November 21, 2017

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I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina | SLJ Review

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redstarMEDINA, Tony. I Am Alfonso Jones. illus. by John Jennings & Stacey Robinson. 176p. Tu Bks. Oct. 2017. pap. $18.95. ISBN 9781620142639. POP

Gr 9 Up –Alfonso Jones loves to play trumpet and is thinking of trying out for his class’s hip hop–themed Hamlet. On a shopping trip with his crush Danetta, the African American teen, who is looking for his first suit to wear in celebration of his father’s release from jail, is shot by a white off-duty cop who incorrectly assumes the suit hanger is a gun. The rest of the graphic novel jumps among Alfonso’s past, the aftermath of the shooting, and his experience on a possibly never-ending train ride with other victims of police violence, including Amadou Diallo as his guide. Medina’s juggling of the three threads isn’t always graceful, but the variation of Robinson and Jennings’s panels and design pushes the narrative forward. A teacher’s dialogue with Alfonso’s classmates is illuminating and realistic. The outrage and grief are palpable, and the black-and-white illustrations enforce the gut-punching pull of each character’s journey. And as Alfonso meets the historical figures who preceded him, readers will understand the systemic racism that underlies these violent cases. VERDICT A brutally honest and bleak but necessary selection for all graphic novel collections.–Shelley M. Diaz, School ­Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal October 2017 issue.

Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.

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