From Publisher's Weekly, 4/6/09
Gentlemen by Michael Northrop Scholastic Press, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-545-09749-9
Northrop's debut is one dark ride, as events spin out of control for three friends who haven't had many lucky breaks. High school sophomores Micheal (the narrator), Tommy, Mixer and Bones are a pretty tight crew. (And, yes, that's how Micheal's name is spelled: “Mom or Dad, one of them dropped the ball on that one, probably Dad, in the hospital or wherever it is you fill out that paperwork.”) Then Tommy goes missing. It isn't the first time, so the guys aren't initially too worried, but as time passes—and following increasingly unsettling interactions with their English teacher, Mr. Haberman, during a unit on Crime and Punishment—they begin to suspect that the teacher is involved in Tommy's disappearance. Micheal, who has an eye injury stemming from a childhood incident, is a sympathetic but unreliable narrator—something he himself recognizes (“Having a messed-up eye, you know, it'll affect how you see things”). The brutal narration, friendships put through the wringer and the sense of dread that permeates the novel will keep readers hooked through the violent climax and its aftermath. Ages 15–up. (Apr.)
Our Children Can Soar: A Celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the Pioneers of Change by Michelle Cook, illus. by Cozbi A. Cabrera, R. Gregory Christie, Bryan Collier et al Bloomsbury, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59990-418-4
Showcasing the art of 13 artists, this resonant book was inspired by a simple yet searing phrase that celebrates the achievements of African-Americans, which was featured, in various versions, online and at rallies during the 2008 presidential campaign. Cook's adaptation pays tribute to 10 individuals, including George Washington Carver, Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson. These figures' triumphs are shown as part of a seamless continuum: “Martin marched... so Thurgood could rule. Thurgood ruled... so Barack could run. Barack ran... so our children can soar!” The spreads understandably represent an array of artistic styles and media, yet they form a cohesive and affecting collective portrait: a musical staff swathes Pat Cummings's Ella Fitzgerald like a boa, while Shadra Strickland's Ruby Bridges is a small yet determined figure, marching up the schoolhouse steps against a backdrop of protestors. Additional images from Leo and Diane Dillon, James Ransome, E.B. Lewis, Eric Velasquez and others, corroborate Children's Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman's assertion, in the book's foreword, that African-American history is “the story of hope.” Ages 4–8. (Apr.)
Congratulations to these authors!