________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 23. . . .February 18, 2011

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Child Abuse. (Straight Talk About...).

Sydney Newton & Julie Gerrits.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2011.
48 pp., pbk. & hc., $11.95 (pbk.), $21.95 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-2134-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-2127-7 (RLB.).

Subject Heading:
Child abuse-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Joanne Peters.

***½ /4

   
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Cutting and Self-Injury. (Straight Talk About...).

Rachel Eagen.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2011.
48 pp., pbk. & hc., $11.95 (pbk.), $21.95 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-2137-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-2130-7 (RLB.).

Subject Headings:
Cutting (Self-mutilation)-Juvenile literature.
Self-mutilation-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Joanne Peters.

***½ /4

   
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Racism and Prejudice. (Straight Talk About...).

Marguerite Rodger & Jessica Rodger.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2011.
48 pp., pbk. & hc., $11.95 (pbk.), $21.95 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-2136-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-2129-1 (RLB.).

Subject Headings:
Racism-Juvenile literature.
Prejudice-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Joanne Peters.

***½ /4

   
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Date Rape. (Straight Talk About...).

Jessica Wilkins.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2011.
48 pp., pbk. & hc., $11.95 (pbk.), $21.95 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-2135-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-2128-4 (RLB.).

Subject Heading:
Date rape-Juvenile literature.
Dating violence-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Joanne Peters.

***½ /4

   
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Teen Pregnancy. (Straight Talk About...).

Pamela McDowell.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2011.
48 pp., pbk. & hc., $11.95 (pbk.), $21.95 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-2139-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-2132-1 (RLB.).

Subject Headings:
Teenage mothers-Juvenile literature.
Teenage pregnancy-Juvenile literature.
Youth-Sexual behavior-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Joanne Peters.

***½ /4

   
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Suicide. (Straight Talk About...).

Rachel Eagen.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2011.
48 pp., pbk. & hc., $11.95 (pbk.), $21.95 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-2138-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-2131-4 (RLB.).

Subject Headings:
Suicide-Juvenile literature.
Suicide-Prevention-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Joanne Peters.

***½ /4

   

excerpt:

The smell of chlorine hit Mark's nostrils as he walked into the change room. He could hear laughing and splashing on the other side of the door. Outside, a lifeguard blew a whistle. He changed into his swimming trunks and smiled to himself. Summer vacation. Two months of staying up late. It meant baseball and freedom. . . . Mark walked out onto the sun-drenched deck. Des and Jorge were taking turns cannonballing water onto the sunbathers. . . . "Hey, guys. What's up?

Jorge smiled. "What took you so long? We've been here for hours."

"Is it my fault my sister borrowed my bike? I had to wait for her to come home." Mark dipped a toe into the water. It was cool. He took a deep breath and jumped in. He swam up beside Jorge and Des.

That's when he heard it. A sneering voice and the sound of laughter. He looked around. Some older kids were huddled at the edge of the pool, looking in his direction.

He heard it again. "Wash yourself."

"Those guys are looking at you." Des looked at the older boys. "Man, I don't want to fight." . . .

Mark's cheeks burned. He looked down at his skin, then up at the other swimmers. It felt like the whole world was looking at him. Some kids smiled, trying not to laugh. Others just stared. This wasn't the way summer was supposed to start. Sometimes Mark wished he could be invisible. (From a "Vignette" in
Straight Talk about Racism and Prejudice.)


Mark is struggling against the everyday injustices of racism and prejudice. He isn't alone. Racism and prejudice are major issues in society. Racism is the belief that people of different ethnic backgrounds are unequal. Prejudice is the unfair and unequal treatment of people because of a number of things, including their race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, or abilities. Racism and prejudice are never just. (From the "Introduction" in
Straight Talk about Racism and Prejudice following the vignette.)

 

Suicide, racism and prejudice, teen pregnancy, date rape, cutting and self-injury, child abuse these are the social issues which are the focus of Crabtree Publishing's new series, "Straight Talk About..." As a recently-retired high school teacher, I know that these are real topics of interest and concern for students in grades 9 through 12. It's been a very long time since I've worked in middle school, and as I read through the books, I had a hard time accepting that these might be issues for middle school students. "Date rape" aren't they still supposed to be at the "boys/girls are yucky" stage? But then, I thought that, "Well, forewarned is fore-armed," and perhaps there is a need for middle school kids to consider these issues, before they become "real" for them. And, I would be naive to think that there aren't young students who are facing these problems. For them, the books in the "Straight Talk About..." series offer an accessible source of nonjudgmental information, as well as coping strategies and ways to obtain help.

