EQUAL

A look back at a complex era that continues to resonate in today’s world.

In 1959, a North Carolina teen is caught up in the social changes of the times.

Eighth grader Jackie Honeycutt is coping with issues in his family and his community. The television is full of news about the sometimes-violent resistance to efforts to desegregate schools. In his still-all-White school, Jackie faces a bully. Further, his college-student sister is becoming involved in civil rights issues, bringing those concerns closer to home, although his parents are more interested in avoiding trouble. Jackie takes refuge in preparing his cow for the local fair and dreaming of winning a prize. Through it all, he has developed a friendship with Thomas, an African American teen he met at the local fishing spot—but it does not take long before the gulf between them is evident. Jackie ultimately realizes his own role in a hurtful incident involving Thomas and needs to decide how to make amends. Jackie is an earnest young person trying to make sense of the world around him, encouraged by a perceptive teacher. This depiction of racial struggles as seen through the lens of the White community has a dense narrative that is well crafted but takes a gentle tone about a time that is anything but gentle. The author’s note provides information about actual events, including the racial terminology used at the time.

A look back at a complex era that continues to resonate in today’s world. (resources, picture credits) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68437-813-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

STEALING HOME

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel.

Sandy and his family, Japanese Canadians, experience hatred and incarceration during World War II.

Sandy Saito loves baseball, and the Vancouver Asahi ballplayers are his heroes. But when they lose in the 1941 semifinals, Sandy’s dad calls it a bad omen. Sure enough, in December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in the U.S. The Canadian government begins to ban Japanese people from certain areas, moving them to “dormitories” and setting a curfew. Sandy wants to spend time with his father, but as a doctor, his dad is busy, often sneaking out past curfew to work. One night Papa is taken to “where he [is] needed most,” and the family is forced into an internment camp. Life at the camp isn’t easy, and even with some of the Asahi players playing ball there, it just isn’t the same. Trying to understand and find joy again, Sandy struggles with his new reality and relationship with his father. Based on the true experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Vancouver Asahi team, this graphic novel is a glimpse of how their lives were affected by WWII. The end is a bit abrupt, but it’s still an inspiring and sweet look at how baseball helped them through hardship. The illustrations are all in a sepia tone, giving it an antique look and conveying the emotions and struggles. None of the illustrations of their experiences are overly graphic, making it a good introduction to this upsetting topic for middle-grade readers.

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel. (afterword, further resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0334-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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