Tag Archives: abuse

Jailbait by Leslea Newman


Newman, Leslea. Jailbait. Delacorte, 2006. ISBN 978-0385734059 256 pp. $17.95


In her desperate need to matter to someone, a naive loner is sucked into an inappropriate relationship with a strange older man who abuses her sexually and verbally. Andi, a stereotypical overweight and unpopular tenth grader, nurtures a relationship with a moody adult stranger who offers her a ride home one day. As their relationship progresses, Frank manipulates her into posing for cheesecake photos, losing her virginity and performing sexual acts on him.

This squirm-inducing tale is not sexy or gratuitous, but the content is certainly provocative. Middle class-suburbia offers no protection from pedophiles; the book drives home the reality that an estimated one in three girls are sexually abused before the age of 16. The tragic events of the story are a good jumping off point for a discussion about respect and self-esteem.

Set purposefully in 1971, slang, music and cultural details do flesh out the story, but it’s unclear why the author chose this particular time for the setting of the story. The clever cover of a teen’s face with a censor mark across the eyes indicate the mature content, the “it-could-happen-to any-girl” possibility, and the utter blindness of a young women who mistakes attention for love.

Once Upon a Dragon: Stranger Safety for Kids And Dragons by Jean E. Pendziwol, illus. by Martine Gourbault

Once Upon a Dragon: Stranger Safety for Kids And Dragons by Jean E. Pendziwol, illus. by Martine Gourbault

Pendziwol, Jean E. illus. by Martine Gourbault. Once Upon a Dragon: Stranger Safety for Kids And Dragons. Kids Can Press, 2006. 32 pp. ISBN 978-1553379690. $11.99


Using elements from familiar fairy tales, a boy’s dragon friend is transformed into the protagonist of several major fairy tales after they magically become lost in the woods after leaping from a playground swing. Luckily, the boy helps Dragon avoid stranger danger in many forms: straying from the path, taking candy from strangers, accepting rides from strangers. A safe stranger – a friendly fairy godmother – helps them find their way home at the end. The subtext is that the boy in blue always comes to the rescue of the dragon, portrayed more than 50% of the time as female:  Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, and Cinderella.

The colorful illustrations, full of whimsical fairy tale detail, have a crayoned texture and delicate shading to them. They literally tell the story, though – little is added, the images simply expound upon the didactic text.

Although the story doesn’t address predatory people who are NOT strangers, the tips at the end do, which allows the story to be a jumping off point for a discussion and plan of action for parent and child. No specific resources or further reading is listed.

This review was originally published on the Hip Librarian’s Book Blog May 30, 2006.

Strong at the Heart: How It Feels to Heal from Sexual Abuse by Carolyn Lehman

Strong at the Heart: How It Feels to Heal from Sexual Abuse by Carolyn Lehman

Lehman, Carolyn. Strong at the Heart: How It Feels to Heal from Sexual Abuse. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. ISBN ‎ 978-0374372828 176 pp. $


If every parent, teacher librarian and child in America read this book, perhaps we could put a stop to the largely silent epidemic of sexual abuse of our children. Even if you are not a survivor of sexual abuse, someone that you know is: one in three women and one in six men are abused sexually by the time they turn eighteen.

Strong at the Heart profiles nine courageous teens and adults who have traveled the road to recovery and found ways to speak up, speak out and begin healing from molestation, rape and abuse. Never gratuitous and shying away from sordid details, these stories will disturb some readers. An author’s note at the beginning suggests finding someone to talk with about the issues raised.

The survivors share what happened to them and the guilt, shame, fear, horror and finally healthy anger that ensued. All of them were fortunate to find an adult who believed in and supported them, even when allegations were made against their own family members. Some delved into unhealthy coping mechanisms before working through their trauma, others turned to creative outlets such as film and music and public speaking. A final chapter tells how three empowered students created a student organization on the campus of Smith College for Survivors and Allies For Education on Childhood Sexual Abuse and Incest (SAFE).

The cover shows half of the face of a woman of color, but every portrait within the pages is whole, a testimony to the healing process. Other photos of survivors with their families and loved ones, enjoying various activities, paint a clear picture of complete beings.

Twenty pages of resources include 24-hour hotlines, organizations and websites for more help. An annotation fiction list offers bibliotherapy resources, while non-fiction bibliography is split into such categories as for men, date rape, sexuality, resiliency and activism.

The White Elephant by Damon Hurd illus. by Christopher Steininger

The White Elephant by Damon Hurd illus. by Christopher Steininger

Hurd, Damon illus. by Christopher Steininger. The White Elephant. Alternative Comics, 2004. unpaged. ISBN 1-891867-644 $8.95


Presented as a play, our curtain opens on insomniac Gene, who has reluctantly returned to his psychiatrist to discuss a recurring dream about one of the last time he saw his estranged family, reliving the day of discovery of the molestation of his younger sister Hannah by their step-grandfather. The white elephant in the room is not the abuse, but Hannah herself, and the guilt that her presence brings. As Gene struggles to name his demons and accept responsibility only for the things he could have changed, a family’s drama is played out.

The reliance on dialogue means that the illustrations must fill in the gaps to describe the action, convey mood and show what the character is thinking and not necessarily saying. 

Here Steininger excels. The illustrations are sketchy and sharp, and the cleverly chosen font has the look of a typewritten medical case file. The choice of black and white to tell the story adds another layer to the good/evil, dream/reality theme. 

The stage becomes an excellent vehicle for presenting a story with both flashbacks and dream sequences. The design, which includes a few boxed panels against a larger backdrop, is very effective in spotlighting significant scenes or events while helping the reader keep track of what is “real” and what is memory Gene can observe, interact and evaluate events in his life so he can learn and grow, and finally rest.