A sensitive coming-of-age tale about waking up to injustice and where that knowledge can lead.

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BREAKOUT

Seen through the eyes of three seventh-graders, a prison escape upends daily life in a small Adirondack town.

Wolf Creek’s economy revolves around its maximum security prison. Nora’s dad is its superintendent; Lizzie’s grandma works in the kitchen; Elidee’s brother is an inmate. Nora and Lizzie, white, are best friends. Arriving in this very white town with her mother two weeks before school ends, Elidee, black, feels isolated. She and her mother only moved to Wolf Creek because she didn’t get into an elite private school back in New York City. Nora first finds her unfriendly. Elidee’s reluctance to join in shows of support for the corrections staff, police, and volunteers engaged in the manhunt affronts her. With Lizzie’s help she opens her eyes to the slights, subtle and overt, Elidee endures from some local whites. Most townspeople and prison staff are white; most inmates are black and Latinx. The manhunt broadens, reaching Lizzie’s family and severely straining it. Elidee pours her anger and unhappiness into writing poetry, discovering her authentic voice. The story unfolds in time-capsule entries. Press clippings, text messages, and voice recordings effectively convey the racism hiding in plain sight, while the girls’ letters provide the narrative throughline. Not all entries work—Owen’s repetitive cartoons add little—but the format underlines the breakout’s communitywide impact.

A sensitive coming-of-age tale about waking up to injustice and where that knowledge can lead. (author’s note, bibliography) (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68119-536-0

Page Count: 420

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in...

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NEW KID

From the New Kid series , Vol. 1

Jordan Banks takes readers down the rabbit hole and into his mostly white prep school in this heartbreakingly accurate middle-grade tale of race, class, microaggressions, and the quest for self-identity.

He may be the new kid, but as an African-American boy from Washington Heights, that stigma entails so much more than getting lost on the way to homeroom. Riverdale Academy Day School, located at the opposite end of Manhattan, is a world away, and Jordan finds himself a stranger in a foreign land, where pink clothing is called salmon, white administrators mistake a veteran African-American teacher for the football coach, and white classmates ape African-American Vernacular English to make themselves sound cool. Jordan’s a gifted artist, and his drawings blend with the narrative to give readers a full sense of his two worlds and his methods of coping with existing in between. Craft skillfully employs the graphic-novel format to its full advantage, giving his readers a delightful and authentic cast of characters who, along with New York itself, pop off the page with vibrancy and nuance. Shrinking Jordan to ant-sized proportions upon his entering the school cafeteria, for instance, transforms the lunchroom into a grotesque Wonderland in which his lack of social standing becomes visually arresting and viscerally uncomfortable.

An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in America. (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-269120-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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