Though it highlights a worthy subject, this pitch is overthrown.

THE FORBIDDEN TEMPTATION OF BASEBALL

In this story based on historical accounts of the 1870s Chinese Educational Mission, a young Chinese boy tries to balance filial obligation and American culture as he adapts to life in Connecticut.

Woo Ka-Leong and his older brother, Woo Ka-Sun, are among 120 boys sent to the United States by the Chinese government to learn English, obtain a Western education, and eventually return to help modernize China. While American railroads and the potential for adventure thrill Ka-Leong, Ka-Sun is wary of the people and customs. These tendencies only deepen as the brothers adjust to their host family and the onslaught of strange experiences—too-sweet pancakes for breakfast, a female teacher, and that curious game, baseball. Disappointingly, Yang troubles a timeless story of immigration and assimilation with inconsistencies. The text’s mixed references to Ka-Sun as “Elder Brother,” “Woo Ka-Sun,” “Carson,” and, well into the story, “Ah-Goh” unnecessarily addle the telling. Chinese usage is also uneven: although the boys come from the Cantonese-speaking Guangdong region, the transliteration sometimes uses Mandarin words (“li,” “changpao,” baozi,”), and italicization appears somewhat scattershot . Most strange, though, is Yang’s decision to turn Ka-Sun into a cartoonish villain. Certainly, shock and resistance are understandable responses to significant cultural change, but this account forgoes realistic exploration of that and opts instead for lurid drama.

Though it highlights a worthy subject, this pitch is overthrown. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943006-32-8

Page Count: 200

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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