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Emako Blue by Brenda Woods
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Emako Blue

by Brenda Woods

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This short novel portrays the grief of four teens after the death of their friend, Emako Blue. The school they attend seems predominately middle-class, but Emako takes the bus from South LA, where gangs dominate and fear is common-place. The book provides plenty of social commentary. Her friend Monterey is middle-class and has support and structure that Emako has never had. Eddie, also from a neighborhood much like Emako's, is applying for early admission to college to get out before he gets caught in someone else's crossfire. Savannah's family is wealthy, but they largely neglect her.

Emako dreams of a better life after she "makes it big" as a singer. As her friends attest, she has the talent and has already had offers. In addition, she seems to have found love with an unlikely person.

All of this comes to an abrupt end and her friends are left to mourn a person with such a promising life. This a quick read with realistic and interesting characters. It works well as social commentary. it drives the story more than character development, which is pretty predictable. Good for MS and 9-10. ( )
  elizabethholloway | Apr 12, 2010 |
This is a powerful book that grabs you and holds you until the very end. A young, pretty African-American high school student, Emako Blue, has dreams and the talent to become a famous singer. She and some of her friends, Jamal and Eddie, want to escape the world of inner-city gang violence. They have everything going for them, when Emako's life is cut short at 15, by a bullet meant for her gang-involved, just-out-of-prison, older brother Dante. Emako Blue relates to young people, because it shows real teens, real life and real dreams. It also uses the teen vernacular which lends so much credibility and the feeling of “it’s about me,” “this is me”. This book teaches many lessons: how to treat people well, how to be tolerant, follow one’s dreams and take advantage of any opportunity life offers, because there may not be others. ( )
  Alina100 | Jun 21, 2009 |
Richie's Picks: EMAKO BLUE by Brenda Woods, Putnam, July 2004, ISBN: 0-399-24006-3

" 'A sweet innocent life has been taken before her time!' the preacher shouted.
" 'Have mercy!' a woman in the front screamed.
" 'Amen!' a man yelled from the back of the church."

"To live and die in LA
It's the place to be
You've got to be there to know it
Where everybody wanna see." --"To Live and Die in LA" by Tupac Shakur...who was murdered before the song was released.

Why do such disproportionate numbers of young urban males become members of gangs, obtain firearms, and end up murdering each other (and innocent bystanders) on a daily basis?

"What was a friend now a ghost in the dark" --Tupac

Why is it, four decades after California's Proposition 14 contributed to a community's despair and the ensuing Watts riots, that increasing numbers of Americans in LA and so many other cities continue their slide into poverty, face scary schools and war zone neighborhoods, lack of health care, and astronomical unemployment rates?

Why does such a large proportion of America think it's fair to have the rich leaping at huge tax cut windfalls funded by record deficits--irretrievably widening the gap between the two Americas--while the urban poor of that "other America" continue to jump at every loud noise, hoping that it won't be the last noise they hear?

"It's the City of Angels and constant danger," continues Tupac.

That sentiment is underscored in EMAKO BLUE, the heartfelt, hip, and tragic tale of that sweet, innocent life, set in Los Angeles, and written by CSK honoree Brenda Woods.

(Monterey:)

" 'Emako Blue.'
"She stood up, and as she walked up the steps, she immediately had the attention of all of the fellas in the room.
" 'Damn! She's fine!' I heard one of them say.
"Then she opened her mouth and her voice poured out into the auditorium. It was like vanilla incense, smoky and sweet.
"She had a voice that could do tricks, go high, low, and anywhere in between: a voice that's a gift from God. She was Jill Scott and Minnie Riperton, Lauryn Hill and India.Arie.
"She was too pretty, with dark brown skin and black braids extended to her waist.
"She was wearing tight faded blue jeans, a red sleeveless T-shirt, and black platform shoes. She was kind of tall, with a tight body like a video freak. I could feel jealousy and lust creeping around the room, and when she finished singing the room was as quiet as a library at midnight."

Emako's story is chronicled by four of her peers. And in the telling, those four repeatedly reveal themselves and facets of their city at least as much as they shed light on their beautiful, dead friend.

