The Blue Spark

This is a thoughtful, illustrated book about children who can see the good in others and help them change. Max starts the story by saying "Being bad never felt so good. Evil runs in my family." His counterpart Ronnie believes "Goodness is in all of us. My family stands for justice." After wonderfully illustrated interactions between the two, Max is able to see the goodness in himself. 

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One Lonely Camel

"We read One Lonely Camel today, and the kids really loved it. They gasped with shock (Larry's story really touched them), they giggled (at Tunechi's antics), and they roared their approval (the popular culture references). In short, it was a huge hit! When I asked who would give it 4 stars (our highest rating) all 20 hands shot up. I asked them why they liked it so much, and Akera said it best: "Those big kids wrote about things that all kids like, whether they're big or little."...Kam appreciated how the animals hid their sadness and seemed happy on the outside but were sad sometimes on the inside. Many of the kids thought that aspect of the book was really touching."

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Our Lives Matter

The common theme through “Our Lives Matter” is one of hope and determination. These teenagers refuse to be judged and pigeonholed, offering their stories to emphasize their differences, their commonalities, their dreams and their commitment to education and change. Through it all forms a thread of hope that the new generation will make the world a better place and fight the barriers that keep us separated.

–Louisiana Book News

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A To Z: The Real DC

I've read many A to Z picture books in my days, but what makes this one special is not only its photographs of D.C. landmarks, but also the creativity of the photographs. My favorite is "F" is for Frederick Douglas. Not only do the pages show pictures of the Frederick Douglas Historic Site, but a photo of what I presume is one of the book's authors "shaking hands" with the statue of Frederick Douglas. It's these sorts of shots that delight children and adults alike. The book's illustrations and verses also call out for the reader to discover D.C. destinations that have yet to be explored and to start planning on re-visiting more familiar ones. On some of the pages I can almost taste the food, hear the sounds of traffic, and smell the scents of animals and plants. The fact that this book was created by D.C. teens is just icing on the cake.

--Bookfan, amazon reviewer

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Khalil's Swagtown Adventure

Combining reality with fantasy (loved the purple broccoli trees!), this book takes on a tough real-life situation that many children find themselves in --- upset by parents arguing. It acknowledges a child's feelings while encouraging a child to talk to parents about those feelings. The story also acknowledges that many adults find themselves under stress, such as unemployment, which can contribute to parental figures having arguments over simple things. Most importantly though, the book offers hope that a child may have the power to enact change in the family dynamic. Written by 3 high-school age teens, I got the sense that at least one of the authors has witnessed the positive impact he/she has had in their own family relationships when he/she encouraged the family to do more things together as a family group.

--Bookfan, amazon reviewer

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The Gloomy Light

When Ernie the Llama was abducted by green, slimy aliens, his best friend, Sal the frog, set out on a “ribbiting” journey to rescue his companion. Risking his life, Sal wouldn’t rest until he got Ernie home to his frightened family.

This story teaches children about friendship, one of the most important things in their lives. In this book, they will discover how true friends will always be there for you in your happiest and darkest times. Kids will also learn the life lesson of how, if you want something a lot, you can get it if you try hard enough. Sal’s quest around the world proves to kids that anything is possible.

The Gloomy Light is a fun and exciting thriller that all kids should have on their bookshelves. Reading this wild and crazy adventure was a pleasure. I highly recommend it to anyone who believes in true friends that will do anything for you, even through thick and thin.

--Dallas, amazon reviewer

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Trio + One

Jordan Campbell, Rico McCard and Brandon Smith left me thinking deeply about two common struggles in middle school--identity and friendship. The voice and storyline drew me into the book and I found myself connecting to each of the characters as the story unfolded. This is an impressive first book for these authors and a book that I will have readily available for students at my school, where I am principal. I know my students will find the story enjoyable, and I expect the message of the story will remain with them. Buy this book!

--Heidi L Cook, amazon reviewer

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Trio + One

Trio + One is a great story about a middle schooler, Bobby, who is jealous of three popular best friends at school. Bobby feels like they get all the attention and exclude him, so he decides to split up the group with a schoolwide “Coolest Kid Contest” featuring the 3 kids. They soon turn on each other, coming to Bobby for friendship. However, once they realize his scheme, they ask him why he did this to them and tell him how he was never really excluded from the group. Bobby came to know that sometimes it was he who kept away from the other boys.

