Friday, June 22, 2007

Janet McDonald

Sadly, I just found out that this young author passed away in April.

Read Harlem Hustle last night. First off, great cover. Kids will pick this up since the colors are vibrant and the picture new-looking and appealing. Second, there was no bad language. Considering the amount of it I've had to read, this is a huge help to me. There's artistic expression, but then there's remembering your audience. The schools are trying to teach children to use more creative words. It would be nice to have help from YA authors.

Harlem has had a less than optimal childhood, but has support from the family of a friend. He is trying to turn his life around after being arrested for shop lifting, but violating probation still has some appeal to him. Some of his friends are trying to get away from life in the projects, and while aspects of this are appealing, there are still things about his life he likes. As a compromise, he writes rap lyrics. I did like that when the grandmother of a girl he likes finds the lyrics offensive, he changes them. This woman also gets him interested in some poetry. There is character development, and a positive message about education.

The book was a little hard to read, going choppily from street lingo to somewhat didactic passages. Also, given the topic of changing one's life, I was looking for a more powerful story, more along the lines of Sharon Draper's work. Still, there is a need for fiction about African American students, and in general, McDonald's work provides mainly positive messages. I will be adding this title, Brother Hood, Chill Wind, Twists and Turns, Spell Bound, and the upcoming Off-Color to my collection this fall.

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