Friday, February 26, 2016

A Big Dose of Lucky by Jocelyn Marthe

This review was originally published in YA Books for Donor Offspring blog, republished with permission from Patricia Sarles.

Since she was a day old, the only world Malou Gillis has ever known is the 16 years she spent living in the Benevolent Home. When a fire breaks out one night, completely burning the home to the ground, Malou is told it is time for her and all the other teenage girls living there to leave to make their way in the world. Before she goes though, Mrs. Hazelton gives Malou two clues to her past - a baby bracelet with the words "Baby Fox" inscribed on it and the town of Parry Sound,  about 5 hours from the orphanage where she grew up. Having nothing except the $138.00 that was given to her,  Malou sets off to see if she can find out who her parents are. A series of unusual coincidences lead her to a job at the hospital where she is pretty sure she was born, a piece of paper with seven names on it, which she finds in the hospital's record room, one of whom she suspects is her mother's, and an encounter with several young people who all share her brown skin color. But it isn't until Malou shows up in town that they will all learn how they are connected. It turns out they were all donor-conceived at that same hospital. Does that mean they are all siblings and that Malou was donor-conceived as well? And if so, how do two parents go through all that trouble to have a baby only for that baby to end up in an orphanage? Except for one graphic description of how exactly men make deposits in the case of sperm donation, there is no sex, violence, or foul language in this book. Recommended for ages 12 and up. --Patricia Sarles

Jocelyn, Marthe. A Big Dose of Lucky. Victoria, British Columbia: Orca Book Publishers, 2015. Print.

Patricia Sarles, MA, MLS is the librarian at the Jerome Parker Campus Library in Staten Island. She writes and edits the blog, YA Books for Donor Offspring.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Raul the Third

Lupe, Flapjack, and Elirio love working with cars and want to open their own autoshop, but they are broke.  They decide to enter an auto competition with the hopes of winning the prize money that can get them started on their dream.  Collaborating on this project takes them to outer space and back.  

Nothing about the title or premise led me to think that this book would be a particular hit with the adolescents I serve here in NYC where lowrider culture is not as prevalent as it is in other parts of our large country.  But what to give the sixteen-year-old artist I serve who told me that he loves cars and is dyslexic and whose first language is Spanish?  Lowriders in Space has incredible artwork done in pen and the artist writes, “I decided to draw Lowriders in Space with red, blue and black ballpoint pens to revisit the excitement I felt as a kid whenever I drew.” Backmatter includes notes from the artist and author, a glossary for Mexican-American slang, car, and astronomy terms found in the story, and a one page epilogue to whet the reader’s appetite for Volume 2, which will be released by Chronicle on July 5th.  The best part, for developing readers who are already bilingual in Spanish and English, is that the book is 112 pages long and most pages contain 15 words or less. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Camper, Cathy.  Lowriders in Space.  San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2014.  Print.

Click here for a short book trailer video on youtube.  Click here to visit the publisher’s page where you can download a free teaching guide to Lowriders in Space.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story by Peter Bagge

Wife, mother, nurse, birth-control activist, fiery-haired firebrand.  Peter Bagge draws and writes all of these sides of the outspoken Margaret Sanger in this non-fiction graphic novel.  While reading this book, one gets the sense of a life lived so large it can not be contained within the pages.  As the text must leap from milestone to milestone, selections of pivotal points in Sanger’s life can easily be delineated and examined by a class looking to gain historical perspective of the women’s rights movement.  Bagge elaborates further on his text by way of back matter providing historical context, additional information, and revealing editorial decisions.  The comic book style illustrations make Sanger’s story accessible to mature readers.  --Anne Lotito-Schuh

Bagge, Peter. Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2013. Print.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Terrorist’s Son: A Story of Choice by Zak Ibrahim with Jeff Giles

I dare you to read the first four pages of this short book and abandon it.  This is a memoir from the American-born son of a terrorist who is serving a life sentence for plotting the bombing of the World Trade Center.  Current students will not remember the incident which occurred in 1993, but many will relate to the challenges of growing up poor and with an incarcerated parent.  Most readers will, I imagine, marvel at the author’s articulation of the suffering he endured as a result of his father’s choices, his ultimate rejection of the indoctrination of hatred, and his loving embrace of his right to make his own choices about how to be a human being.  Highly recommended for teen and adult book clubs as well as independent reading for students interested in current events and stories relayed by narrators who have grown up with tremendous challenges and overcome adversity.  The Terrorist’s Son winningly combines brevity, heft, and inspiration.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Ebrahim, Zak with Jeff Giles.  The Terrorist’s Son.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014.  Print.

