Exhilarating, excellent, necessary.

STAMPED (FOR KIDS)

RACISM, ANTIRACISM, AND YOU

A remixed remix of a foundational text.

Kendi’s Stamped From the Beginning (2016) is a crucial accounting of American history, rewritten and condensed for teens by Jason Reynolds as Stamped (2020). Educator Cherry-Paul takes the breadth of the first and the jaunty appeal of the second to spin a middle-grade version that manages to be both true to its forebears and yet all her own. She covers the same historical ground, starting with the origins of anti-Blackness and colonialism in medieval Europe, then taking readers through the founding of the U.S.A. and up to the present, with focuses on pivotal figures and pieces of pop culture. Cherry-Paul does an unparalleled job of presenting this complex information to younger readers, borrowing language from Reynolds’ remix (like the definitions of segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists) and infusing it with her own interpretations, like the brilliant, powerful, haunting metaphor of rope woven throughout. “Rope can be a lifeline,” she says, and “rope can be a weapon….Rope can be used to tie, pull, hold, and lift.” Readers are encouraged to “Think about the way rope connects things. Now think about what racist ideas have been connected to so far: Skin color. Money. Religion. Land.” Baker’s stark portraiture paces the text and illustrates key players.

Exhilarating, excellent, necessary. (timeline, glossary, further reading.) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-16758-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A rich and deeply felt slice of life.

JUST PRETEND

Crafting fantasy worlds offers a budding middle school author relief and distraction from the real one in this graphic memoir debut.

Everyone in Tori’s life shows realistic mixes of vulnerability and self-knowledge while, equally realistically, seeming to be making it up as they go. At least, as she shuttles between angrily divorced parents—dad becoming steadily harder to reach, overstressed mom spectacularly incapable of reading her offspring—or drifts through one wearingly dull class after another, she has both vivacious bestie Taylor Lee and, promisingly, new classmate Nick as well as the (all-girl) heroic fantasy, complete with portals, crystal amulets, and evil enchantments, taking shape in her mind and on paper. The flow of school projects, sleepovers, heart-to-heart conversations with Taylor, and like incidents (including a scene involving Tori’s older brother, who is having a rough adolescence, that could be seen as domestic violence) turns to a tide of change as eighth grade winds down and brings unwelcome revelations about friends. At least the story remains as solace and, at the close, a sense that there are still chapters to come in both worlds. Working in a simple, expressive cartoon style reminiscent of Raina Telgemeier’s, Sharp captures facial and body language with easy naturalism. Most people in the spacious, tidily arranged panels are White; Taylor appears East Asian, and there is diversity in background characters.

A rich and deeply felt slice of life. (afterword, design notes) (Graphic memoir. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-53889-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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Ultimately adds little to conversations about race.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK BOY

A popular YouTube series on race, “Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man,” turns how-to manual and history lesson for young readers.

Acho is a former NFL player and second-generation Nigerian American who cites his upbringing in predominantly White spaces as well as his tenure on largely Black football teams as qualifications for facilitating the titular conversations about anti-Black racism. The broad range of subjects covered here includes implicit bias, cultural appropriation, and systemic racism. Each chapter features brief overviews of American history, personal anecdotes of Acho’s struggles with his own anti-Black biases, and sections titled “Let’s Get Uncomfortable.” The book’s centering of Whiteness and White readers seems to show up, to the detriment of its subject matter, both in Acho’s accounts of his upbringing and his thought processes regarding race. The overall tone unfortunately conveys a sense of expecting little from a younger generation who may have a greater awareness than he did at the same age and who, therefore, may already be uncomfortable with racial injustice itself. The attempt at an avuncular tone disappointingly reads as condescending, revealing that, despite his online success with adults, the author is ill-equipped to be writing for middle-grade readers. Chapters dedicated to explaining to White readers why they shouldn’t use the N-word and how valuable White allyship is may make readers of color (and many White readers) bristle with indignation and discomfort despite Acho’s positive intentions.

Ultimately adds little to conversations about race. (glossary, FAQ, recommended reading, references) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-80106-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

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