A surefire win of a read expressly made for young Black boys to cherish.

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J.D. AND THE GREAT BARBER BATTLE

Meridian, Mississippi, third grader J.D. has a passion for the arts and a dream of rising beyond the embarrassment of a troubled haircut.

For many Black boys, hairline awareness hits hard in those preteen years, and the jeers and dozens of the schoolyard start to pull at kids who can’t show up as the best versions of themselves. This is the predicament in which young J.D. finds himself. He recognizes the family’s financial challenges, as his mother strives to make do with the support of his grandparents. She’s in school again, and the rare quality time that they get comes when she cuts his hair. But no longer can J.D. get past the looks and chuckles his shaky line attracts, so he takes his mama’s clippers into his own hands and discovers he has a true gift with them. He even turns this art into a successful business, much like the real-life story of the author, a master barber. However, in J.D.’s world, Henry Jr., proprietor of Meridian’s official barbershop, isn’t just going to let a supremely talented kid come and take away his clientele. What will happen when these two barbers battle it out? Everything about this story feels like a beloved barbershop tall tale: quite heroic, maybe a bit unbelievable, yet full of intrigue and entertaining as all get out. This is authentic storytelling, supported by Roberts’ vigorous cartoons—full of styles that are straight fire.

A surefire win of a read expressly made for young Black boys to cherish. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11152-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Coretta Scott King Book Award Winner

  • National Book Award Winner

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BROWN GIRL DREAMING

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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A well-Crafted, visually rich, truth-telling tale for our troubled times that affirms the eternal importance of friends.

CLASS ACT

Jordan Banks has returned to the elite Riverdale Academy Day School for eighth grade, and although he still doesn’t smell like an eighth grade boy—much to his dismay—his growth spurt comes in other forms.

Unlike New Kid (2019), this sequel offers the perspectives of not just Jordan, but also his best friend, Drew, and his wealthy White friend, Liam. As Jordan navigates what may be his last year at RAD before transferring to art school, he frequently compares his experiences with Drew’s: Both boys are Black, but Drew is taller, more athletic, and has darker skin. Drew also has a new flattop that attracts unwanted touching from non-Black kids. This story focuses on how differently RAD students and teachers treat light-skinned Jordan and dark-skinned Drew and also how middle-class Jordan, working-class Drew, and rich Liam negotiate a friendship of mutual respect and care. RAD administrators and teachers have also realized that they need to work on diversity, equity, and inclusion, but their leadership choice for this initiative results in more microaggressions for the students of color. Jordan’s cartoon “intermissions,” black-and-white pencil sketches, capture his imaginative wit while conveying perceptive observations about race and class that ring true. Each chapter’s title page textually and illustratively echoes popular graphic works for young readers such as Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

A well-Crafted, visually rich, truth-telling tale for our troubled times that affirms the eternal importance of friends. (author's note) (Graphic fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288551-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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