Pulled from the past, this is a brilliant exploration of black childhood with profound emotional depth, drawn from the grace...



Back in print after decades, Baldwin’s warmly vernacular tale celebrates and explores the challenges and joys of childhood on a 1970s-era Harlem block rippling with black life.

French artist Cazac’s original vibrant watercolor illustrations are fully restored in this new edition. In a new foreword, Baldwin’s nephew Tejan Karefa-Smart, affectionately known as TJ, informs readers that “Uncle Jimmy” wrote this book to answer his youthful request: “When you gonna write a book about MeeeeEEE?” Thus 4-year-old TJ stands at the center of the story, with 7-year-old WT and 8-year-old Blinky joining him in an eventful day full of music bumping from Mr Man’s basement apartment, playful fits of African strut-dancing, and the occasional neighborly favor. Baldwin adopts an experimental structure, interrupting the present-day account with background scenes of beauty and tragedy, including a cinematic montage that introduces this familial, close-knit Harlem block through the choreography of a fatal police chase. This is offset by joyous moments, such as TJ’s flashback to family breakfasts on Sunday mornings when the little boy feels Mama’s love and hears Daddy’s lessons: “I want you to be proud of your people.” The people, places, and circumstances that TJ and readers encounter are emblematic of many issues children’s literature still struggles to represent today: Alcoholism, drug addiction, economic disparity, street violence, and racism all make appearances in critical yet loving ways. The editors’ introduction and an afterword by Baldwin’s niece Aisha Karefa-Smart further contextualize this new edition.

Pulled from the past, this is a brilliant exploration of black childhood with profound emotional depth, drawn from the grace and struggles of community and reinforcing the truth that no one knows Harlem like Baldwin. (Fiction. 8-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4780-0004-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Duke Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid.


From the Jake the Fake series , Vol. 1

Black sixth-grader Jake Liston can only play one song on the piano. He can’t read music very well, and he can’t improvise. So how did Jake get accepted to the Music and Art Academy? He faked it.

Alongside an eclectic group of academy classmates, and with advice from his best friend, Jake tries to fit in at a school where things like garbage sculpting and writing art reviews of bird poop splatter are the norm. All is well until Jake discovers that the end-of-the-semester talent show is only two weeks away, and Jake is short one very important thing…talent. Or is he? It’s up to Jake to either find the talent that lies within or embarrass himself in front of the entire school. Light and humorous, with Knight’s illustrations adding to the fun, Jake’s story will likely appeal to many middle-grade readers, especially those who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. While the artsy antics may be over-the-top at times, this is a story about something that most preteens can relate to: the struggle to find your authentic self. And in a world filled with books about wanting to fit in with the athletically gifted supercliques, this novel unabashedly celebrates the artsy crowd in all of its quirky, creative glory.

A fast and funny alternative to the Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-52351-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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After Castro’s takeover, nine-year-old Julian and his older brothers are sent away by their fearful parents via “Operation Pedro Pan” to a camp in Miami for Cuban-exile children. Here he discovers that a ruthless bully has essentially been put in charge. Julian is quicker-witted than his brothers or anyone else ever imagined, though, and with his inherent smarts, developing maturity and the help of child and adult friends, he learns to navigate the dynamics of the camp and surroundings and grows from the former baby of the family to independence and self-confidence. A daring rescue mission at the end of the novel will have readers rooting for Julian even as it opens his family’s eyes to his courage and resourcefulness. This autobiographical novel is a well-meaning, fast-paced and often exciting read, though at times the writing feels choppy. It will introduce readers to a not-so-distant period whose echoes are still felt today and inspire admiration for young people who had to be brave despite frightening and lonely odds. (Historical fiction. 9-12)


Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59643-168-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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