Tag Archives: Chicago

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes. April 17, 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 224 p. ISBN: 9780316262286.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.9; Lexile: 360.

Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better.
 
Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.
Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.
Once again Jewell Parker Rhodes deftly weaves historical and socio-political layers into a gripping and poignant story about how children and families face the complexities of today’s world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Discrimination, Drugs, Bullying

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 11))
Grades 5-8. Jerome, a young black boy gunned down while playing in a park with a toy gun, invites readers to bear witness to his story, to the tragedy of being dispatched simply because of a policeman’s internalized prejudice masquerading as fear. One day at school, while he and his new friend Carlos are being bullied, Carlos pulls out a toy gun to scare their attackers. Afterward, he gives it to Jerome so he can have a chance to play with it, to pretend that he is in charge. But when he is shot in the back while running from the police, his soul leaves his body and he becomes one of the army of ghost boys hoping to communicate with those still consumed with racial bias. While looking in on the preliminary court hearing, Jerome realizes that the police officer’s daughter can see and talk to him, and together they try to understand how the world around them could be so cruel. Rhodes (Sugar, 2013; Towers Falling, 2016) beautifully weaves together the fictional and the historical—Jerome comes across the ghosts of real-life individuals like Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin—in this gripping and all-too-necessary novel about police brutality, injustice, and the power of bearing witness to the stories of those who are gone.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2018)
In a story that explicitly recalls the murder of Tamir Rice, Jerome, a 12-year-old black boy killed by a white Chicago cop, must, along with the ghosts of Emmett Till and others, process what has happened and how. With the rising tide of today’s Movement for Black Lives, there has been a re-examination of how the 1955 murder of Emmett Till became the fuel for the mid-20th-century civil rights movement. With this narrative in mind, Rhodes seeks to make Till’s story relevant to the post-millennial generation. Readers meet Jerome, who’s bullied at his troubled and underfunded neighborhood school, just at the time that Latinx newcomer Carlos arrives from San Antonio. After finding that Carlos’ toy gun may help keep the school bullies at bay, Jerome is taken by surprise while playing in the park when a white arriving police officer summarily shoots him dead. The police officer’s daughter, Sarah, is the only character who can truly see the ghost boys as they all struggle to process that day and move forward. Written in nonlinear chapters that travel between the afterlife and the lead-up to the unfortunate day, the novel weaves in how historical and sociopolitical realities come to bear on black families, suggesting what can be done to move the future toward a more just direction—albeit not without somewhat flattening the righteous rage of the African-American community in emphasizing the more palatable universal values of “friendship. Kindness. Understanding.” A timely, challenging book that’s worthy of a read, further discussion, and action. (Fiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Jewell Parker Rhodes has always loved reading and writing stories. Born and raised in Manchester, a largely African-American neighborhood on the North Side of Pittsburgh, she was a voracious reader as a child. She began college as a dance major, but when she discovered there were novels by African Americans, for African Americans, she knew she wanted to be an author. She wrote six novels for adults, two writing guides, and a memoir, but writing for children remained her dream.

Her website is www.jewellparkerrhodes.com/children/

Teacher Resources

Ghost Boys Reading Guide

Around the Web

Ghost Boys on Amazon

Ghost Boys on Goodreads

Ghost Boys Publisher Page

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A Few Red Drops by Claire Hartfield

A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 by Claire Hartfield. January 2, 2018. Clarion Books, 208 p. ISBN: 9780544785137.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1120.

