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The City Kids series by Zetta Elliott brings some much-needed magic to New York City. Best friends Carlos and Tariq get much more than they bargained for when they decide to turn an abandoned lot into their new hang-out place - only to discover its other occupant is a mythical phoenix!
This quick read tackles big issues like bullying and peer pressure while also keeping the excitement and mystery of a magical encounter. A great urban fantasy book for the younger middle grade set.
So far this is a great series for readers who are ready for a little more text, but aren’t ready for full blown chapter books yet. In other words, they’re transitional. And totally engaging. I’m not normally one for science fiction/fantasy in my books, but I know a lot of kids who are and, as I’ve found this year, there aren’t a lot of those books out there for them unless they are strong readers (most fantasy books seem to be damn thick books with small print, even in the middle grade section). Even fewer of the books available across the beginning chapter book market feature diverse kids or kids who live in urban settings (we didn’t all grow up on a farm or in a large house, myself included). There is a lot here to appeal to kids at the second/third grade level. In The Phoenix on Barkley Street kids who are all about being green will love that the kids clean up and repurpose a vacant building’s yard. The bullying theme will resonate with many children who, at the beginning chapter book age, are very attuned to social justice. Parents looking for a book that promotes community and friendship will appreciate the themes in the book as well. It’s times like these I feel very grateful that I am in charge of what books we buy and where we buy them from for our library. Elliot has self published many of her books and that makes it difficult for some libraries to buy her books. If you have any say, these would make an incredible addition to any library collection that serves kids starting out in chapter books.
A great multicultural, urban fantasy for the elementary school-aged kid!
The city block where Carlos and Tariq live used to be a happy, fun place. But people moved away, and gangs moved in, and the swings in the park broke and were never fixed. Then one day the boys find a loose board in the fenced backyard of an abandoned house. They decide to clean up the garden, and make it their own safe place, but before they can even get started, Tariq's little sister and her friend find their way in, and once they are there, there's no point in evicting them because they know how to get back.
And there in the garden there is a phoenix, a real, genuine magical phoenix-- beautiful, strange, and lovely. The kids don't know it's a phoenix at first, but happily there's a library nearby], and it seems like the garden, with its magical resident, will be even more wonderful a place than they had imagined. The cleaning up goes well...but then disaster strikes. Older boys who are gang members find their way in and wreck everything and menace the littler kids and are just plain mean and hateful.
Thanks to the phoenix, though, everything works out well in the end.
So it's a good story, and the writing is just right for a third or fourth grade reader getting their reading legs under them. I'll look forward to the rest of Zetta Elliott's "City Kids" series.
Reviewed in the United States on November 28, 2014
Tariq and Carlos are best friends who live on Barkley street. Slowly the safe haven started to change, and not for the better. Gangs and graffiti have taken over and many families have moved. As a result buildings are boarded and abandoned. But, Carlos has a plan. He shows Tariq a new hangout spot behind and old building. The spot was hidden by a tall fence. Inside it was a mess but together they could clean it up. There were rose bushes and an apple and pear tree. Soon the boys discovered that wasn't all that was there. A strange and beautiful bird became their friend. It doesn't take long and their secret place is uncovered by Tariq's sister and her buddy and Vik. The boys are forced to share. With a little research they discover the bird is a Phoenix. Unfortunately for the kids a gang has found them out and attempts to takeover their precious hang out. Will this motley group fight back for what's theirs? You'll have to read the story to see.
Author Zetta Elliott has created a great read for boys and girls. Detailed black and white illustrations show readers characters that are fun and interesting. Easy to read sentences make for a fast and engaging read. Parents and teachers will love this book for a read-a-loud assignment that will open up dialogue for dealing with bullies.