Startling in its honesty, humor, and humility.

IT'S TREVOR NOAH

BORN A CRIME: STORIES FROM A SOUTH AFRICAN CHILDHOOD (ADAPTED FOR YOUNG READERS)

Noah’s pre-comedian experience of growing up in a country first strictly divided and then rocked by the fall of apartheid loses some of its grit but none of its potency in this YA adaptation of his memoir for adults Born a Crime (2016).

Indisputable evidence of his white European father and his black Xhosa mother’s illegal interracial relationship, Noah spends his childhood as a perpetual outsider—too black for the white people, too white for the black people, and too mixed for everyone else. But a tenacious spirit of curiosity, an impressive mischievous streak, and an uncompromisingly independent mother shape much of Noah’s early years, and instances of struggle, danger, and bullying are attributed to political upheaval, racism, and bigotry mainly through the lens of adult hindsight. Divided into chapters of individual but interconnected childhood recollections, the book mirrors some of the ebb and flow of Noah’s stand-up—strategically disjointed to fuel emotional crescendos without overlapping and diluting them. North American readers unacquainted with South African culture may encounter some different (but not wholly unfamiliar) racial dynamics—the term “colored people,” for instance, has a different meaning and history than it does in the U.S.—but Noah does a thorough job of walking them through the colonial history, cultural and language idiosyncrasies, and political structures without bogging down the text, and what he doesn’t fully unpack still leaves room for discussion.

Startling in its honesty, humor, and humility. (historical note) (Memoir. 13-18)

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-58216-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A thoughtful, engaging history for intermediate students interested in Africa.

Mansa Musa and the Empire of Mali

Oliver’s debut, about one of West Africa’s most powerful and charismatic leaders, delivers a vibrant mix of history and historical fiction for young adults.

The book introduces the medieval empire of Mali with several short narrative essays on trans-Atlantic exploration, trade and mining and soon narrows its focus to the compelling life story of the emperor Mansa Musa, who ruled Mali in the early 1300s. Oliver shows how Musa gained influence while making a lavish, politically important trip to Mecca, and his deft explanation of how Musa crossed the vast Sahara Desert briefly but skillfully conveys the difficulty of the lengthy voyage. This enjoyable work smoothly blends historical text with memorable anecdotes from primary and secondary sources, photos and sketches of replicas of ancient and medieval African art, and well-drawn maps. The book moves at a fast pace, and the author’s clear, straightforward style is likely to appeal to young adults. He easily switches between topics, discussing history (how Musa gained recognition in Egypt and North Africa), religion (how Islam shaped Musa and his empire), architecture (the methods of construction for Malian mud-brick buildings) and fables (the legend of the Malian “gold plant”). However, Oliver always strives for historical accuracy; even his fictional account of a young sandal maker who travels to Niani’s great market contains period-appropriate language and scenery. The book also includes a lengthy glossary that is amply illustrated with drawings and photographs of West African boats and buildings. The work’s one shortcoming is its abrupt ending after Musa returns home; it lacks a thorough explanation as to how and why the empire of Mali eventually dissolved.

A thoughtful, engaging history for intermediate students interested in Africa.

Pub Date: March 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-1468053548

Page Count: 128

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

Serious themes lightened by comedic touches; the strong emotional attachments will linger with readers.

ALWAYS, CLEMENTINE

Letters from a super-intelligent mouse to the beloved chimpanzee she leaves behind when she escapes a research lab.

Poignant, loving, and threaded through with the joy of discovery, the letters that Clementine mentally composes to her gentle simian friend tell a tale that takes suspenseful turns while affirming tolerance and self-expression. Thanks to tweaked DNA, she’s thinking about prime numbers the day she is born, helps other mice navigate mazes, and figures out how to escape her cage at night and sign with the lab’s sad, affectionate chimp, Rosie. When a guilt-ridden research assistant spirits her and another mouse subject out of the lab, leaving them in a nearby mailbox, she begins a series of reports to Rosie about the wonders of the outside world. Eleven-year-old Gus and his grandfather welcome the fugitives rather than turn them in for the large reward offered by the lab when the mousenapping is discovered. They create a storm of public protest against animal experimentation by televising a chess match in which Clementine beats five experienced human players simultaneously. Along with offering an optimistic, aspirational view of human nature as she winds the story to a joyous conclusion, Sorosiak tucks in a subplot around nonverbal Hamlet, the other mouse escapee, who constructs a model of Notre Dame out of wood chips, as food for further thought about different intelligences. The human cast seems to be mostly White.

Serious themes lightened by comedic touches; the strong emotional attachments will linger with readers. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-2884-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tribute to young people’s resistance in the face of oppression.

BANNED BOOK CLUB

In 1983 South Korea, Kim was learning to navigate university and student political activism.

The daughter of modest restaurant owners, Kim was apolitical—she just wanted to make her parents proud and be worthy of her tuition expenses. Following an administrator’s advice to avoid trouble and pursue extracurriculars, she joined a folk dance team where she met a fellow student who invited her into a banned book club. Kim was fearful at first, but her thirst for knowledge soon won out. As she learned the truth of her country’s oppressive fascist political environment, Kim became closer to the other book club members while the authorities grew increasingly desperate to identify and punish student dissidents. The kinetic manhwa drawing style skillfully captures the personal and political history of this eye-opening memoir. The disturbing elements of political corruption and loss of human rights are lightened by moving depictions of sweet, funny moments between friends as well as deft political maneuvering by Kim herself when she was eventually questioned by authorities. The art and dialogue complement each other as they express the tension that Kim and her friends felt as they tried to balance school, family, and romance with surviving in a dangerous political environment. References to fake news and a divisive government make this particularly timely; the only thing missing is a list for further reading.

A tribute to young people’s resistance in the face of oppression. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-945820-42-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Iron Circus Comics

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more