Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Yaqui Delgado 9780763671648_p0_v3_s260x420Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Meg Medina, Author

Candlewick Press, Fiction, 2013

Awards:  2014 Pura Belpré Author Award; ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults; International Latino Best Books Awards – Young Adult Fiction; and  Kirkus Reviews Best Books for 2013

Suitable for Ages: 14-17

Themes: New Girl, Latin Americans, Bullying, High School, Family Relationships, Friendships

Book Jacket Synopsis: “Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass.” That’s what some girl tells Piddy Sanchez one morning before school. Too bad Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui Delgado is, let alone what she’s done to piss her off.  All Piddy knows is that Yaqui hates her — and she better watch her back because Yaqui isn’t kidding around.

At first Piddy just focuses on trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life.  Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off and running away from her problems?

Why I like this book:

  • Meg Medina focuses on the paralyzing impact of bullying in this raw, emotional and honest novel. The theme is timely and based on the author’s own experience with a bully as a teen, which adds depth and credibility to the story.
  •  The richly textured Latino story is set in Queens, New York, where Medina grew up.  The story is peppered with Spanish expressions, which contributes to the reader’s experience.
  • The characters are diverse and memorable. Piddy is an outgoing, smart and attractive Latina girl who wants to be a scientist. Yaqui is a jealous and threatening adversary who hates Piddy simply because she’s the “new” girl at school. Piddy’s Mama is strong and protective. Lila, her Mama’s best friend, is Piddy’s only confidant.  She works at the hair salon with Piddy, sells Avon and adds some comic relief.
  • Medina’s first-person narrative is extremely effective. The reader feels Piddy’s growing panic as the harassment increases and Yaqui and her gang stalk and close around her. Piddy is trapped and knows that if she tells school authorities or her mama, she will be “digging her grave.” Her grades dive, she isolates herself, skips school and her personality changes.
  • The plot is multi-layered, courageous and complicated. Medina delves deeply into the loneliness, fear and trauma of a bullied teen trying to handle the situation alone and the realistic mother-daughter relationship with family secrets.  The pacing is fast, engaging and keeps the reader turning pages. There are unexpected surprises and a realistic ending.  I had a hard time letting go of the story and characters.
  • Older teens will identify with Piddy and relate to the theme and plot.  Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass belongs in every school library because it is such an excellent work of fiction and a great discussion book.

Meg Medina is an award-winning Cuban-American author who writes picture books, middle grade, and YA fiction. She is the 2014 recipient of the Pura Belpré medal and the 2013 CYBILS Fiction winner for her young adult novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. She is also the 2012 Ezra Jack Keats New Writers medal winner for her picture book Tia Isa Wants a Car.  Visit Meg Medina at her website.

Never Say a Mean Word Again

Never Say Mean Word9781937786205_p0_v2_s260x420Never Say A Mean Word Again: A Tale from Medieval Spain

Jaqueline Jules, Author

Durga Yael Bernhard, Illustrator

Wisdom Tales, Fiction, May 7, 2014

Awards: 2015 Sydney Taylor Honor Books Award; 2014 National Jewish Books Award Finalist; 2014 Middle East Book Awards Honorable Mention

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Conflict Resolution, Justice, Fathers and sons, Friendship, Historical Spain

Opening: Samuel, the son of the grand vizier, walked into the castle courtyard wearing a flowing purple robe. His eyes were on the flowers and the fountains, not where he was walking. “OUCH!” Too late. 

Synopsis:  Samuel accidentally bumps into Hamza, the tax collector’s son. Samuel apologizes, but Hamza doesn’t believe him. Later that day, they are seated beside each other for lunch.  Samuel’s goblet slips out of his hand and stains Hamza’s shirt. Hamza is angry, calls Samuel mean names and won’t accept his apology. Samuel asks his father, the vizier, if he will punish Hamza. Instead the vizier tells his Samuel to “make sure Hamza never says a mean word to you again.”  How will Samuel deal with Hamza so he isn’t insulted again?

