Important content but merely passable in execution.

THE BOOK OF DARES

100 WAYS FOR BOYS TO BE KIND, BOLD, AND BRAVE

A call for boys to think outside the “Man Box.”

“Man up!” Every boy knows how it feels to live inside the “Man Box,” a set of socialized norms policing male behavior. Within the “Man Box,” men are always in control. They don’t show weakness or ask for help. They don’t emote or empathize. They are physically and psychologically invulnerable. As such, they are emotionally stunted, experience extreme anxiety and depression, and do untold violence to themselves and others. This interesting twist on challenge books proposes 100 dares, each rendered in single-page chunks, intended to cultivate social-emotional literacy. Some are intensely personal: keeping a journal, experimenting with appearance and attitude, exercising creativity. Some are strictly social: seeking out friends of various backgrounds, supporting LGBTQ+ folx, calling out boorish “Man Box” behavior. Some will feel lamentably rudimentary to some readers: allowing girls to speak in class, learning from others, asking for and respecting consent. Though readers are given permission not to read it cover to cover, inevitable redundancies and the lackluster design may discourage return trips. A glossary covers terms the authors name as critical, but its entries scarcely appear in the text. Moreover, terms like toxic masculinity, patriarchy, misogyny, racism, transphobia, and homophobia are bafflingly omitted.

Important content but merely passable in execution. (glossary, letter to family and friends) (Nonfiction. 10-15)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30298-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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Ultimately adds little to conversations about race.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK BOY

A popular YouTube series on race, “Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man,” turns how-to manual and history lesson for young readers.

Acho is a former NFL player and second-generation Nigerian American who cites his upbringing in predominantly White spaces as well as his tenure on largely Black football teams as qualifications for facilitating the titular conversations about anti-Black racism. The broad range of subjects covered here includes implicit bias, cultural appropriation, and systemic racism. Each chapter features brief overviews of American history, personal anecdotes of Acho’s struggles with his own anti-Black biases, and sections titled “Let’s Get Uncomfortable.” The book’s centering of Whiteness and White readers seems to show up, to the detriment of its subject matter, both in Acho’s accounts of his upbringing and his thought processes regarding race. The overall tone unfortunately conveys a sense of expecting little from a younger generation who may have a greater awareness than he did at the same age and who, therefore, may already be uncomfortable with racial injustice itself. The attempt at an avuncular tone disappointingly reads as condescending, revealing that, despite his online success with adults, the author is ill-equipped to be writing for middle-grade readers. Chapters dedicated to explaining to White readers why they shouldn’t use the N-word and how valuable White allyship is may make readers of color (and many White readers) bristle with indignation and discomfort despite Acho’s positive intentions.

Ultimately adds little to conversations about race. (glossary, FAQ, recommended reading, references) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-80106-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

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A powerful resource for young people itching for change.

WOLFPACK (YOUNG READERS EDITION)

HOW YOUNG PEOPLE WILL FIND THEIR VOICE, UNITE THEIR PACK, AND CHANGE THE WORLD

Soccer star and activist Wambach adapts Wolfpack (2019), her New York Times bestseller for adults, for a middle-grade audience.

YOU. ARE. THE. WOLVES.” That rallying cry, each word proudly occupying its own line on the page, neatly sums up the fierce determination Wambach demands of her audience. The original Wolfpack was an adaptation of the viral 2018 commencement speech she gave at Barnard College; in her own words, it was “a directive to unleash [the graduates’] individuality, unite the collective, and change the world.” This new adaption takes the themes of the original and recasts them in kid-friendly terms, the call to action feeling more relevant now than ever. With the exception of the introduction and closing remarks, each short chapter presents a new leadership philosophy, dishing out such timeless advice as “Be grateful and ambitious”; “Make failure your fuel”; “Champion each other”; and “Find your pack.” Chapters utilize “rules” as a framing device. The first page of each presents a generalized “old” and “new” rule pertaining to that chapter’s guiding principle, and each chapter closes with a “Call to the Wolfpack” that sums up those principles in more specific terms. Some parts of the book come across as somewhat quixotic or buzzword-heavy, but Wambach deftly mitigates much of the preachiness with a bluff, congenial tone and refreshing dashes of self-deprecating humor. Personal anecdotes help ground each of the philosophies in applicability, and myriad heavy issues are respectfully, yet simply broached.

A powerful resource for young people itching for change. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-76686-1

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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