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WE TROUBLED THE WATERS

Obie Award–winning playwright Shange teams up with illustrator Brown in this roughly linear collection of art and poetry vignettes from the Civil Rights Movement. The first poem’s title sets the chronology: “Booker T. Washington School, 1941.” Thanks to the abstract nature of the artwork and the ambiguous word choices, the final poem, “Heah Y’all Come,” accompanied by an illustration of the Washington Monument, could be about the famed March on Washington in 1963 or any of the gatherings since that time. The lives of everyday people are recounted alongside major figures of the day, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Although the art is rich and the poetry compelling, the lack of contextualization will make this challenging for younger readers. A case in point is the dedication page, which the author offers “to the Little Rock Nine with great appreciation”—yet instead of depicting the Nine, there is an illustration of a creek, and in the lower right-hand corner a dead body floats, face down. Worthwhile but best for older readers. (Picture book/poetry. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-133735-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2009

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EXCLUSION AND THE CHINESE AMERICAN STORY

From the Race to the Truth series

Deftly written and informative; a call for vigilance and equality.

An examination of the history of Chinese American experiences.

Blackburn opens with a note to readers about growing up feeling invisible as a multicultural, biracial Chinese American. She notes the tremendous diversity of Chinese American history and writes that this book is a starting point for learning more. The evenly paced narrative starts with the earliest recorded arrival of the Chinese in America in 1834. A teenage girl, whose real name is unknown, arrived in New York Harbor with the Carnes brothers, merchants who imported Chinese goods and put her on display “like an animal in a circus.” The author then examines shifting laws, U.S. and global political and economic climates, and changing societal attitudes. The book introduces the highlighted people—including Yee Ah Tye, Wong Kim Ark, Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, and Vincent Chen—in relation to lawsuits or other transformative events; they also stand as examples for explaining concepts such as racial hierarchy and the model minority myth. Maps, photos, and documents are interspersed throughout. Chapters close with questions that encourage readers to think critically about systems of oppression, actively engage with the material, and draw connections to their own lives. Although the book covers a wide span of history, from the Gold Rush to the rise in anti-Asian hate during the Covid-19 pandemic, it thoroughly explains the various events. Blackburn doesn’t shy away from describing terrible setbacks, but she balances them with examples of solidarity and progress.

Deftly written and informative; a call for vigilance and equality. (resources, bibliography, image credits) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 26, 2024

ISBN: 9780593567630

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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MASCOT

A brilliant story not to be missed; deeply engaging from the first page.

Waters and Sorell (Cherokee Nation) join forces to write about the power of being true to oneself.

In a middle school in Rye, a fictional town near Washington, D.C., a racist mural and offensive pep rally chants shock new student Callie Crossland, who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and African American. Callie shares a heartfelt poem with her seventh grade honors English class, reminding everyone that the “stupid tomahawk-chop chant” and the “cheap chicken-feather headdress” are nothing less than symbols of “white supremacy.” Afterward, Ms. Williams, her teacher, assigns a persuasive writing and oration project entitled “Pros and Cons of Indigenous Peoples as Mascots.” The small, broadly diverse group of students is assigned to work in pairs; Callie is matched with Franklin, who is Black and a proud fan of the Rye Braves football team. Franklin insists, “I wish we could Lysol racism away. / It’s a bad odor,” but he feels conflicted: “I still don’t think our mascot is racist though. It brings so much joy. / …what’s the big deal?” This clever novel unfolds in poems told in multiple voices showing the wide range of students’, families’, and community responses to the controversy; for some, initial feelings of opposition, hesitation, or indifference change and friendships are tested. The compelling, highly relevant subject matter and accessible text invite readers to understand different perspectives and witness individual growth.

A brilliant story not to be missed; deeply engaging from the first page. (glossary, additional information and resources) (Verse fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781623543808

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023

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