A surefire win of a read expressly made for young Black boys to cherish.

J.D. AND THE GREAT BARBER BATTLE

Meridian, Mississippi, third grader J.D. has a passion for the arts and a dream of rising beyond the embarrassment of a troubled haircut.

For many Black boys, hairline awareness hits hard in those preteen years, and the jeers and dozens of the schoolyard start to pull at kids who can’t show up as the best versions of themselves. This is the predicament in which young J.D. finds himself. He recognizes the family’s financial challenges, as his mother strives to make do with the support of his grandparents. She’s in school again, and the rare quality time that they get comes when she cuts his hair. But no longer can J.D. get past the looks and chuckles his shaky line attracts, so he takes his mama’s clippers into his own hands and discovers he has a true gift with them. He even turns this art into a successful business, much like the real-life story of the author, a master barber. However, in J.D.’s world, Henry Jr., proprietor of Meridian’s official barbershop, isn’t just going to let a supremely talented kid come and take away his clientele. What will happen when these two barbers battle it out? Everything about this story feels like a beloved barbershop tall tale: quite heroic, maybe a bit unbelievable, yet full of intrigue and entertaining as all get out. This is authentic storytelling, supported by Roberts’ vigorous cartoons—full of styles that are straight fire.

A surefire win of a read expressly made for young Black boys to cherish. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11152-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in...

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NEW KID

From the New Kid series , Vol. 1

Jordan Banks takes readers down the rabbit hole and into his mostly white prep school in this heartbreakingly accurate middle-grade tale of race, class, microaggressions, and the quest for self-identity.

He may be the new kid, but as an African-American boy from Washington Heights, that stigma entails so much more than getting lost on the way to homeroom. Riverdale Academy Day School, located at the opposite end of Manhattan, is a world away, and Jordan finds himself a stranger in a foreign land, where pink clothing is called salmon, white administrators mistake a veteran African-American teacher for the football coach, and white classmates ape African-American Vernacular English to make themselves sound cool. Jordan’s a gifted artist, and his drawings blend with the narrative to give readers a full sense of his two worlds and his methods of coping with existing in between. Craft skillfully employs the graphic-novel format to its full advantage, giving his readers a delightful and authentic cast of characters who, along with New York itself, pop off the page with vibrancy and nuance. Shrinking Jordan to ant-sized proportions upon his entering the school cafeteria, for instance, transforms the lunchroom into a grotesque Wonderland in which his lack of social standing becomes visually arresting and viscerally uncomfortable.

An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in America. (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-269120-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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A road trip to remember.

CLEAN GETAWAY

Using the Negro Travelers’ Green Book and her hidden past as a road map, a grandma takes her grandson on a cross country journey.

When G’ma pulls up to William “Scoob” Lamar’s house in a brand-new Winnebago and invites him on an adventure, Scoob leaves a note for his dad and jumps in. Despite not knowing where they are going, or why G’ma has traded in her Mini Cooper and house for the RV, Scoob is a willing wingman because he wants to save spring break and escape his strict single dad for a few days. Readers will appreciate the bond between Scoob and G’ma; Stone balances fun with emotion for a compelling read. After they cross from Georgia to Alabama and G’ma keeps avoiding Dad’s calls, Scoob begins to get suspicious. When G’ma lets him see the contents of her once off-limits treasure box, which includes a 1963 edition of the Travelers’ Green Book, Scoob understands this trip means much more than even he imagined. The complex role race plays in their family and on this trip—Scoob is mixed-race and presents black, and G’ma is white—is explored in a meaningful way that provides details about a period in time as well as present-day realities. Rich in history, Stone’s middle-grade debut entertains and informs young readers. The subdued ending may frustrate, but the journey, punctuated by Anyabwile’s grayscale cartoons, is well worth it.

A road trip to remember. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9297-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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