Engaging and inspirational tales for students coping with common problems.

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NELSON BEATS THE ODDS

COMPENDIUM ONE

Paired graphic novels explore learning disabilities and bullying—and touch on foster care—for middle-grade and YA readers.

In the eponymous and first of these two debut graphic novels, black middle schooler Nelson has a hard time concentrating. There are just so many people to talk to. New glasses help, but he still fights to stay focused. Finally he is diagnosed with ADHD and placed in special education classes. While he detests his new label, Nelson excels and anticipates a reunion with his friends in high school. Disheartened when he is placed in special ed there, Nelson and his parents lodge a protest. He struggles in the regular classroom but manages to graduate. After a few years in community college, he transfers to a university and becomes a social worker. He is encouraged by some supportive teachers, but other instructors motivate him to prove them wrong in their negative predictions for his future. The second graphic novel, Tameka’s New Dress, focuses on Nelson’s black friend Tameka, introduced in the first work. Tameka transfers to Nelson’s school after she and her siblings are removed from their mother’s care and placed with their grandmother. Despite her friendship with Nelson and others, Tameka is the target of bullying because of her light skin. When her grandmother sews her a beautiful dress, making Tameka look like an African queen, the bullying is exacerbated. Tameka confronts the troublemakers—with kindness—and resolves the problem. Both tales are interspersed with relevant facts and quotes from celebrities—ranging from Channing Tatum to Oprah Winfrey—who have experienced the same difficulties as Nelson and Tameka, which should stir readers. Therapist, speaker, and social worker Sidney addresses racial and socio-economic issues germane to the characters’ trajectories but primarily highlights the self-reliance of the protagonists and the crucial positive influences a few caring adults can exert. The author expertly creates characters young readers should relate to and conveys his message and lessons without being heavy-handed. Van Wagoner’s (Cody and Grandpa’s Christmas Tradition, 2016, etc.) simple, colorful illustrations meld seamlessly with the text.

Engaging and inspirational tales for students coping with common problems.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9965324-9-5

Page Count: 70

Publisher: Creative Medicine: Healing Through Words, LLC

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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