Why I like this book:

  • It is an inspiring multicultural tale of two lively boys, one Jewish and one Muslim, trying to solve their differences.
  • Jules’ story is inspired by a medieval legend about the Jewish poet Samuel Ha-Nagid, (993-1056) who was the vizier in Muslim Granada, a city in Spain. 
  • It explores the challenges of friendship across cultures and social status.
  • The ending is unexpected. Without realizing it, Samuel finds himself playing with Hamza daily. Samuel’s attempt to obey his father turns into an unexpected quest to make a friend out of his enemy.
  • The message of Samuel’s attempts to find a peaceful resolution to his differences with Hamza, is relevant today. Children will resonate with this timeless issue of making a bully into a friend.
  • Bernhard’s colorful and vivid illustrations capture the culture of this Medieval period. They are lively and show the tension and humor in the story.

Resources: There is a beautiful history about the Medieval legend and the history of Spain at the end of the book. This is a great book for teachers to use in the classroom to discuss peaceful ways to resolve conflict. Visit Jacqueline Jules’ website for information, a teacher’s guide and other materials to use with Never Say a Mean Word Again.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Positive

Positive9780062342515_p0_v4_s260x420Positive

Paige Rawl with Ali Benjamin, Authors

Harper Collins, Memoir, Aug. 26, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 12-16

Themes: Paige Rawl, HIV-positive children, AIDS in adolescence, Bullying, Suicide, Hope

Book Synopsis: Cheerleader, soccer player, honor roll student. One of the good kids at her middle school. Then on an unremarkable day, Paige disclosed the one thing that made her “different”: her HIV-positive status. Within hours, the bullying began.  They called her PAIDS. Left cruel notes on her locker. Talked in whispers about her and mocked her openly. She turned to school administrators for help. Instead of assisting her, they ignored her urgent pleas…and told her to stop the drama. She had never felt more alone. One night, desperate for escape, Paige found herself in front of the medicine cabinet, staring at a bottle of sleeping pills. That could have been the end of her story. Instead, it was only the beginning.

Why I like this book: Paige Rawl and Ali Benjamin have written a realistic, raw, brave and powerful memoir about a teen living with HIV since birth. Although Paige is stable on medications, HIV is such a sensitive subject and tough diagnosis for a teen to deal with — especially when her best friend betrays her. Once Paige’s secret spreads like wildfire at school, the bullying begins. This is one of the best memoirs I’ve read this year. It is a real page turner that I could not put down. Although what happens to Paige is heartbreaking, her courage to reclaim herself and move forward is inspiring. You will find yourself rooting for Paige as she finds a voice she didn’t know she had. Her memoir is written in short chapters and is well-paced. Her voice is strong and determined. In sharing her story, she encourages other teens to find their inner strength in the midst of any storm. And her experience has made a difference for others.

Resources: There is extensive information and facts about HIV, bullying and suicide.  She shares information on programs for kids who are touched by HIV/AIDS, a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and programs to stop bullying.

Words Wound: Delete Cyberbullying and Make Kindness Go Viral

WordsWound9781575424514_p0_v2_s260x420Words Wound: Delete Cyberbullying and Make Kindness Go Viral

Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D, and Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., Authors

Free Spirit Publishing, Nonfiction, Dec. 3, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 13-17

Themes: Cyberbullying, Bullying, Computer crimes, Internet and teenagers, Prevention, Kindness

Publisher Synopsis: Cyberbullying among teens happens every day. Vicious messages and damaging photos exchanged through texts, email, and social media can lead to humiliation, broken friendships, punishment at school, and–as recent headlines prove–legal prosecution and even suicide. Faced with this pandemic problem, concerned parents, educators, and young people across the country are looking for information and advice.  Words Wound  is written especially for tweens and teens on the importance of standing up for themselves and others online.

