Sunday, September 30, 2012

The First Part Last

Johnson, Angela. 2003. The First Part Last. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4424-0343-7
Bobby is a single father to a beautiful baby girl.  Instead of shooting hoops with his friends he is sitting up at night with a newborn.  His life has changed forever.  How did he get here and where does he go from here?  He wants to do what's right.  But what is that? 

Angela Johnson has a gift for giving voice to young African Americans.  Set in the inner city, Bobby and Nia face a choice that many young people will have to face before they are ready.  Do we keep the baby or give her up for adoption?  How do we know?  The reader is transported into Bobby's world of art, school, family, and diapers.  But where is Nia in all of this?  Told in both present tense and through the wonderfully well done use of flashbacks, Johnson manages to tell the story of two young people in love and the life they created. 

Cultural markers used throughout the book provides for a wonderfully authentic experience.  Language choices reflect the education level, age, and location of the characters.  Family dynamics play out in real time with true to life interaction.  There are no false moments where the reader is sure everyone will live happily ever after.  Johnson manages to weave reality, hope, and uncertainty into each page.

U.S. News and World Report Johnson has carved a niche writing realistically about young people's issues.
SLJ, starred review Brief, poetic, and absolutely riveting.
Publishers Weekly, starred review Readers will only clamor for more.
Booklist, starred review Poetry

ALA Michael L. Printz Award,
Abraham Lincoln Book Award Master List (IL),
ALA Best Books For Young Adults
ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
Alabama Author's Award
Booklist Editors' Choice
CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book
Charlotte Award Suggested Reading List (NY)
Coretta Scott King Award (ALA)
Florida Teens Read Master List
Garden State Teen Book Award Nominee (NJ)
Gateway Readers Award Nominee (MO)
Georgia Peach Book Award Master List
Green Mountain Book Award Master List (VT)
Gryphon Award for Children's Literature
Iowa Teen Award Master List
IRA Young Adults' Choices
Rosie Award Nominee (IN)
Sequoyah Young Adult Master List (OK)
South Carolina Book Award Nominee
Volunteer State Book Award Master List (TN)
YARP Award Master List (SD)


Look for these other books for young adults by Angels Johnson:
  • Songs of Faith (1998)
  • Heaven (1998)
  • The Other Side, The Shorter Poems (1998)
  • Toning the Sweep (1993)
  • Gone From Home: Short Takes (2001)
  • Humming Whispers (1995)
  • On The Fringe
  • Running Back to Ludie (2002)
  • A Cool Moonlight (2003)

  • Have students explore teen pregnancy statistics at

    Language Arts Connections:
    Everyone has goals.  How would these goals and life dreams change if you suddenly had to care for an infant?

    Health Education Connection:
    Use in conjunction with your states sex education curriculum.

    Art Connection:
    Bobby is an artist.  His preferred method is spray paint.  This is commonly called "tagging".  Have students create a "tag" design.

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