Antiracism’s starting point.

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ANTIRACIST BABY

This book may be nominally for babies, but its audience is an adult one. Kendi makes this clear in the first two double-page spreads: “Antiracist Baby is bred, not born. / Antiracist Baby is raised to make society transform. // Babies are taught to be racist or antiracist—there is no neutrality. / Take these nine steps to make equity a reality.” Although this board book hardly substitutes for How To Be an Antiracist (2019), Kendi’s exploration of the topic for adults, it does serve to remind caregivers that raising an antiracist child is a conscious process. Importantly, points No. 1, “Open your eyes to all skin colors,” and No. 2, “Use your words to talk about race,” aim to correct anxious, usually white caregivers’ tendencies to “deny what’s right in front of you” when their children point out people who look different from them. To these and Kendi’s next seven points, Lukashevsky pairs bold, thickly outlined cartoons of babies and adults of many different skin tones, gender presentations, and body types. A couple of the depicted caregivers have tattoos; one wears the hijab. Several sets of parents can be read as LGBTQ+. The bright colors should keep babies and toddlers engaged while adults work to master the couplets, which do not always scan evenly. Some points are harder than others: “Confess when being racist,” for instance, may require several reads to internalize. Antiracism’s starting point. (Board book. 6 mos.-3)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11041-6

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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This glimpse into middle school is insightful, introspective, and important

BEST FRIENDS

After traveling the rocky road of elementary school friendship in Real Friends (2017), Hale returns with another graphic memoir delving even deeper into preteen tribulations.

Now in sixth grade, young Shannon is a member of “the Group,” an assortment of popular and pretty girls that most notably includes best friend and group ringleader Jen and unrelenting mean-girl Jenny. However, infighting and treachery proliferate, leaving Shannon feeling frequently off balance as she strives to fit in and suppresses things she enjoys. She captures the dynamic brilliantly: “Sixth grade friendships were like a game… / only as soon as I’d figure out the rules… / they’d change again.” In addition to laying bare the back-stabbing and cattiness, Hale also examines her struggles with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive tendencies with openness and honesty. Shannon’s story is ultimately empowering, showing the satisfaction she feels following her own path. Hale and illustrator Pham (working with colorist Sycamore) capture the nuances of a typical middle school life, balancing Shannon’s public woes with her inner conflicts and adding a fun dose of 1980s nostalgia. Pham’s art is evocative in its simplicity; detailed facial expressions add emotional depth and accessibility for even the most reluctant readers. An author’s note talks earnestly and age-appropriately about anxiety. Consider this a must-read for fans of Raina Telegmeier or Victoria Jamieson. Hale and her friends are predominately white, although students of color are present throughout.

This glimpse into middle school is insightful, introspective, and important . (Graphic memoir. 7-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31745-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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A painful and painfully recognizable tale of one girl’s struggle to make and keep “one good friend.” (author’s note)...

REAL FRIENDS

A truth-telling graphic memoir whose theme song could be Johnny Lee’s old country song “Lookin’ for Love in all the Wrong Places.”

Shannon, depicted in Pham’s clear, appealing panels as a redheaded white girl, starts kindergarten in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1979, and her story ends just before sixth grade. Desperately longing to be in “the group” at school, Shannon suffers persistent bullying, particularly from a mean girl, Jenny, which leads to chronic stomachaches, missing school, and doctor visits. Contemporary readers will recognize behaviors indicative of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but the doctor calls it anxiety and tells Shannon to stop worrying. Instead of being a place of solace, home adds to Shannon’s stress. The middle child of five, she suffers abuse from her oldest sibling, Wendy, whom Pham often portrays as a fierce, gigantic bear and whom readers see their mother worrying about from the beginning. The protagonist’s faith (presented as generically Christian) surfaces overtly a few times but mostly seems to provide a moral compass for Shannon as she negotiates these complicated relationships. This episodic story sometimes sticks too close to the truth for comfort, but readers will appreciate Shannon’s fantastic imagination that lightens her tough journey toward courage and self-acceptance.

A painful and painfully recognizable tale of one girl’s struggle to make and keep “one good friend.” (author’s note) (Graphic memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-416-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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