Tag: equality

Review: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (InfoSoup)

Rashad is just minding his own business, getting chips after school, when he is suddenly accused of shoplifting after a white woman trips over him. He ends up being brutally beaten by the police officer in the store and has to be hospitalized. At the same time, Quinn is heading out to a party with his friends from school and witnesses the beating first hand. Quinn considers the officer involved and his younger brother close personal friends and struggles with what he has seen. A video of the incident goes viral and Rashad finds himself at the center of the Black Lives Matter discussion. Both Rashad and Quinn have to figure out whether they are willing to stand up for change and what that means for each of them.

I have heard incredible praise for this book and it is all completely true. Reynolds and Kiely tell their story in alternating chapters, each narrated by one of the two teens. The book is so strong, the voices of each of the narrators are distinct and clear. The book fights stereotypes over and over again. It is done with care and consideration, each choice that is made fights against what our culture believes to be true. It is done though with such certainty too that the reader doesn’t notice that the very structure of the story itself is part of its message.

This is a stunning read. The authors do not duck away from the complexity of the questions being asked, instead adding nuance in some instances. Rashad’s father is a police officer and the story of why he left the force will resonate and show just how insidious societal racism is even in the African-American community itself. The two main characters also face difficult decisions but very different ones. The book is difficult, challenging and vital.

This is a must-read book for teens. It would make a great platform for important discussions that need to continue in America. Brave, incredible and riveting. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

nelson mandela

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

In a way that only Kadir Nelson could capture, this book tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s life, imprisonment and how he became the inspiration he is.  This is a very humanizing tale of Mendela, showing his childhood before his father’s death and then his move across South Africa to study under a powerful chief.   Mandela attended school and then got involved in fighting apartheid.  The book follows him as he is jailed the first time and as he rises to be a threat to those in power and goes into hiding.  Mandela returned to South Africa to continue the fight and is then jailed again, doing heavy labor.  After being in prison for over 27 years, Mandela was freed.  His passion for righting the wrongs of apartheid and speaking for equality of all people shines from every page.

Nelson tells the story of Mandela in verse that is factual but also compelling.  He captures the long time spent in prison in a way that children will be able to understand.  Cold meals, thin blankets and beating rocks into dust.  It shows the futility and the harshness with such clarity.  Nelson’s verse also has a great sense of awe for this man and what he has accomplished, that too makes it a very special, honest book.

As always, Nelson’s images are simply wondrous.  Here they seem to shine from within whenever Mandela is part of the image.  As you can see from the cover illustration, there is all of the human inside his art; it radiates from his work.  Shown with detail, interesting perspectives, and ending with a sense of celebration, Nelson’s art is a standout.

This is the story of Nelson Mandela captured fully in a picture book that celebrates all of his accomplishments and what he stands for as a human being.  Beautiful.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Katherine Tegen Books.

Review: I Too Am America by Langston Hughes

i too am america

I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Collier marries the famous poem by Hughes with the story of the African-American Pullman porters, who served the wealthy white patrons aboard trains.  The poem speaks to the dream of freedom and equality that we are moving towards but have not yet attained in America.  It tells of servants sent to eat in the kitchen but also that in the future that will change and no one will again be sent to eat separately.  Collier’s illustrations depict the real work of the Pullman porters and the rhythm of the train seems to appear in Hughes’ poem too.  These men who worked in a racist world long after slavery was abolished are a fitting match to this strong poem that sings.

Hughes was able to write with such spare poetry, that it gives a strong vehicle for illustrations.  Collier built an incredible story around those lines, one of porters and a small boy who has new chances in the modern world.  He wraps his illustrations in the flag, playing with stars and stripes and the blue of the open sky throughout the book.  There is a gravity, a seriousness to his work that is truly fine.  It lifts up to the level of the poem, creating a harmony that is very special.

This is an extraordinary picture book about freedom, African Americans, and the struggle that still goes on every day for equality.  Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from library copy.