Monday, August 02, 2021

MMGM- Black Boy Joy

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Mbalia, Kwame (ed.) Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood.
August 3rd 2021 by Delacorte
E ARC provided by Edelweiss 

I always find it difficult to review short story collections, but this one is excellent. It's somewhat similar to Jon Scieskca's Guys Read books, in that there is a tantalizing array of authors. Some of these are favorites, and I immediately recognized and liked their stories (Giles' fantastic spin on super hero fandom, and Johnson's Definition of Cool, with its spot on depiction of  hanging out and dressing the part). Others are new to me, like the YA author Julian Winters and his Jevon, who is trying to win a baking competition. The problem with short stories is that once I read them, I want an entire BOOK about the character! I really appreciated that there were several speculative fiction stories, since it has been so hard to find middle grade ones with Black characters, and I am definitely going to investigate a lot of these authors. It is helpful that there are biographies with some works listed at the back of the book, and the inclusion of photographs (something I'm not sure I've ever seen in similar compilations) is another good way for my readers to see themselves represented in books. The Kadir Nelson cover is great, and I can see this being a great present for middle school boys, who can use this as a starting place for a lot more reading. 

From the publisher:
Black boy joy is…
Picking out a fresh first-day-of-school outfit.
Saving the universe in an epic intergalactic race.
Finding your voice—and your rhymes—during tough times.
Flying on your skateboard like nobody’s watching.
And more! From seventeen acclaimed Black male and non-binary authors comes a vibrant collection of stories, comics, and poems about the power of joy and the wonders of Black boyhood.

Contributors include: B. B. Alston, Dean Atta, P. Djèlí Clark, Jay Coles, Jerry Craft, Lamar Giles, Don P. Hooper, George M. Johnson, Varian Johnson, Kwame Mbalia, Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Tochi Onyebuchi, Julian Randall, Jason Reynolds, Justin Reynolds, DaVaun Sanders, and Julian Winters

de Botton, Alain (editor). What Adults Don't Know About Architecture
The School of Life (May 11, 2021)
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

This book is an interesting overview of a variety of architecture, although the vast majority of it is from western Europe. Divided into two main parts, this takes young readers through a very conversational introduction to architecture and then introduces them to ways "How to Build a Beautiful City". There are plentiful examples of color photographs of buildings, and readers are often prompted for their thoughts, but then told what they should be thinking. This is more of a coffee table type book (although the trim size is that of a novel), and lacks an index.

I'm a huge architecture geek, and my children frequently text me pictures of buildings they see and ask me to give them approximate dates of when they might have been constructed. I like the idea of showing young readers a variety of buildings and having them think about whether they are well designed. This book would have been HUGELY useful to the architects who redecorated my school library ten years ago, who didn't really think about form following function. In fact, my favorite part of the whole book was the assertion that much architecture is not very pleasing because architects are more worried about impressing other architects than about designing good buildings. 

Middle school students are often given assignments to design a town or an island and incorporate elements of units they are studying, so I really enjoyed the sections on what constitutes a good city and think it might be very useful. There are so many places in the US where architects have not scaled things to human size, developed local style, or made the area lively for pedestrians, so they could certainly use this book. On the down side, anything outside of the western European cannon is seen as exotic, and the idea of "beauty" is a bit narrow and comes across as rather judgmental. 

Taken with a grain of salt, this is an interesting and quick read. Since there are so few books about architecture for young readers (other than David MacCauley's wonderful works like City), this fills a lacuna in nonfiction literature for children. 


  1. I have this book to read for Bank Street and I'm really looking forward to it. I also love the Kadir Nelson cover and I completely understand about wanting an entire book about characters who are interesting and intriguing.

  2. I've heard a lot of praise for Black Boy Joy, and I appreciate your discussion on it! Your wish to see full books about some of the characters reminded me that there was an anthology I read a few years ago called Flying Lessons & Other Stories, and one of the short stories (by Kelly J. Baptist) actually got a full-length book later called Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero. So maybe there's hope for some of the stories in Black Boy Joy as well!

    What Adults Don't Know About Architecture sounds like a fascinating read as well! I haven't seen many books on architecture for kids either. Thanks so much for the great reviews!

  3. These both sound interesting. I do like short stories, so Black Boy Joy is one I will surely look for. Thanks for telling me about these.