Monday, June 13, 2011

Marcia by John Steptoe 1976

I always enjoyed John Steptoe's beautifully illustrated picture books for their realistic slice of life portraits of inner city kids. I had no idea that he also wrote a young adult novel until I came across this one at the library. This very short novel (less than 80 pages), written in the voice of a 14 year old black girl, is as authentic as it gets. It is written in a beautiful, but very particular dialect and illustrated with portraits of the characters involved. The story concerns Marcia and her family and friends which mostly revolves around the decision of whether or not to have sex with her boyfriend. Steptoe is far from being preachy and the reader is left with a story full of dignity and pride. This is just the sort of daring book that was an excellent product of it's time...and so rare to find something similar or comparable this decade.

Some other things I'm reading lately:

A Girl Called Al and I Know You Al. By Constance C. Greene and illustrated by Byron Barton.
The first two in a series of books about Al and her best friend. Two sassy twelve year olds make friends with the superintendent of their apartment building. Al's parents are divorced, she longs to meet her father. The kids get their period and are curious about sex and marriage. It's all done with a great sens of humor. Lots of charm and lighthearted realism in these. The illustrations by Byron Barton fit the mood exactly.

Tight Times by Barbara Shook Hazen and Trina Schart Hyman is an incredible picture book about growing up poor and sticking it out with your family in rough times.

The Chalk Box Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla is another one of those sensitive realistic stories for young readers that resonates with messages about art, getting bullied, and struggling through tough times.

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