Monday, June 27, 2022

SURVIVE THE DOME by Kosoko Jackson

 

Another Black man has been murdered by police. Riots are breaking out in downtown Baltimore. Jamal, a budding journalist, grabs his camera and heads out to record the events for his school publication. Before he knows it, he is in the thick of things. 

Marco, a talented hacker, connects with Jamal, and together they become victims of a decision by the Governor that involves enclosing the city in a dome that cuts all technology and puts all would-be protestors under a complete lockdown.

Jamal and Marco attempt to connect with Nemesis, a group of hackers, to disable the dome, but control of the city is tight. Police officers are clad in powerful armor using a light source similar to the dome to turn them into a type of robo-cop. There doesn't seem to be any safe place to hide or to plan counterattacks. 

Jamal and Marco each take life-threatening risks as they team up with a former soldier named Catherine to help the Black and brown citizens whose lives are under attack. 

Author Kosoko Jackson uses visuals ripped from recent headlines to create a fast-paced story with frightening elements predicting a future controlled by politicians with powerful technology only too easy to imagine. The three young heroes' determination and bravery will keep readers turning pages to an exciting conclusion and the possibility of further adventures.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

WELCOME TO ST. HELL: MY TRANS TEEN MISADVENTURE by Lewis Hancox

 

Welcome to a graphic memoir by Lewis Hancox. Lewis wasn't always Lewis. He was born Lois and lived as Lois up until high school. In high school Lois began to get serious about living a guy. Having parents who were divorced, but still fairly understanding when she told them she wanted to be a boy, made things a bit more bearable at home, but not out in the rest of the world. 

At the time there wasn't much information about transitioning so dressing as a male and acting as one was the main solution to a problem that seemed to be getting bigger the older Lois got. Changing clothes for physical education was a nightmare, listening to teasing and taunting from classmates was painful, and being told things would get better were all facts of life for Lois/Lewis.

Another painful part of the misadventure was determining who was attractive. Were girls the answer or would Lewis be interested in other guys? Answers to many of the questions came eventually. Lewis shares his transgender path in hopes it will help others experiencing the same struggles.

ANSWERS IN THE PAGES by David Levithan

 

Donovan is excited to begin reading the new book assigned in Mr. Howe's class. They read the first chapter and then were given the book to take home and continue reading. That's when the trouble started. 

Out of curiosity, Donovan's mother picked up his copy of The Adventurers and flipped to the last page as she does with most books she reads. Well, she read a paragraph that shocked and surprised her. She immediately confiscated Donovan's book, marched into the principal's office, and filed a complaint against the book.

News traveled quickly, and soon a number of parents were objecting to the book. According to the upset parents, The Adventurers would encourage homosexual behavior in their children. Donovan and his fellow classmates were now determined to finish reading the book. They believed the author was just telling a great adventure story.

Author David Levithan hits on a current hot button topic in children's and young adult literature. People across the country are objecting to books found in many school classrooms and libraries. Levithan deftly weaves together three stories in ANSWERS IN THE PAGES that end with an interesting twist. It will speak to young readers and adults alike about the unwarranted censorship arguments plaguing schools today.

On a side note - ANSWERS IN THE PAGES reminds me of Chris Crutcher's SLEDDING HILL, another book within a book type story about censorship. It is also a great read that speaks to today's judgmental climate.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

QUEER DUCKS (AND OTHER ANIMALS) by Eliot Schrefer

 

Readers hang onto your hats. If the book And Tango Makes Three and the idea of a male-male penguin couple raising a chick together has you running to ban it from the library, QUEER DUCKS (AND OTHER ANIMALS) might not be the book for you. However, if you are more open-minded or just plain curious and want to learn more about the animal world, I highly recommend this new release from author Eliot Schrefer.

Animal behavior has been studied in one way or another since the beginning of science. An area of interest that scientists admit they have observed and studied, but not frequently included in publications, is animal sexuality. Oh, there's plenty of information to be found about mating rituals and animal reproduction, but QUEER DUCKS puts the focus on a different area. 

Author Eliot Schrefer admits that as a confused, young, gay boy, he did discover the animal world might have some similar situations if not answers to sexual preferences and identity. In this book Schrefer combines scientific study and information with fun commentary about a variety of animals and their behavior.

