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Jazz Owls: A Novel of the Zoot Suit Riots
Contributor(s): Engle, Margarita, Gutierrez, Rudy (Illustrator)
ISBN: 1534409432     ISBN-13: 9781534409439
Publisher: Atheneum
    OUR PRICE: $16.19  
Product Type: Hardcover
Published: May 2018
Annotation: In early 1940s Los Angeles, Mexican Americans Marisela and Lorena work in canneries all day then jitterbug with sailors all night with their zoot suit wearing younger brother, Ray, as escort until the night racial violence leads to murder. Includes historical note.
Additional Information
Library of Congress Subjects:
Zoot Suit Riots, Los Angeles, Calif., 1943; Juvenile fiction.
Novels in verse.
Zoot Suit Riots, Los Angeles, Calif., 1943; Fiction.
Dewey: [Fic]
LCCN: 2017024247
Academic/Grade Level: Grade 7-9, Age 12-14
Book type: Juvenile Fiction
Physical Information: 8.50" H x 5.75" W x 0.75" (0.65 lbs) 179 pages
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.

Reviewed by Horn Book Guide Reviews (Horn Book Guide Reviews 2018 Fall)
Real-life victim Josi Dmaz is killed at a party in 1942 Los Angeles--leading to police racial profiling, biased news coverage, the trial and conviction of "a bunch / of Mexican kids," and the terrorizing of Mexican American neighborhoods and jazz-dancing zoot suiters by gangs of white sailors. Engle's historical novel in free verse weaves together plenty of voices for a vivid look at a seldom-represented moment in U.S. history. Bib. Copyright 2018 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Reviewed by Horn Book Magazine Reviews (Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2018 #3)
In 1942 Los Angeles, after working all day at the canneries, teen sisters Lorena and Marisela can't wait to put on their sharpest swing skirts and high heels for a night of jazz dancing with soon-to-ship-off soldiers at the local USO. After (real-life victim) José Díaz is killed at a party, police round up the neighborhood youth in an act of racial profiling, which the news media further reinforces through biased coverage. This incident and the resulting Sleepy Lagoon trial and conviction of "a bunch / of Mexican kids" spark riots that see gangs of white navy sailors infiltrating and terrorizing Mexican American neighborhoods, beating and publicly stripping zoot suiters (including Lorena and Marisela's younger brother Ray) of their clothes. Police are clearly aware of what's happening but, unsurprisingly, avoid arresting the sailors. Engle's historical novel in verse offers a look at a seldom-represented moment in U.S. history. Told primarily from the viewpoints of the siblings, the story weaves in plenty of voices: Marisela's Afro-Cuban musician boyfriend, sailors, reporters, police officers, other family members. The free verse brings us inside the characters' heads, allowing us to feel Ray's indignation at racial violence and to understand Lorena's politicization as she connects her experiences of injustice to organizing for better working conditions. Black-and-white illustrations, full of swooping figures that recall dance even as they depict violence, separate the book's sections. lettycia terrones Copyright 2018 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2018 February)

Gr 7 Up—Set during the Zoot Suit riots, this novel in verse tells a fictional account of a dark time in American history. Marisela and Lorena are jazz owls who work all day and dance all night. They also dance during the day as they twist and turn trying to navigate their place in Los Angeles during World War II. They face racism at home for their Latino heritage despite having family members serving overseas. Marisela falls in love with a musician, while Lorena dreams about saving enough money to go to school. Zoot suits—loose suits perfect for dancing to jazz and rumba music that has heavy Afro-Latino influences—are frowned upon. Tensions rise as newspapers print headlines that invoke fear. Sailors start pouring into the streets as they round up young Latino men, beat them, and burn their suits. This becomes a nightmare that repeats too many times, and while the forces that be ultimately end it, the Latino and African American communities are still raw from their physical and emotional abuses. The novel focuses on Marisela and Lorena with occasional verses from her parents, brother, and friends. Engle's approach to a topic that may seem hard for teens to grasp is successful as readers will be cheering for the jazz owls to be able to not only dance, but to overcome racism. VERDICT A quick read perfect for history buffs, dance enthusiasts, poets, and just about anyone looking for a great story. Recommended.—Katie Llera, Bound Brook High School, NJ

Copyright 2018 School Library Journal.