Black History Month – An Interview with Chrystal D. Giles, Author of Take Back the Block; On Writing Gentrification, Activism, and Cool Protagonists

Our Friend is Here! Black History Month – An Interview with Chrystal D. Giles, Author of Take Back the Block; On Writing Gentrification, Activism, and Cool Protagonists

Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.

Our Friend is Here: Black History Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond during the month of February, where Black authors are invited to celebrate being Black and Black books! Find the introduction post for Black History Month here.

If you love middle-grade stories that tackle social justice and activism, then friend, meet Take Back the Block. You may have seen me yelling and proclaiming my eternal love for this book; a book about a young Black boy who comes face-to-face with his neighbourhood at risk of gentrification. I love this book with my whole heart, and it’s a book that I will be recommending (or, have been recommending!) for many years to come.

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Book Review: Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles – A Phenomenal Contemporary Middle-Grade about Activism, Gentrification, and Growing Up

Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles. A badge at the bottom-left that says, 'Reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond'. In the centre is a image of Xiaolong, the pink axolotl wearing a flower hat, waving at you.
Blurb:

Brand-new kicks, ripped denim shorts, royal-blue Supreme tee—Wes Henderson has the best style in sixth grade. That–and hanging out with the crew (his best friends since little kid days) and playing video games–is what Wes wants to be thinking about at the start of the school year, not the protests his parents are always dragging him to.

But when a real estate developer makes an offer to buy Kensington Oaks– the neighborhood Wes has lived in his whole life, everything changes. The grown-ups are supposed to have all the answers. But all they’re doing is arguing. Even Wes’s best friends are fighting. And some of them may be moving. Wes isn’t about to give up the only home he’s ever known without a fight. He’s always been good at puzzles and he knows there must be a missing piece that will solve this puzzle and save the Oaks. But can he find it…before it’s too late?

Exploring community, justice, family and friendship with a irresistibly deft and relatable touch, Take Back the Block introduces Wes, a 6th grader readers will fall in love with and asks what it means to belong, to a place and a movement, and to fight for a cause you believe in. 

I was provided an eARC by the publisher via the author in exchange for an honest review.

If people ask me, why do you read middle-grade books? I think, from now on, instead of giving people a long-winded answer about how I think middle-grade stories offer a window and mirror to the realities and issues that young people face today, I’ll just wordlessly hand them a copy of Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles instead. That’s right: Take Back the Block is an example of why children’s literature is such an exciting space right now – it’s timely, brilliantly told, and just so undeniably good.

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Book Recommendations – Middle Grade and Young Adult Books with Young Activists, Part I

Book Recommendations - MG and YA Books with Young Activists, Part I. An image of Varian the toad, holding up a sign that says 'change now'.

In case you’re new to the Pond’s book recommendation posts, the recommendation posts are brought to you by Varian, the Pond’s very own Toadshifter who is knowledgeable in all kinds of magic! One of Varian’s ambitions is to get better at sewing, hence why whenever Varian has come up with their latest costume, they will always recommend a few books that inspired them!

With what is going on in the world right now, activism has become a salient and powerful tool for fighting against injustice. More than ever, young people are getting involved in activism. Whether it’s participating in protests, everyday resistance, or working with their communities in movements, people, including young people, are faced with confronting questions that challenge the way they perceive society, the world, and themselves.

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