“New kid” by Jerry Craft

Rated 5 stars ***** 2019. HarperCollins Children’s Books. 249 p.

New kidJordan’s parents, especially his mom, feel that sending him to an expensive private school will be the ticket to his having a “leg up,” which will open doors in his life. Jordan loves drawing and wants to go to art school, but is sent to become Riverdale Academy Day School’s (RAD) newest financial aid student – one of only a few students of color.

Having to negotiate a new world of rich, almost all white kids, feeling judged by the color of his skin, enduring subtle (and not-so-subtle) racism, and a seeming inability to bridge the gap between Washington Heights and Riverdale make it seem as if Jordan and his schoolmates are worlds apart. He wonders how to find commonality and friendship with them without sacrificing the life he knows in Washington Heights. But, through the eyes of his twelve-year-old experiences, Craft’s humor and colorful illustrations depict Jordan’s predicaments in ways that will evoke thought provoking responses from his readers. “New kid” will make an excellent Book Club book.

Awarded the prestigious Newbery Medal at the January 2020 American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards in Philadelphia, “New Kid” will go down in history as being the first graphic novel to receive this award. It was also the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Author Award.

Highly recommended for ages 9-14.

“Green Lantern: Legacy” by Minh Le. Illustrated by Andie Tong

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. DC Zoom. To be published January 21, 2020.

Green lantern legacyThirteen-year-old Vietnamese-American Tai Pham lives with his parents and grandmother above the Jade Market, her Vietnamese grocery store. Though someone keeps spitefully breaking the store windows, and his parents want her to sell because the neighborhood has changed, she refuses. After her death, Tai inherits her jade ring and soon finds out that owning it automatically makes him a Green Lantern – Guardian of the Planet.

Though he’s been warned about the dark side of power the more Tai learns about the powerful things he can do as a Green Lantern the more he starts to let everything get to his head – especially when Xander Griffin, a local billionaire, takes him under his wing. Tai will have to decide what kind of Green Lantern he wants to be, and will need to come to that decision very quickly.

Tai’s adventures, and the richly colored, detailed illustrations, make for quick page turning. It will keep even the most reluctant reader glued to its pages. I enjoyed reading about the first Vietnamese-American Green Lantern, and love that DC superheroes are being diversified – allowing even more readers to see themselves in its pages.

Highly recommended for ages 9-14.

“They called us enemy” by George Takei

Rated 5 stars ***** 2019. Top Shelf Productions. 204 p.

They called us enemyIn 1942, when George was almost 5 years old, his Japanese-American parents had their bank accounts frozen, and his father lost his business. Ordered out of their Los Angeles home with only what they could carry, they were forced to live in several different internment camps for four years. What was their crime? Their “crime” was that they were of Japanese ancestry and, thus, considered enemies by their own country – the United States of America. They, along with hundreds of thousands of other American citizens, were incarcerated in these camps.

Simple black and white illustrations convey George’s story to readers as he talks about his parents, and what it was like for them to navigate through years of being stabbed in the back by their own country. Their strength, fortitude and creativity were traits that got them through hard times, and enabled little George to feel as if he was on an adventure. Some of his memories of that time came through clearly, while at other times he relied on his father’s memories to flesh out his own.

America’s intolerance towards others because of how they looked during World War II comes across loudly and clearly, especially in the ways our current government has sought to keep out people of different nationalities. Philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This phrase bears repeating because the rhetoric and events unfolding since 2016 in the United States are leading our nation into the gutter, where we spent too much time in years past. It’s time for a new narrative to take over our land.

George TakeiI, along with thousands of other librarians, had the privilege of hearing George Takei share his story and talk about this book before it was released at the American Library Association (ALA) conference in Washington this past June. He was very passionate, telling us his parent’s generation kept their stories hidden from their children because they felt shame in how they’d been treated by their own government. It’s time for their stories to be told.

Copies of “They called us enemy” should be in every public and high school library in our nation, and used in book groups all across the country.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

 

“Survivors of the Holocaust: True stories of six extraordinary children” Edited by Kath Shackleton

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. To be published October 1, 2019. Sourcebooks. 96 p. (Includes a “Foreword,” “What happened next?” “Glossary,” “Timeline,” “Index” and “Websites.”)

Survivors of the HolocaustRanging in age from preschool to 15, six children’s lives were forever changed when the Nazis came to power in Germany and began to invade Europe. In graphic novel format readers learn about the isolation these children felt as they hid, lived with foster families or suffered in concentration camps during this terrible time in history. Their deprivations, sadness, experiences, and the loss of their families during the Holocaust are made real not only through their words, but also through vivid drawings. Over and over readers are reminded that it was only because they were Jewish that their lives were turned upside down by the Nazis.