Why I like this book: Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D., and Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., are cyberbullying experts who have written a practical and valuable handbook for teens. Both authors know from personal experience what it feels like to be bullied at school. They have researched and talked with thousands of teens at schools, libraries and youth centers about their experiences with bullying. They’ve spoken with parents who have lost children to suicide. Words Wound is very easy to use. It is divided into three parts all supported with real-life stories and strategies for preventing, reducing and combatting cyberbulling at school. Teens are taught ways to be kind, respectful and stand up for friends. And, they are encouraged to be advocates for change in their schools and communities. What I like about this user-friendly guide is you can choose the chapters that interest you, or you can read it from beginning to end. It is a “must-have companion” for any kid with social media access. This book is a valuable resource for parents, educators and administrators. The authors wrote the book because they“know what a school without bullying looks like.” They have visited many schools across the country that are bully free because of students and educators working together.

Resources: The authors run the Cyberbullying Research Center and have designed a website, Words Wound, specifically for teens. It is a place where teens can go to keep up with the conversation, ask questions, express worries, share thoughts, ideas, and strategies about what has worked for them personally and in their schools. The authors want to hear from you. They want teens and young adults to join the national discussion to make schools a safe place.

Desmond and the Very Mean Word

Desmond9780763652296_p0_v1_s260x420Desmond and the Very Mean Word

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams, Authors

A.G. Ford, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Biography, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 6-10

Themes:  Bullying, Racism, Compassion, South Africa, Archbishop Tutu

Opening“Desmond was very proud of his new bicycle. He was the only child in the whole township who had one, and he couldn’t wait to show it to Father Trevor.”

Jacket Synopsis: When Desmond takes his new bicycle out for a ride, his pride and joy turn to hurt and anger when some boys shout a very mean word at him. No matter what he tries, Desmond can’t stop thinking about what the boys said. With the wise advice of kindly Father Trevor, Desmond learns an important lesson about understanding his conflicted feelings and how to forgive.

Why I like this book:  This heartfelt story is based on a true-life story from Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s childhood in South Africa. Like many African children, Tutu is bullied and words of hatred shouted at him by other boys.  He is angry and after several incidents, he turns and shouts the meanest word he can think of. At first he is proud of himself, but later feels shame good over his actions. I really think it’s important for children to know how a Nobel Peace Prize winner comes to terms with issues that are still relevant today. Desmond finds that forgiveness is the only way to free himself from his anger. This is a very important step for the young Desmond — for all children. The author focuses on his feelings instead of sounding preachy. Ford’s stunning oil paintings powerfully depict Desmond’s early life in South Africa and capture the emotion of the characters.

Resources:  Archbishop Tutu has a forward about the story and a backpage of history about his relationship with Father Trevor. Tutu has spent his life bringing equality, justice, and peace to South Africa. He continues to be a leading spokesperson for peace and forgiveness. Candlewick Press has prepared a Teacher’s Guide for use with the book in the classroom.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

The Juice Box Bully

Juice Box BUlly9781933916729_p0_v1_s260x420The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up for Others

Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy, Authors

Kim Shaw, Illustrator

Ferne Press, Fiction, 2011

Mom’s Choice Award, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes:  Acceptable behavior, Bullying, No bystanders, Self-esteem, Empowerment

OpeningAs Pete stood in front of his new class, Mr. Peltzer announced, “Let’s welcome Pete to our team.  Pete, you will be sitting behind Ralph.”  Settling into his seat, Pete pulled his hat down over his head so that only his eyes could be seen.

Synopsis:  Pete is the new kid in class.  It’s obvious from the start that he has an attitude when he won’t remove his hat in class.  He is a bystander watching the other kids play soccer at recess and refuses to join.  Ralph invites him to play, but Pete has his own ideas and steals the ball.  Lucy and Ruby talk to Pete nicely and explain the classroom rules and promise.   Pete only responds by squirting his juice box on Ruby’s shirt.  Will Ralph and the students stand up for each other and make a new friend?

