An unconventional remembrance that will encourage readers to try to create change themselves.



Barker’s debut memoir showcases a teenager’s personal growth as he strives to help zoo animals.

In 1995, the author was a lonely 13-year-old boy living in Sacramento who filled his days by struggling through school and watching kids’ TV shows, until he read the book Kids Can Save the Animals: 101 Easy Things To Do, which gave him inspiration. He quickly connected with local and national animal rights organizations and set himself a goal to improve conditions at the Sacramento Zoo. Soon, Barker gained media attention and brought about positive changes for polar bears, hyenas, and other animals in small cages. After someone sent him an anonymous letter, he decided to pursue a new project to save two black bears in Roseville, California, from appalling living conditions at an underserved facility. After making hundreds of phone calls, writing letters, and appearing on the local news, the author finally found a place to house the bears at a rescue zoo. However, he needed to raise $250,000 to build a new structure for the animals. Barker diligently worked every angle, from local fundraising to appearing on the NBC TV show Real Life. His message inspired many, bringing awareness to animal welfare. As he discovers his purpose, he also discovers his identity as a queer teen. Over the course of this book, which features a foreword by Jane Goodall, Barker’s casual writing style establishes an easy flow to a narrative that spans years; along the way, it presents detailed snapshots of specific animals’ plights and moments in the author’s personal life, resulting in an unpredictable and original work. Teen readers will be able to relate to Justin’s challenging relationship with his parents, his personal angst, and his determination to find himself. That said, the 1990s pop-culture references to old Nickelodeon programs or the Spice Girls may not resonate with younger readers.

An unconventional remembrance that will encourage readers to try to create change themselves.

Pub Date: June 22, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73608-432-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Brutus & Ursula

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021

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Small but mighty necessary reading.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

A miniature manifesto for radical queer acceptance that weaves together the personal and political.

Eli, a cis gay white Jewish man, uses his own identities and experiences to frame and acknowledge his perspective. In the prologue, Eli compares the global Jewish community to the global queer community, noting, “We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience.” He details his own isolating experiences as a queer adolescent in an Orthodox Jewish community and reflects on how he and so many others would have benefitted from a robust and supportive queer community. The rest of the book outlines 10 principles based on the belief that an expectation of mutual care and concern across various other dimensions of identity can be integrated into queer community values. Eli’s prose is clear, straightforward, and powerful. While he makes some choices that may be divisive—for example, using the initialism LGBTQIAA+ which includes “ally”—he always makes clear those are his personal choices and that the language is ever evolving.

Small but mighty necessary reading. (resources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09368-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.

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A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

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