On a hot day in July 1919, three black youths went swimming in Lake Michigan, unintentionally floating close to the “white” beach. An angry white man began throwing stones at the boys, striking and killing one. Racial conflict on the beach erupted into days of urban violence that shook the city of Chicago to its foundations. This mesmerizing narrative draws on contemporary accounts as it traces the roots of the explosion that had been building for decades in race relations, politics, business, and clashes of culture.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 7-10. This well-documented text outlines the events leading to the race riot in Chicago in the summer of 1919, which caused 38 deaths and more than 500 injuries. The prologue, the first two chapters, and the last three chapters (out of 20) address the riot; the rest provide a detailed and accessible history of the growth of Chicago as a meat-processing center, the formation and influence of trade unions, the influx of European immigrants, and the WWI-era black migration from the South. Quotes, statistics, and period photos help build background. An epilogue describes the partly successful results of a commission charged with instigating change and mentions other unhappy events of the “Red Summer” of 1919: 25 additional race riots across the U.S. The conclusion paints a positive picture of diverse, present-day Chicago, noting that the past century has brought many needed changes. This solid entry covers a topic not often mentioned in YA literature, and will support researchers looking for balanced coverage for history, civil rights, and economics reports.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2017)
A clash on a hot summer’s day served as catalyst for a deadly race riot in 1919 Chicago.The deep racial and ethnic resentments that permeated Chicago in the early years of the 20th century exploded into violence when the death of a young African-American teen was caused by a rock-throwing young white man, whom a white policeman refused to arrest. The incident quickly escalated, and after days of unrest, 38, whites and blacks, were dead, and more than 500 were wounded. From the epigram taken from a Carl Sandburg poem, this detailed work is deeply grounded in Chicago history. Details about the actual riot bookend the narrative. In between, Hartfield introduces black Chicagoans from the middle of the 19th century as well as later arrivals who fled the racial violence of the South. She includes the role of the black press in articulating the demands of the black community as they became urban dwellers. The stories of white ethnic groups, their struggles to achieve the American dream, and their racial animosity are examined, as is the role of labor unions. Richly illustrated with contemporary photographs, the narrative is also carefully researched, drawing on accounts from the time. There is a great deal to digest, and it sometimes overwhelms the core story. However, it is successful in demonstrating that past conflicts, like current ones, have complex causes. A comprehensive, careful account. (source notes, bibliography, map, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Claire Hartfield received her B.A from Yale University and her law degree from the University of Chicago. As a lawyer, she has specialized in school desegregation litigation. More recently, she has been involved in setting policy and creating programs in a charter school setting on Chicago’s African-American West Side. She heard stories of the 1919 race riot from her grandmother, who lived in the Black Belt in Chicago at the time, and was moved to share this history with younger generations.

Ms. Hartfield lives in Chicago. Her website is clairehartfield.com

Teacher Resources

1919 Chicago Race Riots Lesson Plan & Materials

Around the Web

A Few Red Drops on Amazon

A Few Red Drops on Goodreads

A Few Red Drops Publisher Page

Afterlife by Marcus Sakey

Afterlife by Marcus Sakey. July 18, 2017. Thomas & Mercer, 309 p. ISBN: 9781477848470.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

An instant Wall Street Journal bestseller. Soon to be a major motion picture from Imagine Entertainment and producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.

Between life and death lies an epic war, a relentless manhunt through two worlds…and an unforgettable love story.

The last thing FBI agent Will Brody remembers is the explosion—a thousand shards of glass surfing a lethal shock wave.

He wakes without a scratch.

The building is in ruins. His team is gone. Outside, Chicago is dark. Cars lie abandoned. No planes cross the sky. He’s relieved to spot other people—until he sees they’re carrying machetes.

Welcome to the afterlife.

Claire McCoy stands over the body of Will Brody. As head of an FBI task force, she hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks. A terrorist has claimed eighteen lives and thrown the nation into panic.

Against this horror, something reckless and beautiful happened. She fell in love…with Will Brody.

But the line between life and death is narrower than any of us suspect—and all that matters to Will and Claire is getting back to each other.

From the author of the million-copy bestselling Brilliance Trilogy comes a mind-bending thriller that explores our most haunting and fundamental question: What if death is just the beginning?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Murder, Cannibalism, Gore

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 17))
Sakey began his career with a series of smart, compulsively readable thrillers about more or less ordinary Chicagoans wrestling with personal problems and the zeitgeist, and getting into potentially fatal trouble. But with Brilliance (2013) and the Brilliance series that followed, he stepped brilliantly into the realm of speculative fiction. Afterlife is a deep dive into the unknowable. Chicago is being terrorized by a preternaturally lethal sniper, and FBI agents Will Brody and his lover, Claire McCoy, are desperate to end the terror. But Will is murdered by a bomb in an abandoned West Side church. Claire is bereft, but the dead Brody finds himself wandering the streets of a Chicago populated only by people armed with clubs, axes, and swords. Some threaten him, but Will encounters a group of people who lead him to their refuge. Meanwhile, Claire kills the sniper but dies in the effort. The couple are reunited, and they conclude that being together in the afterlife isn’t bad—except for the “eaters,” dead people who have learned that killing makes them stronger. Even worse, the sniper is organizing eaters into an army. Afterlife is simultaneously a beautiful love story, a grim tale of apocalyptic conflict, and an opportunity for an insightful writer to ruminate on the eternal verities. Great appeal across genres.

