Elem. – I Forgive Alex: A Simple Story About Understanding

Kerascoët. I Forgive Alex: A Simple Story About Understanding. Random House Studio, 2022. 978-0-593-38150-2. $17.99. 32 p. Grades PK-3.

This is a wordless picture book with a simple, but powerful message. As the story begins, a school age child eagerly approaches the school yard, excited to show his friends something in his backpack. An art portfolio is revealed, and several friends spread the pages across a bench to admire the artwork. Alex, with a splash of bright red hair, dashes past the bench. Alex is taunting two students, playing keep-away with a basketball. When Alex tosses the basketball high over the heads of his dismayed schoolmates, the ball lands on the bench covered in artwork. The artwork falls in a puddle and is ruined. Classmates are incensed and rally behind the young artist, quickly trying to comfort him. Their sense of righteous indignation is palpable as they march en masse toward an adult standing at the door to the school. The next several pages depict scenes alternating between friends comforting the artist, and intentionally ostracizing Alex. At the end of the school day Alex offers a simple wave to the artist across the playground. The artist accepts this invitation to talk, and the two boys eventually shake hands. Alex tosses the basketball to the artist, and everyone joins in the game. The next day Alex makes amends, offering the artist a piece of art showing the artist dunking a basket while Alex cheers. End notes include questions for discussion, vocabulary words, and lesson suggestions.

THOUGHTS: A delightfully illustrated story that does not need words to convey the plot and meaning. School age children will immediately recognize this situation. The discussion questions and lesson suggestions make this a perfect book for social-emotional learning.

Picture Book          Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD

YA – Super Fake Love Song

Yoon, David. Super Fake Love Song. G.P. Putnam & Sons, 2020. 978-1-984-81223-0. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Asian-American Sunny Dae is a nerd, into Dungeons and Dragons with his best buddies, Jamal and Milo and anticipating multiple followers when they broadcast an interview with the much admired Lady Lashblade. Then he meets Cirrus Soh, the daughter of a Japanese couple who do business with his own workaholic parents. To impress Cirrus, he takes on the persona of his rocker-brother, Gray. His older brother has returned from his Hollywood pursuit for fame with his tail between his legs. Depressed and disillusioned, Gray succumbs himself to his basement room only to be drawn out to mentor the fledgling band Sunny and his pals have formed as they rehearse for the annual high school talent show. As Sunny’s feelings for Cirrus deepen, he becomes more conflicted about his duplicity: he is pretending to be a rocker and gaining Cirrus’s admiration and the longer he pretends, the more he likes the confidence and attention he is getting from others, including Gunner, his former bully.  When the day for the show comes, the Immortals pull it off, until a drunk Gray interferes. Author David Yoon has a knack for clever dialogue. His narrator, Sunny, weaves DnD references with contemporary situations that are fun for teens. Sunny is wealthy and lives in a posh area of Rancho Ruby in California. Though he is intelligent and good-looking, he still deals with insecurities and feelings of being a loser. However, the charmed life he leads refutes that claim. For those looking for a light romance enhanced by good writing, Super Fake Love Song may be just the thing.

THOUGHTS: Dungeons and Dragons fans will appreciate Sunny’s obsession. Romance fans will like the different male perspective. Though the genre is realistic fiction, the circumstances and events that occur in this book are fantasy to many of the teens who may pick up this book. In one section Sunny gives his take on the extravagant party Cirrus throws when her parents leave her home alone: “Such phenomena occurred solely on insipid television shows written by middle-aged hacks eager to cash in on the young adult demographic” (224). This comment may be a prediction for Super Fake Love Song.

Realistic Fiction/Romance          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia