Insightful and empowering.

Adapting her memoir Being Heumann (2020) for younger readers, the activist author relates her fight for disabled people’s equality.

The child of parents orphaned in the Holocaust, Heumann saw her polio—which resulted in the inability to walk, dress herself, or use the bathroom unassisted—as “no big deal.” The world thought otherwise. Pulled out of public school for being a “fire hazard” and sent to a segregated school where disabled students were infantilized and underestimated, she realized that she “wasn’t expected to be a part of the world.” Fortunately, her parents fought for her inclusion. After a hard-won legal battle to become a teacher, the politically active Heumann advocated for the passage of Section 504, a precursor to the Americans with Disabilities Act, and, later, the ADA itself. Stonewalled by government officials but aided by civil rights allies, she and disabled protesters across the country staged protests and grueling sit-ins despite a lack of food, aides, and phone communication. Heumann’s frank accounts of humiliation and dismissal are infuriating, but her conversational narration and snarky chapter titles (“Sorry, If You Could Just Hide Behind Everyone Else That Would Be Great”) keep the tone encouraging, and her accounts of disabled people’s camaraderie are heartening. Above all, she reassures readers that “activism makes a difference.” A reflective epilogue explores global disability rights, representation, and the importance of telling—and listening to—#ownvoices stories. Heumann presents White.

Insightful and empowering. (photo credits) (Memoir. 8-13)

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0359-6

Page Count: 215

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021


An authentic and moving time capsule of middle school angst, trauma, and joy.

Through the author’s own childhood diary entries, a seventh grader details her inner life before and after 9/11.

Alyssa’s diary entries start in September 2000, in the first week of her seventh grade year. She’s 11 and dealing with typical preteen concerns—popularity and anxiety about grades—along with other things more particular to her own life. She’s shuffling between Queens and Manhattan to share time between her divorced parents and struggling with thick facial hair and classmates who make her feel like she’s “not a whole person” due to her mixed White and Puerto Rican heritage. Alyssa is endlessly earnest and awkward as she works up the courage to talk to her crush, Alejandro; gushes about her dreams of becoming a shoe designer; and tries to solve her burgeoning unibrow problem. The diaries also have a darker side, as a sense of impending doom builds as the entries approach 9/11, especially because Alyssa’s father works in finance in the World Trade Center. As a number of the diary entries are taken directly from the author’s originals, they effortlessly capture the loud, confusing feelings middle school brings out. The artwork, in its muted but effective periwinkle tones, lends a satisfying layer to the diary’s accessible and delightful format.

An authentic and moving time capsule of middle school angst, trauma, and joy. (author's note) (Graphic memoir. 8-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-77427-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021


From the They Did What? series

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats.

Why should grown-ups get all the historical, scientific, athletic, cinematic, and artistic glory?

Choosing exemplars from both past and present, Mitchell includes but goes well beyond Alexander the Great, Anne Frank, and like usual suspects to introduce a host of lesser-known luminaries. These include Shapur II, who was formally crowned king of Persia before he was born, Indian dancer/professional architect Sheila Sri Prakash, transgender spokesperson Jazz Jennings, inventor Param Jaggi, and an international host of other teen or preteen activists and prodigies. The individual portraits range from one paragraph to several pages in length, and they are interspersed with group tributes to, for instance, the Nazi-resisting “Swingkinder,” the striking New York City newsboys, and the marchers of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. Mitchell even offers would-be villains a role model in Elagabalus, “boy emperor of Rome,” though she notes that he, at least, came to an awful end: “Then, then! They dumped his remains in the Tiber River, to be nommed by fish for all eternity.” The entries are arranged in no evident order, and though the backmatter includes multiple booklists, a personality quiz, a glossary, and even a quick Braille primer (with Braille jokes to decode), there is no index. Still, for readers whose fires need lighting, there’s motivational kindling on nearly every page.

A breezy, bustling bucketful of courageous acts and eye-popping feats. (finished illustrations not seen) (Collective biography. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-751813-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Puffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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