GOOD NIGHT, COMMANDER

In the war between Iran and Iraq, a little boy loses his leg—and also his mother. Once safe, his only way to make sense of the tragedy is to re-create the war in his bedroom with a toy gun and imaginary soldiers. This time however, he is in control; he is the Commander. But when he finally meets his enemy face to face, he finds a young boy, similar to him. Readers learn a universal truth—enemies are never as different as one would imagine. The boy stops fighting and looks tearfully at his mother’s photograph, ashamed that he was unable to avenge her death. A reassuring voice whispers, “Congratulations, Commander. I am proud of you.” Zahedi’s wobbly, childlike sketches reinforce the direct perspective of a child struggling to process horrific events. Educating children about war will never be easy, but a story from a child’s voice shows how combat affects everyone. Tanks and fallen soldiers, no matter how innocently rendered, make this more suitable for older readers, but the recognition of the essential humanity of an enemy is a good lesson for all. (introductory note) (Picture book. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-88899-989-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many.

GUTS

Young Raina is 9 when she throws up for the first time that she remembers, due to a stomach bug. Even a year later, when she is in fifth grade, she fears getting sick.

Raina begins having regular stomachaches that keep her home from school. She worries about sharing food with her friends and eating certain kinds of foods, afraid of getting sick or food poisoning. Raina’s mother enrolls her in therapy. At first Raina isn’t sure about seeing a therapist, but over time she develops healthy coping mechanisms to deal with her stress and anxiety. Her therapist helps her learn to ground herself and relax, and in turn she teaches her classmates for a school project. Amping up the green, wavy lines to evoke Raina’s nausea, Telgemeier brilliantly produces extremely accurate visual representations of stress and anxiety. Thought bubbles surround Raina in some panels, crowding her with anxious “what if”s, while in others her negative self-talk appears to be literally crushing her. Even as she copes with anxiety disorder and what is eventually diagnosed as mild irritable bowel syndrome, she experiences the typical stresses of school life, going from cheer to panic in the blink of an eye. Raina is white, and her classmates are diverse; one best friend is Korean American.

With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many. (Graphic memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-545-85251-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Funny and endearing, though incomplete characterizations provoke questions.

THE UNTEACHABLES

An isolated class of misfits and a teacher on the edge of retirement are paired together for a year of (supposed) failure.

Zachary Kermit, a 55-year-old teacher, has been haunted for the last 27 years by a student cheating scandal that has earned him the derision of his colleagues and killed his teaching spirit. So when he is assigned to teach the Self-Contained Special Eighth-Grade Class—a dumping ground for “the Unteachables,” students with “behavior issues, learning problems, juvenile delinquents”—he is unfazed, as he is only a year away from early retirement. His relationship with his seven students—diverse in temperament, circumstance, and ability—will be one of “uncomfortable roommates” until June. But when Mr. Kermit unexpectedly stands up for a student, the kids of SCS-8 notice his sense of “justice and fairness.” Mr. Kermit finds he may even care a little about them, and they start to care back in their own way, turning a corner and bringing along a few ghosts from Mr. Kermit’s past. Writing in the alternating voices of Mr. Kermit, most of his students, and two administrators, Korman spins a narrative of redemption and belief in exceeding self-expectations. Naming conventions indicate characters of different ethnic backgrounds, but the book subscribes to a white default. The two students who do not narrate may be students of color, and their characterizations subtly—though arguably inadequately—demonstrate the danger of preconceptions.

Funny and endearing, though incomplete characterizations provoke questions. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-256388-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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