A thoughtful, moving story of loss and triumph.

Congolese Canadian author and storyteller Juma presents her memoir of fleeing armed conflict as a teen in the 1990s.

Her story begins with reminiscences about happier days in her multicultural, multifaith border town of Uvira in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where an abundance of nature, feasts, friendship, and community life prevailed. Slowly, events unfold—the arrival of refugees from Burundi and Rwanda, a civil war in Congo—climaxing with a harrowing hijacking and an escape via a perilous mountain trail. Juma, her mother, and siblings eventually make it to a United Nations refugee camp in Tanzania and then to Québec. The story builds momentum while maintaining key individuals’ storylines. Neither boastfulness nor bitterness shadow Juma’s narrative as she describes her family’s comfortable prewar status and subsequent losses. In a dignified tone she narrates her personal grief—a friend taken as a child soldier, the death of her beloved father, and the bombing of her childhood home, Maison Rouge. This is no tragedy porn, however. Juma’s book serves, above all, as a reminder that refugees, though uprooted, have enduring cultural and spiritual roots. This slim volume is appealing for its rich descriptions of everyday social life and effortless weaving in of culture through the use of Baswahili words from the author’s native language and faith tradition.

A thoughtful, moving story of loss and triumph. (author’s note, introduction, map) (Memoir. 13-adult)

Pub Date: June 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-926890-30-2

Page Count: 118

Publisher: Tradewind Books

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020


From the Pocket Change Collective series

Brief yet inspirational, this story will galvanize youth to use their voices for change.

Teen environmental activist and founder of the nonprofit Hannah4Change, Testa shares her story and the science around plastic pollution in her fight to save our planet.

Testa’s connection to and respect for nature compelled her to begin championing animal causes at the age of 10, and this desire to have an impact later propelled her to dedicate her life to fighting plastic pollution. Starting with the history of plastic and how it’s produced, Testa acknowledges the benefits of plastics for humanity but also the many ways it harms our planet. Instead of relying on recycling—which is both insufficient and ineffective—she urges readers to follow two additional R’s: “refuse” and “raise awareness.” Readers are encouraged to do their part, starting with small things like refusing to use plastic straws and water bottles and eventually working up to using their voices to influence business and policy change. In the process, she highlights other youth advocates working toward the same cause. Short chapters include personal examples, such as observations of plastic pollution in Mauritius, her maternal grandparents’ birthplace. Testa makes her case not only against plastic pollution, but also for the work she’s done, resulting in something of a college-admissions–essay tone. Nevertheless, the first-person accounts paired with science will have an impact on readers. Unfortunately, no sources are cited and the lack of backmatter is a missed opportunity.

Brief yet inspirational, this story will galvanize youth to use their voices for change. (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22333-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020


From the Pocket Change Collective series

Best enjoyed by preexisting fans of the author.

Deaf, trans artist Man meditates on his journey and identity in this brief memoir.

Growing up in conservative central Pennsylvania was tough for the 21-year-old Deaf, genderqueer, pansexual, and biracial (Chinese/White Jewish) author. He describes his gender and sexual identity, his experiences of racism and ableism, and his desire to use his visibility as a YouTube personality, model, and actor to help other young people like him. He is open and vulnerable throughout, even choosing to reveal his birth name. Man shares his experiences of becoming deaf as a small child and at times feeling ostracized from the Deaf community but not how he arrived at his current Deaf identity. His description of his gender-identity development occasionally slips into a well-worn pink-and-blue binary. The text is accompanied and transcended by the author’s own intriguing, expressionistic line drawings. However, Man ultimately falls short of truly insightful reflection or analysis, offering a mostly surface-level account of his life that will likely not be compelling to readers who are not already fans. While his visibility and success as someone whose life represents multiple marginalized identities are valuable in themselves, this heartfelt personal chronicle would have benefited from deeper introspection.

Best enjoyed by preexisting fans of the author. (Memoir. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-22348-2

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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