Enchanting indeed—and inspiring as well.

WATCH OUT FOR FLYING KIDS!

HOW TWO CIRCUSES, TWO COUNTRIES, AND NINE KIDS CONFRONT CONFLICT AND BUILD COMMUNITY

Welcome to a particular type of circus—where the child performers may just change the world “one acrobat, contortionist, and flyer at a time.”

The mission of a youth social circus is to bring together young people who don’t ordinarily meet and to teach them to work together as circus performers. The young performers of Circus Harmony in St. Louis and the Galilee Circus in Israel demonstrate what happens when people of different backgrounds work together to perform—to “fly above the fray” and “walk the tightrope of politics and friendships.” Levinson expertly establishes the historical context behind the circuses—the legacy of racial segregation in St. Louis and the troubled history of Arabs and Jews in Palestine—and shows that, in spite of the world around them, “Jews and Arabs…blacks, whites, Muslims, Christians—all kids—can get along. And that circus is an especially enchanting means in which to do so.” The text itself is a juggling act as she follows nine young performers, two circus directors, and the coaches in telling the story, based on 120 hours of personal interviews. Color photographs, sidebars, and a lengthy pronunciation guide to Arabic and Hebrew names, words, and expressions used in the text round out a thoroughly enjoyable volume.

Enchanting indeed—and inspiring as well. (Nonfiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-56145-821-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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A rich and deeply felt slice of life.

JUST PRETEND

Crafting fantasy worlds offers a budding middle school author relief and distraction from the real one in this graphic memoir debut.

Everyone in Tori’s life shows realistic mixes of vulnerability and self-knowledge while, equally realistically, seeming to be making it up as they go. At least, as she shuttles between angrily divorced parents—dad becoming steadily harder to reach, overstressed mom spectacularly incapable of reading her offspring—or drifts through one wearingly dull class after another, she has both vivacious bestie Taylor Lee and, promisingly, new classmate Nick as well as the (all-girl) heroic fantasy, complete with portals, crystal amulets, and evil enchantments, taking shape in her mind and on paper. The flow of school projects, sleepovers, heart-to-heart conversations with Taylor, and like incidents (including a scene involving Tori’s older brother, who is having a rough adolescence, that could be seen as domestic violence) turns to a tide of change as eighth grade winds down and brings unwelcome revelations about friends. At least the story remains as solace and, at the close, a sense that there are still chapters to come in both worlds. Working in a simple, expressive cartoon style reminiscent of Raina Telgemeier’s, Sharp captures facial and body language with easy naturalism. Most people in the spacious, tidily arranged panels are White; Taylor appears East Asian, and there is diversity in background characters.

A rich and deeply felt slice of life. (afterword, design notes) (Graphic memoir. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-53889-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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Ultimately adds little to conversations about race.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK BOY

A popular YouTube series on race, “Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man,” turns how-to manual and history lesson for young readers.

Acho is a former NFL player and second-generation Nigerian American who cites his upbringing in predominantly White spaces as well as his tenure on largely Black football teams as qualifications for facilitating the titular conversations about anti-Black racism. The broad range of subjects covered here includes implicit bias, cultural appropriation, and systemic racism. Each chapter features brief overviews of American history, personal anecdotes of Acho’s struggles with his own anti-Black biases, and sections titled “Let’s Get Uncomfortable.” The book’s centering of Whiteness and White readers seems to show up, to the detriment of its subject matter, both in Acho’s accounts of his upbringing and his thought processes regarding race. The overall tone unfortunately conveys a sense of expecting little from a younger generation who may have a greater awareness than he did at the same age and who, therefore, may already be uncomfortable with racial injustice itself. The attempt at an avuncular tone disappointingly reads as condescending, revealing that, despite his online success with adults, the author is ill-equipped to be writing for middle-grade readers. Chapters dedicated to explaining to White readers why they shouldn’t use the N-word and how valuable White allyship is may make readers of color (and many White readers) bristle with indignation and discomfort despite Acho’s positive intentions.

Ultimately adds little to conversations about race. (glossary, FAQ, recommended reading, references) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-80106-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

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