Beginning with the doodlebug's male-male attraction, Schrefer reveals that what most people normally assume is mating between a male and female, may not be the case. First of all, telling the difference between male and female doodlebugs, penguins, and many other species isn't as easy as one might think. Because of this, most casual observers probably miss the fact that animals regularly participate in same sex and bisexual sexual activities and more.

Although animals use sex to reproduce, they also exhibit habits that suggest they participate in various forms of sex for the simple fact that they like it. Schrefer reveals it is common for female dolphins to enjoy sexual activity together, for bonobos primates to enjoy orgies on the regular, and that male-male action between bulls is quite common. 

QUEER DUCKS also includes interviews with wildlife researchers and biologists who provide even more unusual facts about animal sexuality. Their commentary adds not only an additional level of facts, but also an interesting look at career opportunities in science for budding science geeks. 

Aimed at an audience of readers age 14+, QUEER DUCKS is a fascinating read. I live on an inland, Michigan lake, and after reading this book I am now much more aware of the activities of the waterfowl I enjoy watching from my front porch. I will definitely be including this book on the required reading list for my future Adolescent Literature students.


Sunday, June 12, 2022

ONLY ON THE WEEKENDS by Dean Atta

 

Mack knows he is lucky. His father has been accepting and encouraging from the very moment Mack came out. Not everyone is that lucky. 

One example is K. Mack is crushing big time on the tall basketball star. Mack loves to watch K play, and it's even better when in an early conversation K admits that he plays better when Mack is watching. Taking that as encouragement, Mack believes K might have feelings for him.

When they are alone together, things seem to be moving in a romantic direction, but K only opens up to Mack when they are in private situations. K finally admits that he is not out to his family and friends. He says the time isn't right, but he thinks he might be in love with Mack.

Mack's film director father announces they will be moving from London to Scotland for three months. Mack is furious about having to leave K just when their relationship is blossoming. The move to Scotland might be tolerable when Mack's father agrees to letting K and Mack visit back and forth on the weekends during the three month stretch. 

Alternating visits doesn't work quite as well as they planned, but Mack thinks it might be fate. His budding friendship with the trans star of his father's movie means he isn't thinking about K nearly as often as he thought he would be. His feelings for Fin and Fin's return feelings are making time in Scotland interesting to say the least.

Dean Atta, author of THE BLACK FLAMINGO, has conjured up a romantic novel in verse that is sure to have readers turning pages to see who ends up with whom. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

BIG BONED by Jo Watson

 

Lori Palmer is facing many frustrations. Her parents are divorced. Her father is engaged to a woman who is young enough to be her sister. Her self-absorbed mother has just moved them from Lori's beloved Joburg to Cape Town. Her younger brother is autistic and requires constant monitoring. And, Lori is fat.

Now Lori is facing a new school and probably loads of bullying because of her appearance. Yep, it's just as she expected. The tall, thin mean girls don't waste any time pushing Lori's buttons. Her anxiety is running on high. School is not pleasant and with her mother rarely home, Lori is responsible for Zac whenever they aren't in school.

Two positives in Lori's life are a pretty cool therapist who helps Lori quiet her inner voices, and a new friend named Jake whose sister with ADHD has hit it off with Zac. Lori knows Jake is only interested in her because her brother gets along with his sister. There's no way a cute guy like Jake could be interested in Lori for any other reason. Or, is there?

Author Jo Watson's BIG BONED proves that finding a way to love ourselves is the best way to find happiness. Lori learns that relationships are built on much more than appearance alone. 

Saturday, May 28, 2022

PIECE BY PIECE: The Story of Nisrin's Hijab by Priya Huq

 

PIECE BY PIECE is a colorful, graphic novel about a young girl looking for her identity. Nisrin's family is from Bangladesh. She lives in Oregon with her family. Near the end of her 8th grade year, she is the victim of a hate crime simply because she looks different. 

Nisrin's family do not practice Islam, but she has an interest in learning more about the religion and culture. After speaking with a friend who encourages her to do what feels right for her, Nisrin decides to begin wearing the hijab, head scarf. Her own family is not really supportive of her choice which complicates things for her. When confronted by students as she begins high school, she doubts her choice until another girl inspires her to continue doing what she feels is right for her.

Set in 2002, PIECE BY PIECE rings true today as far as people's willingness to accept the cultures of other people. In some places things may be better, but there are still teens who struggle to keep the traditions of their religions and cultures despite a lack of understanding from other people.