Why I like this bookThe Juice Box Bully belongs in every classroom.  Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy have written a book that empowers children to stand up for themselves and their friends.  It encourages children to make the right choices, teaches them not to be bystanders and to solve the problems with each other before involving adults.  This is one of the few books I’ve read where the kids are empowered from the start.  If used with a classroom curriculum, it would inspire kids to action.  Kim Shaw’s illustrations are bold and colorful.  She beautifully captures the action and mood of the story.

Resources:  There are excellent back pages on bystanders, empowerment and a classroom Promise.  You may also visit Bob Sornson  and Maria Dismondy at their websites to learn more strategies about empowering children.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

The Weird Series

Weird9781575423982_p0_v1_s260x420Weird!

Erin Frankel, Author

Paula Heaphy, Illustrator

Free Spirit Publishing, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages:5 and up

Themes: Bullying, Fear, Courage, Self-Confidence,  Accountability

Opening/Synopsis:   “Hi.  My name is Luisa and I have a problem.  There is a girl in my class named Sam who thinks that everything I do is WEIRD!”   When Luisa raises her hand to answer a question, tells a joke to her friends, hugs her mom after school, or wears her favorite polka dot boots, Sam says she’s WEIRD.   Luisa tries to change what she does, but Sam continues to call her WEIRD.  Luisa doesn’t feel like herself anymore.  “Everyone misses  the way I used to be.  Everyone else, including me.”  After talking with her mother, Luisa makes some positive changes and throws Sam a curve ball.

Dare9781575423999_p0_v1_s260x420DARE!

Book 2

Opening/Synopsis: “Hi.  My name is Jayla and I’m scared.  See that girl?  That’s Sam.  She’s tough.   She picked on me a lot last year, but I never stood up for myself.  I didn’t DARE!  No one stood up for me, either.  They didn’t DARE.”   Jayla is relieved when Sam stops bullying her, but feels bad when she sees Luisa the next target.  Jayla remembers too well how it feels when no one dares to stand up for her.  Even though Jayla tries to mind her own business, Sam begins to DARE Jayla to say mean things to Luisa.   Jayla is scared and caves into Sam.  Jayla feels bad for Luisa.  “This isn’t the kind of person I want to be.”   Jayla musters the courage to make her own DARE and reclaims her power from Sam.

Tough9781575424002_p0_v1_s260x420TOUGH!

Book 3

Opening/Synopsis“What are you staring at?  I’m not the weird one.  My name is Sam and I’m TOUGH!  That Luisa.  She’s weird.  She dresses weird.  Acts weird.  She talks weird.  Someone has to tell her, so I do.”  Sam has had a lot of practice learning to be TOUGH.  Her brother bullies her and she’s had to learn to stand up to him.  Sam acts tough so people won’t mess with her.  She discovers that people aren’t following her rules anymore, so things are getting a bit tough for Sam.  Her teachers want to help her, but is she through with being TOUGH?

Why I like this series:  Erin Frankel has written a very powerful series on bullying.  The Weird Series shows kids bullying from three different points of view:  Luisa who is bullied in WEIRD!, Jayla who is the bystander in DARE!, and Sam who is the bully in TOUGH!  The books can stand-alone, or be used as a series.  I recommend that classrooms read the books as a series because the stories are interwoven.   Readers will identify with the name-calling, insults, threats, fear, and anger.  The characters are realistic and the language is simple, but edgy.  These books are going to be hits in the classroom.  Paula Heaphy’s black and white illustrations are highlighted with splashes of color, usually focusing on a specific character.  They are bold, emotive and capture the great body language of the characters.

Resources:  Each book has extensive pages of backmatter for kids, parents and teachers on the topic at hand (i.e. victim, bystander and bully).  There are summaries of lessons learned, discussion points, activities, suggestions for courage, confidence and kindness clubs, and role-playing.  Visit Erin Frankel at her website.  Teachers can download a free  Leader’s Guide  from Free Spirit Publishing.  The following is an interesting interview with both author and illustrator that I believe you will find interesting.

These books have been provided to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the work.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.