This book teaches kids how it feels to be excluded and how they should prevent anyone from feeling that way. In addition, kids will learn not to jump to conclusions. I highly recommend this book for anyone. It can be understood on different levels, but it would be best for kids 7 and up. I hope you enjoy this book. Its magnificent story line, along with all of the lessons that can be learned from it, is definitely worth your time reading. Enjoy!

--Dallas, amazon reviewer

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Trio + One

This story conveys so well the feelings of jealousy we are so capable of having when we envy other groups of friends. I was particularly struck by the authors insight when they have the main character, Big Bobby, wonder if it was the 3 friends that stopped hanging out with him or whether it was Bobby that stopped hanging out with them. Loved the illustrations as well! Looking forward to reading the other 3 books published by Reach, Inc.

--Bookfan, amazon reviewer

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The Untold Story of the Real Me

I found compelling a number of the poems and essays.

El Camino (The Road) by Luis is a bilingual poem about the difficult and unforgiving road that they are on.

My Face by Derrick is a poem about the external person and the secrets on the inner one.

In the essay, The Color of My Skin, by Sergio, provides the reader an empathic insight of his view into the world. 

--Jack, goodreads reviewer

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The Airplane Effect

The Airplane Affect is an emotional book written by Marc, Sasha, Angela, and Sean, all young upcoming authors. It is an inspiring book about a young boy who is fighting leukemia in a drab hospital. He misses the outside world and just being a kid. Vincent writes his problems down on a piece of paper which he throws through the window as a paper airplane. A girl finds the plane and is inspired to help him. This book made us think about people who don't have it all and how we should be thankful that we are not stuck in a dull hospital. The book was very well written. Reach Inc. is a remarkable organization that is moving kids to write these books that inspire others. The storyline grasps both people that have experienced a severe illness and others who have not. This was an amazing book worth reading no matter what age you are. 

--Dallas, amazon reviewer

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How To Grow Up Like Me

Literally one hour after I had cataloged and displayed the book How to Grow up Like Me by The Ballou Story Project in our middle school library, it was seized upon by an 8th grade boy who is a reluctant reader, and to my knowledge, had only checked out one other book while in middle school. He made an instant connection with the honest and powerful stories written inside. This student ran down to show the book to his reading teacher and, according to her, he is absolutely captivated and now can’t wait to come to class to read the stories and hear the voices of these courageous authors. This is a great victory. Thank you for sharing this inspiring collection with our students. This is real. This is life-changing. -- Librarian, Hardy Middle School, Washington, DC

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How To Grow Up Like Me

I was so inspired by the powerful stories published by your students from Ballou! The narrative is so similar to my students here in Memphis and so many kids from urban school districts around the country. There is a need for a writing project like this in Memphis. Our students just don’t have as many opportunities as they should to express how they feel and to be listened to.” -- Teach for America Instructor, Memphis, TN

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One Lonely Camel

One Lonely Camel is a wonderful book for all ages about a camel who thinks he doesn't quite fit in at the zoo. A camel is taken from home and arrives at the zoo. A friendly hippo overhears Larry the camel's rap about his being captured. The hippo thinks Larry's raps are cool, so the hippo talks the camel into performing a rap at the zoo's talent show. Larry is nervous that the other animals at the zoo won't relate to his raps, but in the end, the animals like it, and Larry finds out that all of the other animals at the zoo have stories to tell, too. Even the hippo has a story to tell. This book shows that friends are always there to help you out, and it is filled with both humorous and sweet moments. While reading this great book, the amazing illustrations will please your eyes.

-- Dallas, amazon reviewer

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The Untold Story of the Real Me

The literary collection you hold in your hands is a testament to the vitality and spirit of the young poets whose work is presented in these pages, proof in print that books and reading can change and save lives. The key is perseverance; the Free Minds people remain present from lockup through reentry, creating ambassadors to the community who effectively curb the cycle of violence and incarceration. The message is important, and so is the work. The pieces showcased here are moving and real." 

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