YA – Work With What You Got: A Memoir

Clark, Zion, and James S. Hirsch. Work With What You Got: A Memoir. Candlewick Press, 2023. 978-1-536-22421-4. 232 p. $18.99. Grades 7-12.

Born in prison with a rare congenital condition that left him without legs, and given up by his drug-addicted mother, Zion Clark faced a lifetime of bias and underestimation.  However, he maintains that negative stereotypes of being African American and being part of the foster care system were also large obstacles in his life.  The instability and the lack of training and oversight are two problems plaguing the foster care system, where the reality is, “who’s going to listen to a ten-year-old?” He acknowledges the help of some amazing people as he grew up: his first two foster families, his wrestling coach, and his adoptive mom. Their combined messages supporting his self-worth; determination; and hard work; combined with the outlets of music, athletics and faith, led Clark away from a gang and crime. Clark became a formidable athlete, first in wrestling, then in wheelchair road racing. Now a motivational speaker, Clark inspires others with his life story and overcomer attitude.

THOUGHTS: This honest memoir is riveting reading, appropriate for middle and high school.        


Elem. – ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat

Raúl the Third. ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat. Versify, 2020. 978-1-328-55704-9. Unpaged. $14.99. Grades K-2.

Little Lobo and his friends, from the Pura Belpré Honor Book ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market, return for more rollicking fun. This time, Little Lobo is asked to deliver lunch to the professional wrestlers in town for a big show. Little Lobo, his dog Bernabé, and his friend Kooky Dooky the rooster proceed to guide readers through a colorful marketplace of food carts where each delicious offering sounds better than the last. The food carts themselves are examined and explored, as well as the myriad of offerings. As in the first book, Spanish language terms are used extensively, sometimes translated in text, other times readers will go searching for the extensive glossary in the back of the book. The illustrations, in a rainbow of dusky colors, are lively and full of action, begging to be pored over. The text is never simplistic or overly explanatory, relying on readers to explore the Spanish language terms on their own. Unfortunately, the admittedly non-inclusive glossary frequently omits words specifically used in speech bubbles or pull out comments, assuming the reader will have the initiative (and ability) to locate a Spanish/English dictionary or look up the term on the internet.  Nevertheless, it is a marvelously fun introduction to Mexican food and culture.

THOUGHTS:  A must purchase for elementary libraries. The brilliant illustrations by Elaine Bay will enthrall readers, encouraging  multiple readings and the litany of Mexican foods will leave readers very hungry!

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD