HOW WE ARE SMART

Anchored by massive resource lists for adults in tiny type at the back, these 12 thumbnails attempt, not very successfully, to introduce to young or inexpert readers the idea of “multiple intelligences.” After suggesting that “smart” can mean more than scholastic excellence, the author proceeds to prove the opposite with a cast of professionals that mixes such non-household names as physicist/geologist Luis Alvarez, astronomer Annie Jump Cannon and botanist Ynés Mexía with the more familiar likes of Thurgood Marshall, Georgia O’Keeffe and I.M. Pei. Opposite stylized, expressionistic but still recognizable portraits from Qualls, he introduces each with roughly hewn, rap-style verses, followed by a single-paragraph career sketch. Though at the beginning he lists eight intelligences, such as “Body Smart,” “Logic Smart” and even “Nature Smart,” Nikola-Lisa never directly links any of them to his subjects; instead, he instructs readers to figure it out for themselves—without providing more than scattered, vague clues. It’s a worthy concept for creative types and other misfits to absorb, but the author doesn’t seem to understand it very well himself. (Collective biography. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-58430-254-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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A powerfully candid and soulful account of an immigrant experience.

IN THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY

A Taiwanese family tries their luck in America.

In this verse novel, it’s 1980, and nearly 11-year-old Ai Shi and her mother prepare to leave Taipei to join her father in California, where he is pursuing a business opportunity with a friend. The extended family send them off, telling Ai Shi she’s so lucky to go to the “beautiful country”—the literal translation of the Chinese name for the U.S. Once they are reunited with Ba, he reveals that they have instead poured their savings into a restaurant in the remote Los Angeles County town of Duarte. Ma and Ba need to learn to cook American food, but at least, despite a betrayal by Ba’s friend, they have their own business. However, the American dream loses its shine as language barriers, isolation, financial stress, and racism take their toll. Ai Shi internalizes her parents’ disappointment in their new country by staying silent about bullying at school and her own unmet needs. Her letters home to her favorite cousin, Mei, maintain that all is well. After a year of enduring unrelenting challenges, including vandalism by local teens, the family reaches its breaking point. Hope belatedly arrives in the form of community allies and a change of luck. Kuo deftly touches on complex issues, such as the human cost of the history between China and Taiwan as well as the socio-economic prejudices and identity issues within Asian American communities.

A powerfully candid and soulful account of an immigrant experience. (Verse historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 28, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-311898-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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