A curriculum guide by Pam B. Cole, Associate Dean and Professor of English Education and Literacy, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA, can be found here.  The TED talk Ebrahim gave that led to the writing and publication of this text can be found here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans by Don Brown

“What happened at the N’awlins?”

Teen readers are too young to remember Hurricane Katrina, but Beyonce may have just inspired their curiosity with this weekend’s release of her new video “Formation.”  For adolescent readers wondering why the pop star depicts herself atop a submerged police car, and, later, drowning atop that car, or those struggling to connect the dots between the drowning imagery and the video’s juxtaposition of graffiti that reads “Stop shooting us” at 4:26, Don Brown has written and illustrated a compelling, grave, illuminating and now award-winning volume.  In full color with shades and tones of sadness, this text is less than 100 pages long and most pages contain a maximum of two sentences of text, making this highly recommended for reluctant teen readers with a taste for graphic novels and teachers looking for a hybrid non-fiction text.  This book concludes with a thorough listing of source notes, a bibliography, and a closing dedication.--Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Brown, Don.  Drowned City:  Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans.  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin, 2015.  Print.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Black Frontiers: A History of African American Heroes in the Old West by Lillian Schlissel

During an informal survey I conducted this week within our school library, I learned that 100% of the students I currently serve did not know that 25% of American cowboys in the 19th century were of African descent.  Black Frontiers provides the visual evidence that students desired to substantiate this claim.  Chapters on homesteaders and mountain men were of less interest, so I strongly suggest introducing this text with the aforementioned historical photographs or with the chapter on Nat Love, also known as Deadwood Dick, on page 31.  The brief chapter ends with a photograph of Love after he changed lifestyles and career paths to become a Pullman porter in 1890, which can also spark conversations about the development of the railways, the socio-economic opportunities at that time, and career choices.  This book, along with Hoose’s Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice will have students wondering how truth is uncovered when history is investigated and written.  --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Click here for PBS’ middle school & high school lesson plans on African Americans in the West which is rich with additional resource suggestions.

Schlissel, Lillian.  Black Frontiers: A History of African American Heroes in the Old West.  New York:  Aladdin Paperbacks, 2000.  Print.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Many Faces of Josephine Baker: Dancer, Singer, Activist, Spy by Peggy Caravantes

Born into extreme poverty and a survivor of a harsh childhood, Josephine Baker made it to Paris by the age of nineteen and went on to become an international sensation during a time when African Americans were treated with disdain throughout the United States.  This biography will instruct and inspire adolescent readers with revelations of the last century and the bravery, creativity, and perseverance of its subject.  Presented in twelve chapters which frequently offer boxed features to provide additional context to people, places, and events that arise in the text (e.g. “Eva Peron” and “The March on Washington,”) this book will be of interest to adults not yet familiar with the highs, lows, and complexities of Baker’s life as well. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Caravantes, Peggy.  The Many Faces of Josephine Baker:  Dancer, Singer, Activist, Spy.  Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2015.  Print.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go by Laura Rose Wagner

Suffering several tragic family losses in the wake of Haiti’s earthquake, Magdalie is penniless and emotionally adrift in a temporary camp without schooling. Coupled with the loss of her family comes the loss of Magdalie’s sense of security and the future she was working towards.  The tedium of her months in a temporary camp fuel boredom and depression at the prospect of living a life unfulfilled.  We follow Magdalie’s life, a life indefinitely put on hold by the efforts required merely to subsist, as her anger and frustration grow with every failed attempt to better her circumstances.  Will Magdalie learn to let go of her anger and face her days with hope once again? Offering rich portrayals of both the challenges and beauty in urban and rural Haiti, Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go is a novel that leaves a lasting impression.  Recommended for those seeking an inspirational story of finding hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. --Anne Lotito-Schuh

Wagner, Laura Rose. Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go: A Novel of Haiti. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2015. Print.