I Am Alfonso Jones

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
I Am Alfonso Jones Book Poster Image
Powerful graphic novel explores police brutality.

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Kids say

age 12+
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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

I Am Alfonso Jones addresses the issue of police brutality against people of color. It includes appearances by real-life victims of police shootings and explores the legacies of those individuals.

Positive Messages

Remembering the struggles of our ancestors provides guidance in the present. Communities can work together to fight against injustice.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Alfonso is a valued member of his community. He's interested in music and drama, and he works hard at school and his job. After he's killed, he's able to make peace with his fate, vowing to help others who find themselves on the ghost train.


The graphic novel opens with Alfonso being shot to death at close range. It's the first of many shootings, beatings, and tear-gassings depicted in the book.The black-and-white illustrations mute the impact of the bloodshed, but some readers might find the violence disturbing.


Alfonso and Danetta start dating just before he is killed.


A few instances of "hell," "ass," and "damn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that I Am Alfonso Jones uses a fictional story about a police shooting to explore the real-life early days of the Black Lives Matter movement. The book opens with a shooting and features scenes of violence -- including beatings, suicide, and arson --  throughout. The subject matter is intense, but mixed with enough humor and compassion to prevent emotional overload. There's not much swearing: only a few instances of "hell," "damn," and "ass."

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Teen, 14 years old Written bycheezeitzrice May 24, 2019

I Am Alfonso Jones: The Book that should've been shot to death

I am currently reading this book for school, and what may seem like an interesting and engaging read on the life and death of a black child turns out to be an a... Continue reading

What's the story?

At the start of I AM ALFONSO JONES, things are looking up for Alfonso. His dad is about to be released from prison, he has a job as a  bike courier he likes, and his classmate Danetta seems to be returning his romantic interest. But while shopping for a suit, Alfonso catches the attention of a police officer, who mistakes a coat hanger for a gun and shoots Alfonso dead. That's only the beginning of this story, though, as Alfonso awakens to find himself traveling aboard a train populated by the ghosts of police shooting victims. Alfonso's new companions in the afterlife help him find a different perspective, while his living friends and relatives grapple with their grief.

Is it any good?

Police brutality and the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement are subjects that require a sophisticated touch, and this passionate graphic novel has the urgency and skill to do its story justice. I Am Alfonso Jones mixes real-life characters with a fictional cast of well-defined individuals, including Alfonso, his mother, and his potential girlfriend. Author Tony Medina and illustrators Stacey Robinson and John Jennings bring Harlem and its past and present residents vividly to life. If the drawings sometimes feel crowded, their message still comes through: that justice is a constant struggle.

I Am Alfonso Jones will serve as a springboard for discussion of uncomfortable issues and attract a readership interested in issues of race, class, and gender.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how I Am Alfonso Jones portrays the issue of police violence against people of color. What are some situations that can devolve into violence against African-Americans?

  • Alfonso is shot while holding a coat hanger. How are such mistakes made in real life? What actions might prevent such a tragedy?

  • Is police brutality a subject that benefits from the graphic novel form? What effects are available in comics that aren't in a work of text only?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love graphic novels and stories of race and justice

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