THE JACKET

Clements (Things Not Seen, below, etc.) offers a heartfelt and well-meaning but somewhat simplistic novella that explores racial-consciousness–raising. When sixth-grader Phil Moreli attempts to bring lunch money to his younger brother in their school’s hallway, he quickly meets up with his sibling—or so he thinks—because there’s his brother’s very distinctive jacket. He is startled when its wearer turns out to be an African-American boy whom Phil has never seen. He wrongly leaps to the conclusion that this boy stole the jacket and a brawl ensues. Once the combatants face off in the principal’s office, the truth about how the jacket came into this stranger’s possession comes out. Daniel, the African-American boy, had been given the jacket as a gift by his grandmother who, in turn, received it from her employer—Phil’s mother—for whom she works as a cleaning woman. Daniel is angry that a white boy would automatically think of him as a thief and humiliated at an act of what he considers condescending charity. He storms out, first throwing the jacket on the floor. Regarding this as a gauntlet and feeling ashamed, Phil is now galvanized into reassessing his feelings and assumptions about African-Americans. He realizes that he actually knows little about them and is convinced that he is prejudiced. Phil’s attempts to come to grips with his guilt and chagrin will help young readers reevaluate their own attitudes toward people who are different from themselves. Clements mostly steers clear of easy answers and admirably avoids the cliché of having the boys become fast friends at the end, though each does come to realize that the other is “a good guy.” (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-82595-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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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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