After each of the children recount their memories, a small note tells readers a little about what they did after the war. A section at the end of the book titled “What happened next?” gives more detailed information about Heinz, Trude, Ruth, Martin, Suzanne, and Arek – the six very brave children who are now adults. The Foreword tells readers that they agreed to tell their stories because they want readers to remember what happens when people are told they’re “different.” They want us to remember no one should be bystanders to injustice, and that we should all stand for what is right. That, in my opinion, applies to the events that are currently happening in these United States of America.

These six stories are very moving, and Zane Whittingham’s colorful illustrations help bring their memories to life for both middle and high school readers.

Highly recommended for ages 12 and older.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“March: Book three” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Rated 5 stars ***** 2016. Top Shelf Productions. March #3. 246 p.

March book 3Death, White mob mentalities, racism, police brutality, and violence fill the pages of “March: Book three” as John Lewis and thousands of  volunteers nonviolently protested for the right to register to vote in the White strongholds of Mississippi and Alabama. Hundreds were arrested, beaten and intimidated. Some were even murdered by policemen, and other White supremacists.

Day after day, month after month, year after year nonviolent protests continued as their basic American right to vote was continually denied in these states. Lewis’ accounts of that time, along with detailed black and white illustrations, will bring even the most stoic of readers to tears. The evils perpetrated on the marchers by Jim Clark, Sheriff of Selma, as well as the struggles they faced that led to the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act are closely laid out in this amazing book.

During the present and past narratives Lewis employs, he’s with Obama at his 2009 inauguration. He presents the President with a commemorative card to sign, and Obama wrote “Because of you, John.” That phrase struck a deep cord in me. Barack’s rise was because of John, and others like him, who endured years of beatings and imprisonments to get out the Black vote. They showed that going out to vote is important. I have to add that if you’re reading this, and are old enough to vote and haven’t, please vote. Our country needs your vote.

The second moment that moved me to tears took place that 2009 evening when Lewis received a call from Ted Kennedy. Ted’s words of reminiscence, along with the names of those who were part of the battle but had been murdered for the cause, also made me emotional.

As a reminder to the reader, everything John Lewis writes about his time fighting for Civil Rights is educational. Maya Angelou once said (and I paraphrase): “We need to remember where we’ve been to know where we’re going.” The March series tells our history, no matter the color of your skin. It’s AMERICA’S history, and we’re all part of it.

RUN and get all 3 copies of this amazing series. I will repeat what I said in my review of “March: Book two” because it’s very important: All books in the March series are important to be read, not just by young adults, but also by all adults. 

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

PS – Below is the picture I took of John Lewis as he got ready to speak to the thousands and thousands of us marching in the 2017 Women’s March of Atlanta. I was proud to shake his hand before we set off on that rainy, chilly day in January. 

John Lewis

 

“March: Book two” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Rated 5 stars ***** 2015. Top Shelf Productions. March #2. 187 p.

March book 2In “March: Book two,” Congressman John Lewis continues the story of his fight for civil rights. When Book one ended, Lewis and groups of fellow students had defeated segregation at Nashville’s lunch counters. Now, in between glimpses of the present time where he’s attending Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration, Lewis continues to describe ways he and others worked to stop segregation in the 1960’s.

One among many who worked to end segregation, Lewis talks about the Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.). Together with members of C.O.R.E. he rode buses through the south as Freedom Riders, and his powerful descriptions of their treatment by White mobs and the police are carefully detailed. Readers are also told about the thousands of children who marched in Birmingham, the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and many other struggles in which he and others partook. The bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in 1963 paves the way for “March: Book three.”

Readers who may not be aware of important events in the struggle for civil rights for all Blacks will be educated in Lewis’ latest March installment. The black and white illustrations convey, sometimes without words, the horror of those dark days during the Jim Crow era. All books in the March series are important to be read, not just by young adults, but also by all adults.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

 

 

“March: Book one” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Top Shelf Productions. March #1. 121 p.

March book 1The Edmund Pettus Bridge. Marchers attacked by police officers. The page goes dark.

So opens the powerful graphic novel memoir of Congressman John Lewis and his march towards civil rights.

The next scene opens on January 20, 2009, where Lewis is supposed to be getting ready for an event in Washington, D.C. Instead he finds himself welcoming visitors and two young children to his office. As he shows them around he travels back in time, sharing details of his life as a little boy growing up loving chickens on his father’s sharecropper farm in Alabama, and tells how he wound up meeting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When he and other students had sit-ins to integrate Nashville, Tennessee’s segregated lunch counters in 1960, he reveals how the comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story,”  was an important part of their training. He describes the troubles they endured from Whites who wanted the status quo, and details how the protest resulted in his first arrest. Though the group ultimately won the integration of lunch counters in Nashville, there was still much work to be done for segregation to meet its end, as evidenced by the book’s open ending.

Lewis’ powerful award winning memoir teaches about the power of words, the power of action, and the power of nonviolent resistance. The illustrator’s black and white drawings, shadowing techniques, profiles, strong facial expressions, and full-page panels convey Lewis’ story in a powerful way.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.