Sold by Patricia McCormick

sold

Told in a series of lyrical verses, author Patricia McCormick’s novel, Sold, is the story of a 13-year-old Nepali girl named Lakshmi.  Written from Lakshmi’s point of view, Sold begins by describing Lakshmi’s impoverished yet welcoming family life.  When rain destroys her family’s crops, Lakshmi’s stepfather forces her to take a job to help the family.  A stranger takes her away to India and she soon discovers that the adults she trusted were actually leading her into sexual slavery.  Although trapped in a brothel, tortured, abused, and cheated, Lakshmi still maintained hope amidst the darkness of her existence.

As a reader, you get the chance to see what life in India’s sex trafficking is like.  You get to hear the voice of a strong woman who keeps fighting.  And you get to be whisked into Lakshmi’s world thanks to the beautiful poetry of the novel.  McCormick’s writing style brings you into Lakshmi’s life with vivid descriptions told in sparkling verse.  Once you start reading this book, you won’t want to put it down.  So pick up this book and hear Lakshmi’s voice.  For the sake of all those trapped in sex trafficking.  And for the sake of women everywhere.

All American Boys by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds

8306857Whether you think racism ended after the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s or you are already well aware of its existence, you should read All American Boys. This story, about two teenage boys, one black and one white, reveals that racism, prejudice, and police brutality are very much alive today.

Co-written by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, All American Boys is told from the alternating perspectives of Rashad, who is black, and Quinn, who is white.  The novel explores how their lives change when Rashad, falsely accused of stealing a bag of chips, is severely beaten by a white police officer.  While Rashad is recuperating in the hospital, he misses many days of school.  Those in the community who support Rashad use the rallying cry and hashtag “Rashad is Absent Again Today.”  And, when a witness’ video of the beating goes viral, the school, community, and even the nation is divided by racial tension.

Rashad did not ask for any of the attention created by his tragic beating, but nonetheless he finds himself at the center of a fierce campaign against police brutality.  Despite his reluctance to be the center of attention, Rashad grows stronger by creating art in the midst of the racial strife.

Meanwhile, Quinn, a white high school basketball star who witnessed Rashad’s beating, struggles to decide what to do about what he has seen.  Since the white police officer who beat Rashad is Quinn’s best friend’s brother and is like a father to him, he would rather forget the whole incident.  But soon Quinn realizes that racism exists all around him–on his basketball team, in the school cafeteria, and in the country-at-large–leading him to take a public stand.

Through the lives of these two “All-American” boys, the authors help us reflect on how every American is implicated in the effects of structural racism so evident in the horrors of police brutality.  Read this book not only because it is an important reflection on racial injustice, but also read it for all the black lives who have died unnecessarily at the hands of police.  This book may make you cry, but it will also leave you with hope that injustice can stop if we work together.

~ Jeanelle Wheeler

Kiely, B., & Reynolds, J. (2017). All American Boys. Turtleback Books.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

8306857With his book, The Crossover, author Kwame Alexander gives us a sizzling, rhythmic, story through a mix of free verse and hip-hop poetry.  Through the eyes of high school basketball star Josh Bell, Alexander recounts the story of Josh and his twin brother Jordan, as they navigate life on and off the court.

Yes, The Crossover is about basketball. But it’s also a vibrant coming-of-age story about two competitive black brothers.  From the book’s opening section “Warm-Up” to its closing “Overtime,” Josh creates a collection of poetic vignettes from both Josh’s basketball and family life.
Josh’s poetry flows through him like electricity, delivering a powerful emotional jolt that paints a realistic picture of the life of a talented young basketball star.  His words bounce across the pages in all sizes, shapes, and angles, allowing the reader to become immersed in Josh’s world–

Josh’s poetry flows through him like electricity, delivering a powerful emotional jolt that paints a realistic picture of the life of a talented young basketball star.  His words bounce across the pages in all sizes, shapes, and angles, allowing the reader to become immersed in Josh’s world – a world where his brother’s girlfriend messes up their brotherhood, and a heart problem messes up their dad’s fatherhood. As he journeys through each game, Josh also reveals a series of Basketball Rules for the court and life.  He shares tips like “When you stop playing your game you’ve already lost” and “If you miss enough of life’s free throws you will pay in the end.”

Yes, there is sadness in the book, so don’t be surprised if you cry a bit.  But despite the difficult moments, there is always hope.  There is hope that before the buzzer sounds, you will make the winning lay-up or free throw.
So read this book!  Become part of the roaring crowd!  You’ll hear every swish!  Your heart will pound!  And you will experience each time Josh makes a clean crossover–both in the game and in life.

So read this book!  Become part of the roaring crowd!  You’ll hear every swish!  Your heart will pound!  And you will experience each time Josh makes a clean crossover–both in the game and in life.

~ Jeanelle Wheeler

Alexander, K. (2017). Crossover. Place of publication not identified: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.