Jordan Banks takes readers down the rabbit hole and into his mostly white prep school in this heartbreakingly accurate middle-grade tale of race, class, microaggressions, and the quest for self-identity.
He may be the new kid, but as an African-American boy from Washington Heights, that stigma entails so much more than getting lost on the way to homeroom. Riverdale Academy Day School, located at the opposite end of Manhattan, is a world away, and Jordan finds himself a stranger in a foreign land, where pink clothing is called salmon, white administrators mistake a veteran African-American teacher for the football coach, and white classmates ape African-American Vernacular English to make themselves sound cool. Jordan’s a gifted artist, and his drawings blend with the narrative to give readers a full sense of his two worlds and his methods of coping with existing in between. Craft skillfully employs the graphic-novel format to its full advantage, giving his readers a delightful and authentic cast of characters who, along with New York itself, pop off the page with vibrancy and nuance. Shrinking Jordan to ant-sized proportions upon his entering the school cafeteria, for instance, transforms the lunchroom into a grotesque Wonderland in which his lack of social standing becomes visually arresting and viscerally uncomfortable.
An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in America.
(Graphic fiction. 10-14)
Salvador Vidón is the new kid at Miami’s magnet school Culeco Academy of the Arts, but being at a special school doesn’t protect Sal from trouble.
Bullies are everywhere, but seventh-grader Sal knows just how to handle a difficult kid like Yasmany Robles. Obviously, you deal with a bully by opening a portal into another universe, taking a raw chicken from it, and planting it in the bully’s locker. But you cannot just go opening portals into other universes without some consequences. For one, Sal gets sent to the principal on only his third day at Culeco and in the process meets Gabi Reál, who isn’t buying Sal’s innocent-magician act. The more pressing issue is that when Sal opens portals, sometimes his deceased mother comes through from alternate universes where she still exists—Mami Muerta, in Sal’s words. But if you could bring your dead mother back, wouldn’t you? The story moves quickly, with lots of multiverse traffic, school hijinks, and strong, smart, diverse characters. Most are Cuban-American in various shades of brown, like Sal, Gabi, and Yasmany, and Hernandez effortlessly folds in multiple intersectionalities, including Sal’s diabetes and Gabi’s unusual, delightfully matter-of-fact family structure. Secondary characters receive as much care and love as the primary cast, and readers will find themselves laughing out loud and rooting for Sal, Gabi, and even Yasmany until the very end.
This book, drenched in Cuban Spanish and personality, is a breath of fresh air.
(Science fiction. 10-13)
This latest in the Rick Riordan Presents imprint launches Korean mythological creatures into outer space.
Thirteen-year-old Min cannot believe her older brother, Jun, has deserted his Space Force post, as he’s been accused of doing. Naturally, Min runs away from home to clear her brother’s name. It’s a Rick Riordan trademark to thrust mythological figures into new settings. Fans will breathlessly watch while fox-spirit Min charms her way onto a hijacked starship, ending up on her brother’s military star cruiser on the way to the lawless Ghost Sector. Lee has created an adrenaline-filled space opera with mythological creatures living alongside humans. Min and her family are gumiho, or shape-shifting foxes, but they present as human to hide their magical natures. She takes on the identity of Jang, a male cadet killed in battle, and enlists the aid of two other supernatural Space Force cadets: Haneul, a female dragon, and Sujin, a nonbinary goblin. Min is first and foremost a teenager on a mission and a magical being second. The ambivalence of her identity (fox or human, male or female, hero or traitor) echoes ethical questions that many kid readers face. It is refreshing to see both Korean elements and a nonbinary character seamlessly integrated into the storyline. Narrator Min explains Korean mythology smoothly as the action progresses for readers with no previous knowledge.
A high-octane, science-fiction thriller painted with a Korean brush and a brilliant example of how different cultures can have unique but accessible cosmology and universal appeal. (pronunciation guide) (Science fantasy. 8-12)
A transgender boy anticipates his new job as a big brother by helping his parents prepare for his baby sibling’s arrival.
Aidan “felt trapped” in his old name, clothes, and room before he told his parents “what he knew about himself.” Some girls never wore dresses, “but Aidan didn’t feel like any kind of girl” because he was “another kind of boy.” With his parents’ support, he embraces his identity and takes on a new, important role, becoming a big brother. More than anything, he wants the baby to feel loved and understood. This picture book sets a new standard of excellence in transgender representation by centering the feelings of Aidan, a biracial (black and South Asian) transgender boy. Juanita’s (Ta-Da!, 2018) digital illustrations have the look of ink and watercolor, and they bring the love in Aidan’s family to life. Bright, mixed patterns in Aidan’s clothes capture the vibrancy of his personality and his excitement to welcome a baby into the family. Lukoff (A Storytelling of Ravens, 2018) breaks away from binary language and stereotypical gender roles, highlighting within the text and in an author’s note that there is more than one way to be a person of any gender. The hopeful message at the end emphasizes love and the importance of staying open to learning.
Joyful and affirming, Aidan’s story is the first of its kind among books for welcoming a new baby.
(Picture book. 3-7)
From Acadia in the east to Olympic in the west, Turk presents an artistic and inclusive ode to America’s national parks.
Readers who pick up this 12-inch-square book will be immersed in nature and art even before they open it, as they share an adult and child’s view of mountains, flowers, stream, and sky. Much like the parks they celebrate, each majestic spread in this book holds wonders for the eye to explore, with one or occasionally two parks represented per spread. Well-known and lesser-known parks alike are featured, whetting readers’ appetites to learn more and explore. From close-up views of animals—pronghorn amid prairie grasses, bison in a snowy oasis, a bobcat in the dark—to children and their families—city children and farm children, immigrants and Indigenous, all joyously diverse—the text repeats the soothing refrain to all: “you are home.” The art is created using pastel on black paper, which produces a deep feeling of purpose behind each stroke and swath of color. The art could stand alone, but the words manage to add even more weight, pinpointing the feeling familiar to many nature lovers: “a sense of belonging, / sung by the streams, / from valleys to peaks, / over thousands of miles, / through millions of hearts.” Perusing this book induces a longing to go outside and travel but also to create art of one’s own.