RITE OF PASSAGE

In a previously unpublished story, Wright shows how a Harlem teenager is suddenly and profoundly changed by misfortune. Proudly bearing a straight-A report card, Johnny Gibbs comes home to a double shock: he's told that he's a foster child and that he's to be forcibly moved away from the family where he's lived since the age of six months. Wild with rage and grief, he runs to the streets; within hours, he has broken into a store, joined a gang of muggers, and become its leader after a vicious fight. Rejecting his whole past, Johnny begins to rebuild his life around feelings of alienation and the conviction that he's entirely on his own. Wright's unusual turns of phrase and crudely drawn characters give the story an air of unreality, despite some sharply drawn themes: the faceless indifference of white society; the fragility of family ties in the ghetto; and, most especially, the deep hatred of each race for the other. In a transparent effort to get this onto college reading lists, the publishers append a long academic afterword by Arnold Rampersad, editor of the "Library of America" edition of Wright's works, analyzing these themes and showing how they recur in the author's other books. More a literary afterthought than a gateway to this still-controversial writer. Chronology; selected author bibliography. (Fiction/Criticism. YA+)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-023419-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1993

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A DOG NAMED SAM

A book that will make young dog-owners smile in recognition and confirm dogless readers' worst suspicions about the mayhem caused by pets, even winsome ones. Sam, who bears passing resemblance to an affable golden retriever, is praised for fetching the family newspaper, and goes on to fetch every other newspaper on the block. In the next story, only the children love Sam's swimming; he is yelled at by lifeguards and fishermen alike when he splashes through every watering hole he can find. Finally, there is woe to the entire family when Sam is bored and lonely for one long night. Boland has an essential message, captured in both both story and illustrations of this Easy-to-Read: Kids and dogs belong together, especially when it's a fun-loving canine like Sam. An appealing tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8037-1530-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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