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Electric and expansive.

This poetry collection celebrates more than 20 years of students’ writing from Chicago’s Oak Park and River Forest High School Spoken Word Club.

Since its founding by Kahn in 1999, the OPRFHS Spoken Word Club has inspired its members, who have won numerous accolades, published their work in prestigious journals, and studied creative writing at top universities. Collected here are dozens of poems by former members of the club, curated by groundbreaking poets Abdurraqib, Choi, Kahn, and Sullivan. The poems are organized by theme, starting with the localized “Notes From Here,” which offers meditations on Chicago’s uniquely complicated landscape, and ending with the haunting section of “Survival Tactics,” which showcases the resilience that develops in the face of hardship. The young poets featured in these pages hold nothing back, spilling their souls into spellbinding odes to pain, hope, and justice and delving into intensely personal subject matter: Asia Calcagno writes of being born in “A conditional war zone—a consequence / of blessings”; Vann Harris imagines raising a mixed-race child and muses on the violent legacy of slavery: “For my proverbial daughter’s father, I am / a mantelpiece. A feast. A storehouse for his seed”; RC Davis laments a funeral where “these words will buzz around the room: / Sister. Granddaughter. Young woman./ No one will use they/them pronouns in my eulogy.” The variety of content, poetic styles, and perspective ensures broad appeal.

Electric and expansive. (about the club, contributor credits) (Poetry. 12-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-22681-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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From the Pocket Change Collective series

Small but mighty necessary reading.

A miniature manifesto for radical queer acceptance that weaves together the personal and political.

Eli, a cis gay white Jewish man, uses his own identities and experiences to frame and acknowledge his perspective. In the prologue, Eli compares the global Jewish community to the global queer community, noting, “We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience.” He details his own isolating experiences as a queer adolescent in an Orthodox Jewish community and reflects on how he and so many others would have benefitted from a robust and supportive queer community. The rest of the book outlines 10 principles based on the belief that an expectation of mutual care and concern across various other dimensions of identity can be integrated into queer community values. Eli’s prose is clear, straightforward, and powerful. While he makes some choices that may be divisive—for example, using the initialism LGBTQIAA+ which includes “ally”—he always makes clear those are his personal choices and that the language is ever evolving.

Small but mighty necessary reading. (resources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09368-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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From the Pocket Change Collective series

Brief yet inspirational, this story will galvanize youth to use their voices for change.

Teen environmental activist and founder of the nonprofit Hannah4Change, Testa shares her story and the science around plastic pollution in her fight to save our planet.

Testa’s connection to and respect for nature compelled her to begin championing animal causes at the age of 10, and this desire to have an impact later propelled her to dedicate her life to fighting plastic pollution. Starting with the history of plastic and how it’s produced, Testa acknowledges the benefits of plastics for humanity but also the many ways it harms our planet. Instead of relying on recycling—which is both insufficient and ineffective—she urges readers to follow two additional R’s: “refuse” and “raise awareness.” Readers are encouraged to do their part, starting with small things like refusing to use plastic straws and water bottles and eventually working up to using their voices to influence business and policy change. In the process, she highlights other youth advocates working toward the same cause. Short chapters include personal examples, such as observations of plastic pollution in Mauritius, her maternal grandparents’ birthplace. Testa makes her case not only against plastic pollution, but also for the work she’s done, resulting in something of a college-admissions–essay tone. Nevertheless, the first-person accounts paired with science will have an impact on readers. Unfortunately, no sources are cited and the lack of backmatter is a missed opportunity.

Brief yet inspirational, this story will galvanize youth to use their voices for change. (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22333-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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