Concrete Kids

Penguin Workshop. (Pocket Change Collective). Oct. 2020. 96p. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9780593095195.
Gr 7 Up–The “Pocket Change Collective” series invites passionate, diverse voices to share stories of social justice. Musician, playwright, and activist León’s compelling free verse memoir bursts at the seams with despair, determination, and hope. Drawing on her personal experiences, León gives a voice to the foster care system, systematic racism, and what it means to be a Black girl moving through the world. The text centers on her childhood as a mixed-race girl in Harlem after being removed from the care of her white biological mother. The poems explore the joy of finding a loving adoptive parent, the trauma of watching a Black boy get shot and killed from her own stoop, and the bittersweet rituals that surround the mourning of Black people who died of “unnatural causes / That we rarely discuss.” Though the format feels somewhat contrived and may pose circulation challenges for libraries, this title packs a mighty punch in a small package.
VERDICT A raw and complex free verse exploration of self-love, Blackness, womanhood, and healing. A timely, essential purchase for all young adult collections.

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