An occasionally muddled, overambitious foray into an X-Men–like universe.

Reject High

Kids the system has given up on acquire power of their own in Thompson’s (The Anarchists, 2012, etc.) YA debut sci-fi thriller, the first in a series set among students at an alternative high school.

Jason Champion suffers from ADHD and rage blackouts. After he breaks a student’s jaw in a fight he doesn’t remember, he lands at Regional Education and Guidance Collective Training high school for the last two weeks of his freshman year. R.E.G.C.T., colloquially known as “Reject High,” is a dumping ground for students the district would prefer to forget; having just reopened after a student’s on-site suicide, the school’s slated for demolition during the summer. Jason strikes up a friendship with goth girl Rhapsody Lowe. While playing hooky in the same restroom where Cherish Watkins killed herself, they’re almost caught by an armed Student Resource officer who patrols the halls. In fact, they should have been caught—Jason knows the cop looked right at him but didn’t seem to see him. Mystified, he grills Rhapsody as they serve detention together for kissing in the cafeteria. She reveals that she has powers of invisibility, thanks to a bright green crystal found in the school’s basement. When she gives Jason a prism made of the same material, he develops powers of his own: superhuman strength and incredible jumping ability. Soon, they’re pursued by unknown adversaries who want to protect “the source.” Thompson attempts to address serious issues, such as mental illness, bullying and victim-blaming (Jason’s love interest, Sasha, was kicked out of her previous school because a boyfriend taped them having sex and circulated it online), but the book’s overextended breadth doesn’t suit the story well. However, once the superpowers and villainous conspiracies show up, these topics fade into the background in favor of chase scenes and portentous bad-guy speeches. Still, it’s refreshing to read a YA novel with main characters of color whose race isn’t the focus. Though little is wrapped up in this entry in the series, potential remains for later books to better develop the lore of the strange crystals.

An occasionally muddled, overambitious foray into an X-Men–like universe.

Pub Date: June 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-0989105606

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Great Nation Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2013

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children.

THE NIGHT IS YOURS

On hot summer nights, Amani’s parents permit her to go outside and play in the apartment courtyard, where the breeze is cool and her friends are waiting.

The children jump rope to the sounds of music as it floats through a neighbor’s window, gaze at stars in the night sky, and play hide-and-seek in the moonlight. It is in the moonlight that Amani and her friends are themselves found by the moon, and it illumines the many shades of their skin, which vary from light tan to deep brown. In a world where darkness often evokes ideas of evil or fear, this book is a celebration of things that are dark and beautiful—like a child’s dark skin and the night in which she plays. The lines “Show everyone else how to embrace the night like you. Teach them how to be a night-owning girl like you” are as much an appeal for her to love and appreciate her dark skin as they are the exhortation for Amani to enjoy the night. There is a sense of security that flows throughout this book. The courtyard is safe and homelike. The moon, like an additional parent, seems to be watching the children from the sky. The charming full-bleed illustrations, done in washes of mostly deep blues and greens, make this a wonderful bedtime story.

Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55271-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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