Kirkus Reviews starred (May 15, 2017)
When two FBI agents are killed in the line of duty, they discover death isn’t at all what they imagined.Sakey (Written in Fire, 2016, etc.) follows up his incredible Brilliance trilogy with an otherworldly stand-alone thriller about a subterranean war between gods and monsters. The book opens with a story about a young boy in a cannibalistic horror scene on a ship at sea circa 1532. Then the book cuts to the present day, where FBI Agent Claire McCoy is leading a task force hunting the sniper terrorizing Chicago. She’s also newly in love with fellow agent Will Brody. But when Brody runs down the sniper, Simon Tucks, he’s killed instantly by a bomb. For Claire, that should have been the end of Will Brody, and yet….Next, Brody awakens in an ethereal version of Chicago leached of color and deprived of technology. His new companions explain that this is the Echo, a kind of purgatory for souls killed suddenly, violently. Unfortunately, this fate also falls upon Claire when Simon Tucks kills her in a suicide bombing, reuniting them even in death. From here, Sakey spins out an ambitious mythology that mixes horror, police procedural, and tense action with big questions about the nature of existence. In this new world, Eaters kill other people all over again to gain their life force. There is also a race of Elders, most notably our cannibal Edmund, who have lived hundreds of years by torturing the living. “All the random, inexplicable brutalities,” Sakey writes. “The school shooters and psychotic Uber drivers. The mothers who drowned their children. The serial killers with their duct tape and their butcher knives. The maniacs who fired round after round into crowded nightclubs, pausing only to reload. The atrocities for which there was no answer.” It’s a disturbing book born in dark times but one in which Sakey employs all his storytelling gifts to craft a noodle-bender of the first order. A love story enmeshed in a twisty thriller that peels back the universe to see what lies beneath.

About the Author

Marcus Sakey is the bestselling author of nine novels, including the Brilliance Trilogy, which has sold more than a million copies.

His novel Afterlife is soon to be a major motion picture from Imagine Entertainment and producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. His novel Good People was made into a film starring James Franco and Kate Hudson.

Marcus lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter. His website is www.marcussakey.com

Around the Web

Afterlife on Amazon

Afterlife on Goodreads

Afterlife on JLG

The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill

The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill. Februaryr 7, 2017. Blink, 352 p. ISBN: 9780310758389.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Lydia has vanished.

Lydia, who’s never broken any rules, except falling in love with the wrong boy. Lydia, who’s been Piper’s best friend since they were children. Lydia, who never even said good-bye.

Convinced the police are looking in all the wrong places, eighteen-year-old Piper Sail begins her own investigation in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. With the reluctant help of a handsome young detective, Piper goes searching for answers in the dark underbelly of 1924 Chicago, determined to find Lydia at any cost.

When Piper discovers those answers might stem from the corruption strangling the city—and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood—she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Violence, Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 9-12. Piper Sail, 18, lives in the choicest area of 1924 Chicago, but that doesn’t stop her best friend from disappearing. That event causes headstrong Piper to throw off her socialite trappings and get down and dirty, combing the seedier parts of the city as she tries to discover what happened to Lydia. Because this is almost as much a romance as it is a mystery, Piper has several able fellows hovering about: a police detective, a baseball player, and a journalist. There’s a good, solid mystery here, but the many subplots (Piper’s family situation; her acquisition of a dog; the inner workings of the Chicago underworld) sometimes intrude, and the Roaring Twenties setting seems more affect than effect. But Piper is a strong, sharp heroine, and her abilities—from stretching the truth to often foolhardy bravery—prevent her from being a paper doll. Fans will note that the final pages indicate Piper will have a future seeking out Chicago’s “underbelly.” So more chances to solve another mystery: who’s the right guy for her?

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
A debutante eschews convention to investigate the suspicious disappearance of her best friend.With her bobbed hair and plucky attitude, Piper Sail pushes boundaries, but she isn’t quite a flapper. Living in 1920s Chicago with her brother and father—a powerful and wealthy attorney—the white teen has enjoyed a life of privilege alongside her best friend, Lydia LeVine, also white and the daughter of an affluent doctor. Lydia suffers from devastating seizures, which her father dismisses until they occur publicly. When Lydia suddenly disappears, Piper, unable to quietly sit by with her hands folded, launches her own investigation. Soon the spirited ingénue finds herself entrenched in a dark web of secrets, speak-easies, and Mafiosi, and everyone—from Lydia’s family to their hired help (including a black housekeeper with distressingly stereotyped speech patterns) to Lydia’s employer—seems like a prime suspect. Aided by a handsome young detective, Piper plunges herself further into the case, going undercover in an effort to bring Lydia justice, which leads Piper to face some hard truths about her society life. After a somewhat slow and stiff start, readers will be rewarded for their patience as tensions grow and red herrings abound. Morrill has a keen eye for historical details and setting, making Jazz Age Chicago Piper’s invisible yet omnipresent sidekick. Here’s hoping this won’t be the last case for this strong and admirable female sleuth to solve. A mostly well-crafted historical whodunit. (Historical mystery. 12-16)

About the Author

Stephanie Morrill is the author of several young adult novels, including the 1920’s mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street). Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair.

She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. Her website is StephanieMorrill.com

Around the Web

Seriously Shifted on Amazon

Seriously Shifted on Goodreads

Seriously Shifted on JLG

Seriously Shifted Publisher Page