Something Good by Marcy Campbell

Cover image for Something Good.

Something Good by Marcy Campbell, illustrated by Corinna Luyken (9780759557420)

When a “bad-something” is found written on the wall in the girls’ restroom at school, the principal says that this won’t be tolerated. One girl and her friends sneak into the bathroom to see what the bad thing is. It’s fun at first, until they see what is written. The bad something is truly bad, leaving them all feeling horrible. No one knows who wrote it, so everyone is looking closely at one another for clues. Afterwards people were meaner to each other. So the school decided to give everyone ribbons to remind them who they are and then launched an art project to permanently cover the bad thing. Everyone worked together painting and creating until they had made something remarkable. Sharing poems afterwards, students became kinder to one another, reminded who they are and who they want to be.

Based on happenings in her children’s schools, this picture book shows the continued impact that hate speech can have on a school. Campbell shows the emotions of the various children clearly, making space for different reactions to what has been written and also showing how not knowing exactly what was said can also cause emotional and negative responses. The book is filled with empathy for the students and offers one of many solutions to bring the student body back around. Using art to express themselves allows for emotions to be shared and the community itself to step forward.

The art is done in gouache, colored pencil and ink. The art shows the mixed emotions of the students in the school, reddened and sharpened feelings of accusation, dark red and black of meanness, bright yellow of hope and change. The illustrations are a gorgeous mix of lightness of line with deep color that conveys the feelings.

A look at hate speech and how to confront its impact. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Little, Brown and Company.

Thirty Talks Weird Love by Alessandra Narvaez Varela

Cover image for Thirty Talks Weird Love.

Thirty Talks Weird Love by Alessandra Narvaez Varela (9781947627482)

In 1990s Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, girls were being kidnapped from the streets, so Anamaria’s parents were very careful about where she was in the city and what she was doing. She spends most of her time studying and trying to get top rank in her class at a private middle school, since she plans to be a doctor. Then one day, a limping woman who claims to be Anamaria from the future arrives to change the past. She is by turns frightening, cheesy and just plain strange. The woman also says that she is a poet, not a doctor, something that Anamaria can’t even comprehend. She also insists that Anamaria needs help and needs to change the way she is living and get help.

The wild title and cover lead readers to an exploration of depression and overwork in young people in schools. Written in verse, the book also shows the power of being willing to take a chance and find a way to express yourself in poetry and words. Varela chillingly captures the smallness of Varela’s world, a toxic trudge of schoolwork and messed up friendships and working for her parents. Even as everyone works to protect her from the dangers of the streets, they are unaware that the real danger may be invisible and inside Anamaria herself.

The writing here is marvelous. Varela shows how halting first attempts at poetry grow into true self expression and a way to release internal pressures. Anamaria shows herself to be deep and thoughtful, far more interesting than the girl striving to beat everyone at school. The author uses clever poetic formats to transform larger poems into something altogether different and drawings combined with words to create apologies and new connections.

A deep delve into depression and the power of poetry. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Cinco Puntos Press.