A young, laudable voice tells an indelible story of acceptance and prejudice.

THE MASK

A boy ridiculed for his deformities may find the price of beauty is too high in this posthumous graphic novel.

Mil lives alone in the forest; his parents abandoned him. Because of his misshapen face and body, villagers deride and even threaten the boy. He scrapes by selling his wooden sculptures, though most people steer clear of him. While walking through the woods, Mil finds a mask. It speaks to him and promises to make him handsome—the object of men’s envy and women’s gazes. All Mil must do in return is “perform a service” for the Mask someday. Though hesitant, he agrees, and the Mask fuses with his face and changes his appearance. Now people find Mil attractive and revel in his company. He opens up his own shop and falls in love. Then the day finally arrives when the Mask makes its demand, asking Mil to do something unimaginable. He must decide if he can live the life he wants with the deformed body he once had. This story, written when Adams was 16, is a remarkable allegory with a superb open ending. The pale white Mask boasts a physical beauty society seemingly craves, while its “soulless eyes” reveal an emotional deficiency. It’s easy to sympathize with the sensitive Mil; people dub him “the freak” or “the monster.” But he’s likable throughout; he falls for a woman who’s more interested in his sculptures than his looks. At the same time, the Mask is suitably menacing; its more human qualities prove the most sinister, like its “sly smirk.” Complementing Adams’ prose, Eason renders an expressive, sometimes maniacal-looking Mask, which understandably troubles Mil. Muted colors give the illustrations a deeper, subtle allure, like Mil himself. A loving tribute at the book’s end comes courtesy of Adams’ family.

A young, laudable voice tells an indelible story of acceptance and prejudice.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-578-56993-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: CJ Sparrow Publication

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in...

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NEW KID

From the New Kid series , Vol. 1

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)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-269120-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay.

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GHOST

From the Track series , Vol. 1

Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw feels like he’s been running ever since his dad pulled that gun on him and his mom—and used it.

His dad’s been in jail three years now, but Ghost still feels the trauma, which is probably at the root of the many “altercations” he gets into at middle school. When he inserts himself into a practice for a local elite track team, the Defenders, he’s fast enough that the hard-as-nails coach decides to put him on the team. Ghost is surprised to find himself caring enough about being on the team that he curbs his behavior to avoid “altercations.” But Ma doesn’t have money to spare on things like fancy running shoes, so Ghost shoplifts a pair that make his feet feel impossibly light—and his conscience correspondingly heavy. Ghost’s narration is candid and colloquial, reminiscent of such original voices as Bud Caldwell and Joey Pigza; his level of self-understanding is both believably childlike and disarming in its perception. He is self-focused enough that secondary characters initially feel one-dimensional, Coach in particular, but as he gets to know them better, so do readers, in a way that unfolds naturally and pleasingly. His three fellow “newbies” on the Defenders await their turns to star in subsequent series outings. Characters are black by default; those few white people in Ghost’s world are described as such.

An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5015-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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