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REACH FOR THE SKAI

HOW TO INSPIRE, EMPOWER, AND CLAPBACK

Truly delivers what the subtitle promises.

What’s it like to grow up as a Disney child star?

Skai Jackson, whose first big role was the character Zuri on the Disney Channel show Jessie, shares her experience of being in front of the camera, starting as a baby and continuing through her emergence as a young star who becomes a superconfident teen. The daughter of a single parent, Skai began her modeling career in New York when she was still in diapers. Her ambitious mother, struggling to make ends meet, decided she wanted more for Skai, which led to first commercials, then bigger auditions that resulted in her roles on Jessie and Bunk’d. Skai takes readers through how she adapted to life as a child actress and an unexpected role model for black girls. She also reveals the more challenging aspects of celebrity, such as having to stand up for herself, or maturely “clapback,” when attacked on social media. She unapologetically states the reality of having to navigate life as a dark-skinned girl in a business that prefers lighter hues. Sporting her natural hair for years, Skai has had the fortitude to fully embrace and forge her identity as a talented actress, social-change advocate, and fashion icon (as well as a sneakerhead!). Periodic boxed lists of tips and copious photographs, both abetted by lively design, add to the book’s sense of fun.

Truly delivers what the subtitle promises. (Memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-5154-3

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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THE BOY WHO FAILED SHOW AND TELL

Though a bit loose around the edges, a charmer nevertheless.

Tales of a fourth grade ne’er-do-well.

It seems that young Jordan is stuck in a never-ending string of bad luck. Sure, no one’s perfect (except maybe goody-two-shoes William Feranek), but Jordan can’t seem to keep his attention focused on the task at hand. Try as he may, things always go a bit sideways, much to his educators’ chagrin. But Jordan promises himself that fourth grade will be different. As the year unfolds, it does prove to be different, but in a way Jordan couldn’t possibly have predicted. This humorous memoir perfectly captures the square-peg-in-a-round-hole feeling many kids feel and effectively heightens that feeling with comic situations and a splendid villain. Jordan’s teacher, Mrs. Fisher, makes an excellent foil, and the book’s 1970s setting allows for her cruelty to go beyond anything most contemporary readers could expect. Unfortunately, the story begins to run out of steam once Mrs. Fisher exits. Recollections spiral, losing their focus and leading to a more “then this happened” and less cause-and-effect structure. The anecdotes are all amusing and Jordan is an endearing protagonist, but the book comes dangerously close to wearing out its welcome with sheer repetitiveness. Thankfully, it ends on a high note, one pleasant and hopeful enough that readers will overlook some of the shabbier qualities. Jordan is White and Jewish while there is some diversity among his classmates; Mrs. Fisher is White.

Though a bit loose around the edges, a charmer nevertheless. (Memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-64723-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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UGLY

An apt choice for collections that already have stronger alternatives, such as R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012).

A memoir of the first 14 years in the life of Australian Robert Hoge, born with stunted legs and a tumor in the middle of his face.

In 1972, Robert is born, the youngest of five children, with fishlike eyes on the sides of his face, a massive lump in place of his nose, and malformed legs. As baby Robert is otherwise healthy, the doctors convince his parents to approve the first of many surgeries to reduce his facial difference. One leg is also amputated, and Robert comes home to his everyday white, working-class family. There's no particular theme to the tale of Robert's next decade and a half: he experiences school and teasing, attempts to participate in sports, and is shot down by a girl. Vignette-driven choppiness and the lack of an overarching narrative would make the likeliest audience be those who seek disability stories. However, young Robert's ongoing quest to identify as "normal"—a quest that remains unchanged until a sudden turnaround on the penultimate page—risks alienating readers comfortable with their disabilities. Brief lyrical moments ("as compulsory as soggy tomato sandwiches at snack time") appeal but are overwhelmed by the dry, distant prose dominating this autobiography.

An apt choice for collections that already have stronger alternatives, such as R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012). (Memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-425-28775-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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