small paperback- 5.9 x 4 inches.) Age Range: 13-Adult
It is the mid 90’s in inner city Richmond; Kevin is in 7th grade and for nine days in April we are too. Saturday morning and Kevin is getting a haircut in the basement from his Mama when what he really wants is a wack fade and a chance to spend Saturday with someone fine, like orange-haired Aisha. While his dad is no longer around, Kevin has a tight family, a mom going to school and holding a job, an older sister Laura and an admired uncle Paul: his mom’s baby brother. While Kevin narrates most chapters, Paul gets a turn too. He’s gay and he knows it’s time to tell his nephew; problem is his nephew: pining to be cool, desperate to get with a girl and a fan of Eddie Murphy’s gay bashing humor, doesn’t seem ready to hear what he has to say. Add into the mix Kevin’s inability to control his smart mouth, getting grounded, a classic bully, the nastiness of his mother getting a date before he does and an ill-advised adventure with his sister, and Kevin has a full week.
Terry has written a hilariously funny, honest, warm and believable YA novel that easily crosses over with adults. It is a rare book that manages to make the YouthLibraries.org In the Margins award list of “the best books for teens living in poverty, on the streets, in custody - or a cycle of all three” and win over a diverse range of folk on Goodreads: from self identified ‘old ladies’ to those who don’t even like YA.
Zero Fade comes across as genuine, surprising and very recognizable- “crying in school is like peeing yourself. It feels good to get it out, but you wind up with a bigger problem.” Thank heavens Kevin is a winningly imperfect teen, with virtually nothing figured out. He fantasizes about being a stand up comic and wonders “[w]hat about my life would be funny later? Not getting any? No cable?” The book is packed with vernacular language, fresh observation and a complete lack of didacticism. When his uncle Paul gives him some good advice: “I mean, just keep doing your thing. There’s always gonna be someone wanna say something, so just do you.” Kevin rightly thinks “[b]ut I’ve been doing me and it ain’t working.”
One of the things I kept thinking about as we read this weeks articles was the salient point Michael Cart makes in Chapter 9: “-but most of all the sale of multicultural books simply isn’t generating enough dollars to entice publishers to significantly expand their offerings.” They aren’t making money because they aren’t selling and if my library is representative they mostly aren’t circulating well either. * Obviously there are exceptions, but I wondered if on some level we’ve conditioned kids to think if there is a brown face on the cover it is a heavy book. I wonder of one of the reasons Zero Fade is published as a paperback, with green cartoony characters on the cover, and in an odd small configuration, is to distinguish it from all the earnest hardbacks.
What I love about Zero Fade is it has a strong sense of ethnicity and place. It deals with substantive issues. It is frank. It is also very, very funny, very human and very relatable. If I can get a single seventh grader to read it I am convinced I’ll get half the class. Likely this won’t be without controversy as there is talk of titties and masturbation and lots of language inappropriate to school. I wonder if this is why this first novel by Terry didn’t win the Coretta Scott King John Steptoe award for new talent. Never the less I am convinced this exactly the kind of multicultural literature we need for kids, both for those who see Kevin in their reflection and for those who see Kevin in themselves on reflection.
In the latest installment in her award winning Giants of Science series Krull presents a vibrant portrait of Benjamin Franklin. Moving beyond the quai...moreIn the latest installment in her award winning Giants of Science series Krull presents a vibrant portrait of Benjamin Franklin. Moving beyond the quaint image of him flying a kite in the rain, Krull focuses on his astonishing scientific career. Amazingly innovative, jaw-droppingly philanthropic and determined to be useful, Franklin transformed his city, his country and the world. Krull lays out his accomplishments, framing them within his historical context, pointing out how his scientific fame enhanced his political effectiveness. Quirky pen and ink illustrations accentuate Franklin’s iconoclastic nature. Franklin emerges, not without flaws, but fully human, determinately accomplished, curious and thoughtfully rational. Sources, related websites and an index are included. Pair with Freedman’s Becoming Ben Franklin (Holiday House, 2013) for a complete portrait of the remarkable man.(less)
Pure unadulterated pleasure for anyone with affection for vintage superhero comics or the square jawed charms of the late 50's early 60's. The art and...morePure unadulterated pleasure for anyone with affection for vintage superhero comics or the square jawed charms of the late 50's early 60's. The art and layout are flat out gorgeous and often witty. It is truly the mother of all superhero tales. There are substantial efforts to address issues of sexism and racism, but with the exception of a John Henry character, this is still a white man's world. (less)
Never finished, but moved on. I admire the artistry and tone but found this a slog. I'm way older than the target audience, so lent it to someone, a h...moreNever finished, but moved on. I admire the artistry and tone but found this a slog. I'm way older than the target audience, so lent it to someone, a huge Scott Pilgrim fan: who is younger than the target. His verdict was it was a book for a patient reader and the drawing was also quieter than the Pilgrim artistry.(less)
Ages 12-18. A very solid biography of an important artist. Contains many handsome color reproductions of Rivera's work, painters work who influenced hi...moreAges 12-18. A very solid biography of an important artist. Contains many handsome color reproductions of Rivera's work, painters work who influenced him and historic photographs. Focuses on Rivera's embrace of his Mexican heritage and discusses the importance of politics in his work. Extensive source notes, a glossary, bibliography, art credits and list of where to see Rivera's works, and index complete this valuable biography.(less)
There is lots of intriguing information in Shenkin's book and it starts out with a bang: a counterfeiter jumping from a hurtling train. We learn that...moreThere is lots of intriguing information in Shenkin's book and it starts out with a bang: a counterfeiter jumping from a hurtling train. We learn that by 1864 an astonishing 50% of the money in circulation was fake. A lack of public confidence in the money supply threatened to collapse the economy and a frightened Treasury Department created the Secret Service. Counterfeiters resented the Service's successful clamp-down and decided to fight back...by stealing Lincoln's body. This intriguing, lurid and improbable true-story provides a window into the past and shows us some surprising realities. The book dragged a bit in the last third, through no fault of the author; it's hard to make a bumbling stagger towards capture nearly as exciting as desperate plotting and subterfuge.(less)