cover image Moonwalking


Zetta Elliott and Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.99 (244p) ISBN 978-0-374-31437-8

In a 1980s-set verse novel told in alternating voices, collaborators Elliott (the Dragons in a Bag series) and Miller-Lachmann (Rogue) write a tender, engrossing tribute to art and close interpersonal bonds that explores themes of neurodivergence, mental health, and institutional prejudice. After his father is blacklisted from air traffic control work on Long Island following a strike, Joseph John “JJ” Pankowski, who’s Polish and reads (under today’s diagnostic criteria) as autistic, moves with his family to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. There, he bonds with Puerto Rican and Congolese classmate Pierre “Pie” Velez, a graffiti artist who cares for his younger sister and mentally ill mother in nearby Los Sures. A love of art—JJ’s for the Clash and Pie’s of Jean-Michel Basquiat—proves an effective bridge between the middle schoolers’ worlds, until a harrowing police encounter shows just how different those worlds are. Concrete poetry that weaves in occasional images and historical and pop culture references (Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, The Chocolate War) lends a clear historicity to a narrative rooted in time and place. Authors’ notes contextualize the story’s origins. Ages 10–14. Agents: Johanna Castillo, Writers House (for Elliott) and Jacqui Lipton, Storm Literary (for Miller-Lachmann). (Apr.)