A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Punching the Air, by Ibi Zoboi (American Street) and Yusef Salaam, is a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award Finalist about an incarcerated teen who maintains his sense of hope through art and poetry. Violence plays an important part of the story: A fistfight leaves a boy in the hospital, clinging to life. There are scenes of prison fights and of young men being beaten by guards and other prisoners. Strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "ass," the "N" word, and "nigga."
- Parents say
- Kids say
There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.
What's the story?
When PUNCHING THE AIR begins, Amal, a Black Muslim teen enrolled in an arts high school, is on trial for his role in a fight between a group of Black teens and a group of White teens. He's found guilty, in part because the White teen whose testimony could exonerate him lies in a coma. Amal is sentenced to prison, canceling his college plans. He lashes out at first, which results in punishment from the authorities and fights with other prisoners. A poetry class shows him how he can use art and writing to continue to move his life forward despite his circumstances.
Is it any good?
This book is a page-turner: emotionally true, politically astute, and beautifully written. Author Idi Zoboi collaborated on Punching the Air with Yusef Salaam, a member of the Exonerated 5 (the "Central Park 5"), Black, Latino, and Muslim young men wrongly convicted of raping and beating a White woman in New York City's Central Park. The convictions were eventually vacated. The first-person narrator speaks in verse. This provides intimacy and emotional intensity, and is effective in communicating the quality of vivid dreams and fantasies.
Black-and-white illustrations simulate the appearance of a high school kid's composition book, with sketches and doodles on the pages. There's also interesting use of the arrangement of type on the page for effect.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the roles of art, music, and writing in Punching the Air. How do the arts serve as a source of information, a means to power, and a mode of self-expression?
Would you like to learn more about any of the books, paintings, or historical figures mentioned in Punching the Air? Which ones, and why?
How does the authors' choice to tell the story in poetry affect how you understand it?
Did you like the way the authors used the visual presentation of the words?
- Authors: Ibi Zoboi, Yusef Salaam
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Activism, Arts and Dance, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
- Publication date: September 18, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 18
- Number of pages: 386
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: October 1, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love novels in verse and books with Muslim characters
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.