Punching the Air
Punching the Air

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Annotation: Traces the story of a young artist and poet whose prospects at a diverse art school are threatened by a racially biased system and a tragic altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood.
Catalog Number: #254000
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: HarperCollins
Copyright Date: 2020
Edition Date: c2020
Illustrator: Pasha, Omar T.,
Pages: 386 p.
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-06-299648-7 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-8800-8
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-06-299648-0 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-8800-7
Dewey: Fic
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Kirkus Reviews
Reviving a friendship that goes back almost 20 years, Zoboi writes with Exonerated Five member Salaam, exploring racial tensions, criminal injustice, and radical hope for a new day.Ava DuVernay’s critically acclaimed When They See Us tells the story of Salaam’s wrongful conviction as a boy, a story that found its way back into the national conversation when, after nearly 7 years in prison, DNA evidence cleared his name. Although it highlights many of the same unjust systemic problems Salaam faced, this story is not a biographical rendering of his experiences. Rather, Zoboi offers readers her brilliance and precision within this novel in verse that centers on the fictional account of 16-year-old Amal Shahid. He’s an art student and poet whose life dramatically shifts after he is accused of assaulting a White boy one intense night, drawing out serious questions around the treatment of Black youth and the harsh limitations of America’s investment in punitive forms of justice. The writing allows many readers to see their internal voices affirmed as it uplifts street slang, Muslim faith, and hip-hop cadences, showcasing poetry’s power in language rarely seen in YA literature. The physical forms of the first-person poems add depth to the text, providing a necessary calling-in to issues central to the national discourse in reimagining our relationship to police and prisons. Readers will ask: Where do we go from here?Awardworthy. Soul-stirring. A must-read. (Verse novel. 12-18)
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 8 Up-Sixteen-year-old Amal is tried and convicted of an act of violence against a white boy. While there is a sense that he might not have done what he was accused of doing, it is unimportant whether this is the case for the book to work. Through Amal's first-person verse narration, readers learn about his aspirations as a poet and artist, as well as his experience entering the prison system as a young Black man. It is clear that Amal has had a complex relationship with his education, particularly with his art teacher, who clearly saw his talent but also did not work very hard to support Amal's burgeoning interest, and did a bad job of being a character witness at his trial. The authors do an excellent job of showing how the prison experience can dehumanize young men and how their inherent talents can be overshadowed by their feelings of powerlessness and rage. Coauthored by Zoboi and Salaam, who is one of the Exonerated Five and, as such, has firsthand experience of serving an unfair and unjust prison sentence, this book is not a memoir. Instead, it can be seen as an important statement about widespread experiences and the prison industrial complex, rather than the depiction of a single, notable case. What is clear is that this is not an isolated story. VERDICT This book will be Walter Dean Myers's Monster for a new generation of teens. An important, powerful, and beautiful novel that should be an essential purchase for any library that serves teens. Kristin Lee Anderson, Jackson County Lib. Svcs., OR
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Reviving a friendship that goes back almost 20 years, Zoboi writes with Exonerated Five member Salaam, exploring racial tensions, criminal injustice, and radical hope for a new day.Ava DuVernay’s critically acclaimed When They See Us tells the story of Salaam’s wrongful conviction as a boy, a story that found its way back into the national conversation when, after nearly 7 years in prison, DNA evidence cleared his name. Although it highlights many of the same unjust systemic problems Salaam faced, this story is not a biographical rendering of his experiences. Rather, Zoboi offers readers her brilliance and precision within this novel in verse that centers on the fictional account of 16-year-old Amal Shahid. He’s an art student and poet whose life dramatically shifts after he is accused of assaulting a White boy one intense night, drawing out serious questions around the treatment of Black youth and the harsh limitations of America’s investment in punitive forms of justice. The writing allows many readers to see their internal voices affirmed as it uplifts street slang, Muslim faith, and hip-hop cadences, showcasing poetry’s power in language rarely seen in YA literature. The physical forms of the first-person poems add depth to the text, providing a necessary calling-in to issues central to the national discourse in reimagining our relationship to police and prisons. Readers will ask: Where do we go from here?Awardworthy. Soul-stirring. A must-read. (Verse novel. 12-18)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* A single punch leads to a fight between Amal and his friends l Black d a group of white boys from a gentrifying part of his neighborhood. Amal is found guilty of assault while his friends are given plea deals. All are sent to prison, while the white boys involved are not charged at all. In prison, Amal gets a stark education on how unjust the justice system is as he witnesses guards abusing their power, administrators carelessly ignoring the welfare of the imprisoned as if their lives are disposable, and the avenues of "rehabilitation" proving to be decrepit and empty. Only Amal's painting and poetry allow him to withstand the torture of physical beatings and solitary confinement. Zoboi worked with prison reform activist Yusef Salaam to create Amal's story in verse. Yusef himself was a victim of wrongful incarceration when he and four other young men were convicted of a crime they did not commit. His experiences lend a visceral gravitas to Zoboi's pen, and together they capture Amal's emotional struggles as he grasps for hope despite his circumstances. Moreover, they accurately depict the justice system as an engine fine-tuned to crush the urban poor and young Black men in particular. Prescient and sobering, Zoboi's book is a vital story for young readers in a tumultuous time.
Word Count: 29,478
Reading Level: 5.7
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.7 / points: 5.0 / quiz: 509958 / grade: Upper Grades
Lexile: NP

New York Times and USA Today bestseller * Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor * Walter Award Winner * Goodreads Finalist for Best Teen Book of the Year * Time Magazine Best Book of the Year * Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year * Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year * School Library Journal Best Book of the Year * Kirkus Best Book of the Year * New York Public Library Best Book of the Year From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. A must-read for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo. The story that I thought was my life didn't start on the day I was born Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, because of a biased system he's seen as disruptive and unmotivated. Then, one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. "Boys just being boys" turns out to be true only when those boys are white. The story that I think will be my life starts today Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal is convicted of a crime he didn't commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it? With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth in a system designed to strip him of both.


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