Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Barbara Joosse & illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-8118-2168-4
Publisher: Chronicle

Joosse (A Houseful of Christmas, 2001, etc.) tells the story of a boy’s sadness over his older brother’s growing gang involvement and of his idea to speak out against it. The young narrator talks about the night outside his house: “Sometimes, Mama and me look down at the street and pretend it’s not the city. We shut our eyes so only a crack is open, lookin’ through our eyelashes, and pretend we live on the moon. . . . If there’s shots fired, we say it’s the light of the stars crackin’ the darkness.” He is “afraid of what’s out there,” and depends on his brother Richard sleeping by his side (the window side) to protect him. Despite the narrators protestations that “We got each other. . . . We sure don’t need no bangers,” Richard starts staying out nights and wearing colors, and so the narrator and his mother get the idea to organize neighborhood peace walks, bringing families out into the streets at night. Christie’s deep and vivid palate frames the story, playing perspectives and shapes against the joy and tension-filled faces of the characters. His naïve style of painting may not appeal to all kids, who will also be aware that this is a “teaching” story, in the vein of Eve Bunting’s Smoky Night (1994). Nevertheless, it is well executed in word and picture, and shows an aspect of urban life that is rare in picture books, but sadly common in many kids’ lives. An annotated list of resources on gang prevention is included. (Picture book. 5-8)