One teen’s vision of hope shines through.




An African-American teen explores the way his life has been affected by his imprisoned relative and racial profiling.

Fifteen-year-old Johnathan Harris tells his story in a graphic format that enhances his young voice. Johnathan and his close-knit working-class family (mom’s a nurse, dad’s a probation officer) live in Long Beach, California, but one of the biggest influences in his life, his uncle Russell, is serving time in Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, four hours away. “Crazy, right? My dad works in law enforcement and my uncle’s in jail.” Despite this, Johnathan’s uncle provides guidance during visits and via other communication, encouraging him to understand and appreciate both his culture and those of others. Both early trauma and incidents as an older child playing soccer and in Boy Scouts make Johnathan question his uncle’s efforts to get him to relinquish skin color prejudice, but he is ultimately able to hold onto those teachings. This memoir has a strong authentic youth voice and reflects a young teen’s perspective. The full-color graphics are a strong accompaniment, often using visual metaphor. The concept of “colorblindness” is a dubious one, but it is Johnathan’s efforts to avoid racial bitterness as he grows into manhood that come through. This volume, part of a series of graphic novels written by young adults, includes additional biographical information, information for parents, and teacher support (through the publisher’s website).

One teen’s vision of hope shines through. (Graphic memoir. 11-14)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947378-12-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Zuiker Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Give this a pass: much clearer pictures of what DNA does and the strong personalities who were involved in winkling out its...



From the Campfire Heroes series

The story of the discovery of the structure of DNA, in graphic format.

Failing to take advantage of either the format or the historic search’s drama, this rendition presents a portentous account heavy on explication and melodramatic rhetoric and featuring a cast of grimacing or pinched-looking figures spouting wooden dialogue. Watson: “So if we combine our research with Rosalind’s data and…” Crick: “And Linus’s approach of building models. We might be able to figure this out.” Helfand diffuses the focus by paying nearly as much attention to the childhoods and early careers of Linus Pauling, Maurice Wilkins, and Rosalind Franklin as he does to Watson and Crick but downplays the rivalries that drove the race. Also, for all the technical detail he injects (“the phosphates would have to be on the outside”) and further explanations in the back, readers will be left in the dark about the role of genes, how DNA actually works, or even the significance of its double helix structure. A closing note about the contributions of Indian-born Nobelist Har Gobind Khorana adds a note of diversity to the all-white cast.

Give this a pass: much clearer pictures of what DNA does and the strong personalities who were involved in winkling out its secrets are available. (Graphic nonfiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-93-81182-21-5

Page Count: 92

Publisher: Campfire

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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An optimistic picture of our progress toward promoting a more perfect union, with an essential tool kit for every current or...



An immigrant’s-eye view of the Constitution’s importance, featuring a transcription of the document into simpler, modern language.

Addressing young readers with a reference to the preamble—“You are the posterity for whom they gathered in Philadelphia”—the Pakistan-born author opens with eloquent praise for the mix of idealism and practicality that permeates both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and has made the Constitution “America’s beating heart.” Along with including the complete texts of both (the Declaration’s “merciless Indian Savages” and all), he goes on to describe the former’s composition, including the “shameful compromise” on slavery, and to explain the resulting structure of our federal government (including the press as an unofficial “fourth branch”). He also offers a less-formal rendition of the Constitution’s articles and amendments (“ensure domestic tranquility” becomes “ensure peace within our borders”) and highlights 13 landmark Supreme Court decisions related to federal powers and personal rights. If he neglects to mention that among the Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson too was a slaveholder or gives short shrift to American immigration law’s checkered (to say the least) history, still he makes a sturdy case for understanding those powers and rights and appreciating their value. Frequent personal asides underline the message, as do his closing suggestions for becoming and remaining politically active and aware.

An optimistic picture of our progress toward promoting a more perfect union, with an essential tool kit for every current or prospective citizen. (index) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7091-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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