Startling in its honesty, humor, and humility.

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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

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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

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An excellent work of children’s nonfiction that just may inspire the next Chuck Yeager.

Chuck Yeager Goes Supersonic

AN ACTION-PACKED, TRUE FLYING ADVENTURE

This straightforward biography engages young readers’ imaginations, respects their intelligence and takes them along on an exciting, real-life adventure.

From Chuck Yeager’s childhood in the Depression, through his experience in World War II, flight school and finally his chance to pilot the first supersonic flight, this debut children’s book brings his biography to life and includes a science lesson for eager young minds, as well. Biermann expertly weaves vignettes from Yeager’s life—like the time he plowed a test plane through a chicken coop—into the narrative, creating a tale with a cinematic, easy-to-follow rhythm. These anecdotes illustrate Yeager’s character in a natural, show-don’t-tell fashion. Biermann’s explanation of the science behind sound waves, the sound barrier and supersonic flight is so clear and memorable, it’s sure to stick with readers well into their adulthood. (Some adults who read this to kids will be relieved to have this burden lifted from them, so they don’t have to sputter out shaky explanations themselves.) While this story may inspire a lifelong interest in science, it’s unlikely to inspire a lifelong love of poetic language. From the very first paragraph—“Chuck Yeager loved to fly airplanes. He loved to fly high. He loved to fly fast.”—the language is a bit unadorned. But it is crystal clear, precise and geared with almost mathematical accuracy to a young elementary reading level. Science- and adventure-minded readers who are just here for the sonic boom won’t care that the book reads more like a technical manual than poetry. The illustrations are of a piece with the language: precise down to the buttons and badges on Yeager’s flight suit but flat and stylized, reminiscent of old-school film strips. And, like the language, while the illustrations are not inspiring or beautiful, they are perfectly suited to the book’s likely audience, who will probably be scrutinizing the cockpit controls.

An excellent work of children’s nonfiction that just may inspire the next Chuck Yeager.

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1480276321

Page Count: 48

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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