Saturday, October 06, 2018

Hey, Kiddo and Bounce Back

Krosoczka, Jarrett J. Hey, Kiddo
September 25th 2018 by Graphix
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

In this graphic novel style memoir, Krosoczka describes the difficulties he faced growing up in the 1980s and 90s. His mother was not married and did not even list his father on his birth certificate, and struggled with addiction, mainly to heroin. After the age of three, Krosoczka was cared for by his grandparents and learned not to rely on seeing his mother, who was in and out of residential programs. His two aunts were still at home, and his basic needs were met, but his grandparents had problems of their own. Both alcoholics, they bordered on verbally abusive on occasion. Still, they were generally supportive and encouraged Krosoczka to pursue his art, which was something that helped him cope throughout his school career. In notes at the end, we learn a little about the way the book was written, and also that Krosoczka lost his mother in 2017 to a final heroin overdose.
Strengths: In the current climate where openness and frank discussion of issues is encouraged, this will be popular. Krosoczka tells his story in a compelling way and rolls up his sleeves rather than wrings his hands, and the artwork is excellent as always. I particularly liked the way he worked in some wallpaper from his childhood home.
Weaknesses: This is very frank, covering issues such as unmarried parents and drug and alcohol abuse, and has some vulgar language. The digital ARC was hard to read at spots, and the grandmother usually uses "fecking", but there was at least one full octane version of that word.
What I really think: It may be hard for the book to find the right audience. Fans of graphic novels or the Lunchlady Books who pick this up expecting a light, fun read will be surprised. That being said, I do have students who are being raised by their grandparents because their parents are unfit, imprisoned, or deceased. Not that I'm going to push this book on those students, but other students might be more understanding if they read this, and all students should be able to see their experiences reflected in literature.

Khan, Hena. Bounce Back. (Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream #3)
October 2nd 2018 by Salaam Reads
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Zayd is busy with basketball and also his uncle Jamal Mamoo's large Pakistani style wedding, which takes up a lot of family time, but has an unexpected set back-- he sprains his ankle playing basketball and ends up on crutches. He can't play, and he's not happy about it. Shortly afterward, his beloved grandfather Nana Abu has a heart attack. While it's not fatal, he ends up in the hospital, and then both of his grandparents move in with Zayd's family for a bit while Nana Abu recuperates. When Zayd's ankle is a better, he is allowed back on the court but struggles, worrying that he will reinjure himself. He also struggles with wanting to tell his teammates information that might help them play better, and his coach reassures him that taking a leadership position is difficult, but important.
Strengths: This addresses two very common and important concerns young readers face-- sports injuries and ailing grandparents. Khan really has hit the sweet spot of incorporating specific cultural information into universal stories that is a great way to show readers that while the particulars of Zayd's family, food, and celebrations might be different from their own, the essentials of his life are very similar to their own. I would love to see more sports books dealing with injuries, since they can change the way a student's entire school year goes.
Weaknesses: Zayd complains about going to practice and games when he is injured, thinking that watching tv and drinking milkshakes instead is due recompense. That seemed odd to me-- my injured runners are always very good about coming to practices, even though it often means they are sitting around in a field somewhere!
What I really think: I would love a similar but longer and more complex series with a slightly older character; my 8th graders are not going to pick this up because it looks too easy and Zayd is too young.

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