Something Happened in Our Park by Ann Hazzard, Marianne Celano and Marietta Collins

Something Happened in Our Park: Standing Together After Fun Violence

Ann Hazzard, Marianne Celano and Marietta Collins, Authors

Keith Henry Brown, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fictions, Apr. 27, 2021

Suitable for ages: 5-9

Themes: Gun violence, Shootings, Anxiety, Neighborhood parks, Community life, Family life, Social Justice

Opening: “Something bad happened in our park last night,” said Miles’ dad. “Keisha was shot in the leg, but she’s okay. She’ll be home from the hospital tomorrow.”

Synopsis

When his cousin Keisha is injured in an accidental shooting at a local park concert, Miles is frightened and begins to act out at school. He can’t concentrate. Instead he draws scary pictures, which his teacher sends home with a note to his parents. Miles tells his parents he wishes there were no guns and wants to move away. “If it happened to Keisha, it  can happen to anyone.”

Keisha is in college and living with Miles and his family. A few weeks after Keisha returns home, she is watching Miles and his little brother, when they hear gunshots outside. Keisha freezes, but recovers and tells the boys they are safe inside. She suggests they draw a picture together. 

With help from friends and family, Miles learns to use his imagination and creativity to help him cope with his fears. People from the neighborhood and college want to do something positive. With a strong community behind him, Miles realizes that people can work together to reduce the likelihood of violence in their community.  

This important follow-up to the bestselling, groundbreaking and inspiring Something Happened in Our Town, by Celano and Hazzard,  is a much-needed resource for communities and schools in the aftermath of gun violence.

Why I like this book:

This book empowers readers. It is beautifully written for the entire family, because it includes the thoughts, concerns and actions of children, teens, parents and community members. They all speak their minds. Miles is scared and wants to move. His parents empathize, but they also share their wonderful memories of their home and community. Keisha is recovering, but she wants to do something about guns in the community. The mayor and the community work together to address the causes of violence and launch a “Peace in the Streets” spring festival.

I especially like that the story shows how getting involved with neighbors to take action and create change helps the characters, like Miles, deal with fear and anxiety. In the end, Miles makes his own special contribution.

The book narrative and language is age-appropriate and encourages questions and thoughtful discussions.  The illustrations are expressive, colorful and capture the tension and the strong community pride. I hope that Something Happened in Our Park receives a lot of book love because it is a powerful and relevant resource for classrooms and for families. The positive resolution empowers kids to turn fear into action and make a difference in their communities. Make sure your read the companion book, Something Happened in Our Town.

Resources: The book includes an extensive Reader’s Note with guidelines for discussing community gun violence with children. The book is an asset for parents and teachers to help kids express their feeling, develop coping strategies to increase safety and reduce anxiety. Sometimes the best medicine is getting together with others to create change. The authors also include sample responses to questions from children and conversation starter tips for parents.

Ann Hazzard, PhD., RBPP, Marianne Celano, PhD., ARBPP, and Marietta Collins, PhD, worked together for over two decades as Emory University School of Medicine faculty members, serving children and families in Atlanta. All three psychologists have been involved in community advocacy efforts focused on children’s behavioral health and social justice. Dr. Celano and Dr. Hazzard have developed and utilized therapeutic stories in individual and group therapy with children and teens. Dr. Collins is a faculty remember at Morehouse School of Medicine, providing psychological services to underserved adults, youth, and families.

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 website.

*Review copy provided by Magination Press in exchange for a review.

 

Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice

Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice

Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, Authors

Jennifer Zivoin, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Apr. 4, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Racial injustice, Police shooting, Racism, Prejudice, Inequality, Social Justice

Opening “Something bad happened in our town. The news was on the TV, the radio, and the internet. The grown-ups didn’t think the kids knew about it.”

Book Synopsis:

This story follows a White family and a Black family as they discuss their reactions to a recent police shooting of a Black man. Emma and Josh first hear some older kids discussing the shooting at school. And they have a lot of questions when they go home.

Emma questions her white parents about the tragedy. Emma wants to know why the police shot the man. Her parents say the shooting was “a mistake.”  Her sister, Liz, says “the cops shot him because he was Black.” This leads them to a discussion about racism, inequality, slavery and prejudice.

Josh is Black and wants to know if the White policeman can go to jail? It gives his family the chance to have an open discussion about the shooting, racial profiling, inequality and the unique issues for African American families. They inspire him with stories about Black leaders who stood up for people treated unfairly.

When Emma and Josh return to school, there is a new boy in their classroom. His name is Omad. At recess none of the kids want to include Omad in a soccer game because he is different. But Emma and Josh remember their discussions with their parents and take action.

Why I like this book:

Kudos to the authors for writing this timely and compelling book for children about a difficult topic — police shootings. I also like the fact that both Emma and Josh have older siblings who speak their minds. The book narrative and language is age-appropriate and encourages questions and thoughtful discussions.  The illustrations are expressive, colorful and capture the tension in the story. I hope that Something Happened in Our Town receives a lot of book love because it is a powerful and relevant resource for classrooms. The positive resolution empowers kids to make an effort to connect with kids who may be ignored and make a difference in their communities.

Resources: The book is a wonderful resource for parents and teachers. There is a Note to Parents and Caregivers at the end that provides general guidance about addressing racism with children, child-friendly vocabulary definitions, conversation guides, and a link to additional online resources for parents and teachers. In addition to modeling conversations about race, this book provides messages of acceptance, empowerment and positive community support.

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 website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost Boys

Jewell Parker Rhodes, Author

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Apr. 17, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Pages: 198

Themes: Police Shootings, Racism, Profiling, African Americans, Racial Injustice

Publisher Synopsis: 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.

Why I like this book:

Jewell Parker Rhodes’ tugs at her reader’s heart from the first page. Her unforgettable novel enlightens readers and helps them deal with the racial prejudices and tensions that continue to exist in our society. It is a current story about a black boy being shot by a white police officer out of fear and prejudice.

The chapters alternate between “Dead” and “Alive,” so readers experience Jerome’s untimely death and the impact it has on his family, the police officer’s family and the community. The “Alive” chapters give readers a sense of Jerome, his family, and school life before the shooting.

Jerome narrates the story as the “ghost boy.” Jerome is a good student who does well in school and has dreams for his future. He is loved by his family and idolized by his little sister. He is kind, responsible and walks his sister to and from school, making sure she isn’t harmed along the way.  Jerome is bullied at school by three boys, but doesn’t tell anyone. He befriends a Latino boy, Carlos, who is also being bullied. After his death, Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, is the only one who can see the ghost boy. Through Sarah readers are able to see how Jerome’s untimely death upsets both families, even her relationship with her father. Sarah represents hope in this story.

Jerome meets another ghost boy, Emmet Till, who was unjustly killed in 1955. I like how Rhodes’  connects the historical past of Emmet Till with the present, deftly showing that racial injustice continues. There are many other ghosts boys that appear to Jerome. They share one thing in common, they were robbed of the opportunity to grow up and live.

Jewell Parker Rhodes is the author of Ninth Ward, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, Sugar, winner of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, Bayou Magic, and Towers Falling. She has also written books for adults.

Resources: Make sure you read the author’s Afterword that provides a little history.  And there are 16 Discussion Questions, that will encourage dialogue among students in the classroom and with family members. Recommend parents read this age-appropriate book. Visit Jewell Parker Rhodes at her website.

Greg Pattridge is the host for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.