      The books in the series have a number of different authors, but they share a common format. Each is exactly 48 pages long and contains both full-colour and black and white photos (representing students of a variety of races and ethnicities), as well as pull quotes from young people who have lived the problems. The books always begin with a vignette that offers a first-person experience of the emotions and circumstances underpinning the focal issue for that book. This one-page account is followed by a brief "Introduction" identifying the problem and then offering an overview of the book's content. The chapter following the "Introduction" defines the problem (i.e. What is self-injury?), and subsequent chapters explore various dimensions of the issue (i.e. Dealing with Emotions, What Lies Beneath, Healthy Behaviours). Each book concludes with chapters on "Seeking Help", "Coping Toolbox", "Hot Topics Q & A", "Other Resources" (and to Crabtree's credit, they provide telephone numbers for Canadian, as well as American, help hot-lines and reliable web sites hosted by organizations in both countries.) One of the interesting aspects of the "Seeking Help" chapters is the provision of strategies to assist peers to be supportive, helpful, and reassuring to friends who have disclosed their problems. The final pages of each book contain a "Glossary" (words or terms which might be unfamiliar to the reader are always bold-faced in the book's text and defined in the Glossary), and a short Index.

      Child Abuse reminds the reader that abuse can take many forms. While many of us commonly think of abuse as being either physical or sexual, emotional abuse, "when an adult says hurtful things... or if the adult acts in a manipulative way," is another form of maltreatment (8) Neglect is yet another form of abuse. Although the reasons for adult abuse of children are explored and explained, Child Abuse makes it clear that the abuser, and not the victim, is at fault.

      The cover of Cutting and Self-Injury depicts a girl with a bandaged wrist, her eyes wide with disquiet. She is a cutter, someone who deliberately injures herself using a sharp object. Other ways of inflicting self-injury include burning oneself, picking at skin scabs, pulling out clumps of hair, or hitting oneself. This is not a book for the squeamish. Self-injury is a particularly private problem, and this book is particularly sensitive in guiding sufferers towards sources of professional help for their problem

      If self-injury is private, Racism and Prejudice is a particularly public issue, with a long history which continues to re-invent itself in different cultural contexts. Say the word "prejudice," and racial, religious or ethnic stereotyping are what come to mind first. However, this book reminds the reader that it is equally unacceptable to be prejudiced against individuals of different social classes, mental abilities (a reminder not to pick on the class "brainiac"), physical size, or sexual orientation.

      Date Rape is not just about its most extreme manifestation: sexual assault. It also examines violence in relationships (both gay and straight), as well as other dimensions of the problem: harassment, inappropriate comments often masked as teasing (especially trying for middle school kids who are just starting to show the first signs of puberty), or attentions that are really unwanted or unwarranted. While many of us don't want to think about "tween" sexuality, it's out there and happening. Of the six books in the "Straight Talk about..." series, this was one of two titles which seemed to be more appropriate for older readers. Still, those junior high crushes can go places where they shouldn't, and when they do, sadly, the result is dealt with in Teen Pregnancy.

      Let's face it, 13-year-olds can get pregnant, and apparently, nearly 250,000 Canadian teen girls do (7). While some of these pregnancies are the result of rape or coerced sex, some girls choose to become pregnant for a variety of reasons. Whatever the circumstances, Teen Pregnancy makes it clear that this is a life-changing decision (12). One of the photos in this book shows a baby-faced young student holding twins. Truly, it's a portrait of three children, and the age of the young mom is a shocker to adults. Interestingly, none of the pull quotes from Teen Pregnancy came from individuals who were younger than age 15.

      Pregnancy is life-changing, but suicide is one step beyond. Suicide examines the many possible reasons why someone might make such an extreme choice. Still, "it is important to keep in mind that people who commit suicide want to put an end to their pain, but that does not always mean that they want to stop living." (8) It's hard to believe that kids in middle school might contemplate suicide, but even in that age group, there are individuals "at risk." Students of Aboriginal background may experience isolation, while gay, lesbian, and bisexual kids may be struggling to make peace with their emerging sexuality. Depression and mood disorders, which often emerge during the early teen years, are also possible causative factors. Whatever the case, Suicide makes it clear that killing oneself is a final decision; it may end the victim's pain, but friends and family will hurt forever (35).

      The "Straight Talk" series does an excellent job of exploring some very difficult issues. My only complaint is that the pull quotes and some of the photos are of students several years older than the intended audience for the books. But, given that, sometimes, middle school kids can hardly wait to be in high school, offering that "older kid" perspective can be helpful. The "Straight Talk About..." series is a great addition both to middle and senior high school library collections. I think that guidance and counseling staff will find the books especially helpful resources for their clients. Still, since some adults may find the content of some of the books to be a bit mature for 10-year-olds, be prepared with a rationale for placing the books in the publicly-accessible collection.

Recommended.

Joanne Peters is a recently retired high school teacher-librarian who lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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