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Punching the Air Hardcover – Illustrated, September 1, 2020

4.8 out of 5 stars 743 ratings

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From the Publisher

fighting for truth central park five

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

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., ORα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review

“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.” (School Library Journal (starred review))

"Awardworthy. Soul-stirring. A must-read.”  (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

"Prescient and sobering, Zoboi’s book is a vital story for young readers in a tumultuous time.” (Booklist (starred review))

“Zoboi and Salaam together craft a powerful indictment of institutional racism and mass incarceration through the imagined experience of Amal, a Black, Muslim 16-year-old facing imprisonment.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“The sympathetic, nuanced portrayal of this young man will have readers holding out hope until the novel’s end.” (Horn Book (starred review))

"A mesmerizing novel-in-verse. The poems—sharp, uninhibited and full of metaphors and sensory language—quickly establish Amal's voice, laying bare the anger, despair, hope and talent it holds. Amal's experience of abuse by the system, as well as his peers', incites raw outrage, but his artistic self-expression offers a subtle yet significant kind of hope. It is a hope borne of anger, that knows the full depths of injustice and still dreams of a better future.”
(Shelf Awareness (starred review))

"A wrenching novel whose story, told in verse, is both urgent and heartbreakingly familiar....Amal’s name is the Arabic word for 'hope.' That is what this book ultimately offers, too. Everyone should read it." (New York Times Book Review)

Punching the Air highlights that wrongful convictions, the school-to-prison pipeline and the fear mongering of Black bodies is etched in the United States Constitution itself, ironically in the Thirteenth Amendment that criminalizes slavery but simultaneously creates an entirely new system of enslavement: the American prison system. It is not easy to break these topics down to adults, never mind children. But Punching the Air does so effectively through verse that feels honest and clear." (USA Today)

“Amal’s voice is often poetic and compelling, and the details of life in NYC juvie are laceratingly vivid. An engaging and accessible read sure to provoke discussion, perhaps in conjunction with a factual exploration of Salaam’s own experiences or in partnership with Myers’ Monster.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

“Stories, at their best, will break something old in you or build something new. Remarkably, Punching The Air does both. Zoboi and Salaam have created nothing short of a masterwork of humanity, with lyrical arms big enough to cradle the oppressed, and metaphoric teeth sharp enough to chomp on the bitter bones of racism. This is more than a story. This is a necessary exploration of anger, and a radical reflection of love, which ultimately makes for an honest depiction of what it means to be young and Black in America.”
(Jason Reynolds, award-winning, bestselling author of Long Way Down)

Product details

  • Grade level : 9 - 12
  • Item Weight : 15.5 ounces
  • Hardcover : 400 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0062996487
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0062996480
  • Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.25 x 8.25 inches
  • Reading level : 14 - 17 years
  • Publisher : Balzer + Bray; Illustrated edition (September 1, 2020)
  • Language: : English
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.8 out of 5 stars 743 ratings

Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5
743 global ratings
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Reviewed in the United States on October 8, 2020
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Reviewed in the United States on September 3, 2020
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Top reviews from other countries

Jazz
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating from front to back
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 4, 2020
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8 people found this helpful
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Nigel Ecclesfield
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is necessary!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 29, 2020
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Jacquie Adim
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a very good read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 26, 2020
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Monice Roberts
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 18, 2020
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Miss Lesley Carol Saunders
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 26, 2020
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