Monterey is an Everygirl: a dose of competence, a little touch of insecurity, a decent home, and fair, loving parents. Savannah is the miserable rich girl, creating drama in hopes of gaining the attention she's denied at home. Eddie--one of several characters with an older sibling behind bars--is desperately clawing his way through high school in hopes of fleeing to a college Anywhere Else in order to escape the fate that awaits so many young brothers who remain behind. And there's Jamal, whose modest attempts to portray himself as a player cannot disguise the fact that he proves to be thoroughly sweet inside.

"Jamal, this fine brother who was sitting behind me, asked the guy who was sitting next to him, 'Hey, Eddie, is she beautiful or what?'
" 'She's beautiful,' Eddie replied.
" 'I'm gonna havta get with that,' Jamal said.
"Eddie just laughed. 'Player, you crazy.'
"Emako walked down the steps and sat down in the empty seat next to me. I smiled at her and she smiled back. Her teeth were perfect and white. I ran my tongue over my braces. She wore silver rings on every finger, including her thumbs, and had a tattoo of a small red rose on her right shoulder. Confidence was all around her and I took some of it with me when Mr. Santos called my name next."
I read EMAKO BLUE after my eighth grader admitted to it's being the first book to have made her cry. She acknowledged that it was fiction while simultaneously ranting about the depth of Jamal's love and the unfairness of what happens.
"I threw the phone across the room. It broke into pieces. My moms knocked on the door.
" 'Jamal?'
"I couldn't answer.
"She turned the doorknob and came in.
" 'What's going on?' she said.
"I stared at the wall.
"She sat down beside me. 'Jamal?'
"I hung my head and cried."

In a similar fashion, the questions that come from my reading the story and contemplating the harsh realities behind it just make me want to cry too.

What is so damned sacred about the Second Amendment? With over a quarter billion Americans, why do we need every idiot and his brother owning a firearm or two or three? I think the notion of that right has about as much validity today as does having slaves count as three-fifths of a person. That the assault rifle ban will expire next week is an atrocity. I feel like a terrorized hostage to the wackos of America who worship their right to bear arms, and am cynical enough to believe that plenty of them derive pleasure from watching poor people filled with despair taking each other out on that daily basis.

Classes to whom I've already been booktalking EMAKO BLUE are taking delight in Ms. Woods's easy use of urban slang, without noticing her deft ability to do so without resorting to obscene words.

In fact, the only obscenity here is that Brenda Woods can write such a heartbreaking story and have it ring so utterly true in 2004 America.

Richie Partington
http://richiespicks.com
BudNotBuddy@aol.com ( )
  richiespicks | May 24, 2009 |
Black-Eyed Susan Book Award (NOMINATED) 2007
California Young Reader Medal (NOMINATED) 2007
Volunteer State Book Award (NOMINATED) 2007
Garden State Teen Book Award (NOMINATED) 2007
IRA Children's Book Awards (WON) 2005
Nutmeg Children's Book Award (NOMINATED) 2008
Maud Hart Lovelace Award (NOMINATED) 2007
  kongsmom | Mar 8, 2009 |
This is a powerful book that grabs you and holds you until the very end. A young, pretty African-American high school student, Emako Blue, has dreams and the talent to become a famous singer. She and some of her friends, Jamal and Eddie, want to escape the world of inner-city gang violence. They have everything going for them, when Emako's life is cut short at 15, by a bullet meant for her gang-involved, just-out-of-prison, older brother Dante. Emako Blue relates to young people, because it shows real teens, real life and real dreams. It also uses the teen vernacular which lends so much credibility and the feeling of “it’s about me,” “this is me”. This book teaches many lessons: how to treat people well, how to be tolerant, follow one’s dreams and take advantage of any opportunity life offers, because there may not be others. ( )
  rumyana2 | Mar 8, 2008 |
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“ I am not a little girl anymore dad I can take the bus to school.”
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142404187, Paperback)

Emako Blue was supposed to be a star. She was beautiful and good-hearted. She was Monterey's best friend. She was the only girl Jamal cared about, the one who saw through his player act. She was the one who understood the burden of Eddie's family. She was the best singer anyone had ever heard, with a voice like vanilla incense, smoky and sweet. She was Savannah's rival, the one who wouldn't play by the rules. She was destined for greatness, already plucked from South Central Los Angeles by the record producers. She was only fifteen when she died.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:10 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Monterey, Savannah, Jamal, and Eddie have never had much to do with each other until Emako Blue shows up at chorus practice, but just as the lives of the five Los Angeles high school students become intertwined, tragedy tears them apart.

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