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Emako Blue
Brenda Woods

Publishing Information: G.P. Putnam's Sons: New York, 2004
ISBN: 0399240063/0142404187 (PB)
: 128 p.
Ages: 13 & Up

From the moment she stands up in chorus auditions and her heavenly voice fills the room, Emako Blue profoundly affects anyone who meets her. But even as Emako draws together new friends and catches the attention of an important record producer, the streets of South Central Los Angeles are never far away, where everything changes in one horrific instant.

Book Talk:
Emako explained why she had to get out of Truman High in South Central L.A. "I a
in't scared of nothin' but I got tired of all the nonsense. Every day it was somethin. School police everywhere. Some brother all up on me. Some little sista and her clique all in my face becuz her little dude's tryin' to get with me. And I wasn't thinkin' 'About none of 'em." She transferred to a school in a good neighborhood and joined the chorus. She had talent and she was determined she would have a better life.

School in a more affluent neighborhood wasn't entirely different. There were still boys trying to get to her, and jealous girls and their cliques. Emako seemed to find her way around or through all the nonsense. She found real friends.

She had talent and she worked hard. It looked like she was going to make her dreams come true. But she still had to return to her home every night. South Central wouldn't let her go.

This is her funeral. The church is crowded with people who have come to see the girl who got killed in a drive-by, but the people Emako really cared about are here too. Monterey is her best friend. Emako enjoyed being with her, doing things normal teenagers do. Eddie is a kindred spirit who is determined to succeed and stay clear of the life his brother chose. He is devastated because he was sure Emako would escape the violence. Jamal is Emako's boyfriend. He had just realized he truly cared about her and didn't want to be just a 'player' anymore. Now Emako is gone.

Emako Blue teaches many lessons about treating people well and living as if each day were the last.
Subject Headings & Major Themes:

African Americans - Fiction
Conflict Resolution
Gun Control
Gun violence
High Schools - Fiction
Interpersonal Relations - Fiction
Los Angeles (Calif.) - Fiction.

Awards & Reviews:
ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2005
International Reading Association Children's Book Award, 2005
New York Public Library Best Book for Teen Age, 2005

BookList, September 1, 2004, p. 1838
Horn Book, September/October, 2004 (starred - April, 2005)
Kirkus Review, June 1, 2004
School Library Journal, July 1, 2004, p. 131

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Emako got away from Truman, her South Central school. Was her school in a better neighborhood completely different?
  2. Savannah could accept that Emako was pretty and talented. What was it about Emako that Savannah said really messed with her?
  3. Brenda Wood created each character for a reason. What is Savannah's purpose? What do we learn from this character?
  4. What is the real source of Savannah's anger and pain?
  5. Although Emako has "been with nobody," many, including her friends, assume she has had a lot of experience with boys. Why?
  6. When do you know Jamal is no longer "playin'" with Emako? How do you know?
  7. Emako teased her Monterey but seemed to enjoy all the normal teen things she did. What were some of the normal teen things they did together?
  8. Emako's mom let Dante return to her home when he was released. "He's still my child," she said. Was letting Dante stay a bad decision?
  9. Dante does not have a voice in this book. He and Emako are heading in opposite directions, yet his choices lead to her death. Can we tell Dante's story?
  10. What sort of future do you see for Latrice and Marcel, Emako's younger siblings?

Related Websites:
Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles -

SafeState: Preventing Crime & Violence in California, California Attorney Generals Crime and Violence Prevention Center. Gangs and Youth Violence -

Born Blue by Han Nolan, 2001 (2002 RITBA Nominee)
Drive-By by Lynne Ewing, 2002
Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser, 2000 (2001 RITBA Nominee and Winner)
Scorpions by Walter Dean Myers, 1988
Shooter by Walter Dean Myers, 2004
Where'd You Get the Gun, Billy by Fran Arrick, 1992

Gangs: Trouble in the Streets by Marilyn Tower Oliver, 1995
Gun Control: The Pros and Cons, 2001
Gun Violence: Opposing Viewpoints, 2002

Other Books by the Author:
The Red Rose Box, 2002

About the Author:
From the book jacket:
Brenda Woods' debut novel, The Red Rose Box, won a Coretta Scott King Honor and was a finalist for the PEN Center USA's 2003 Literary Award. It also received the 2003 Judy Lopez Memorial award for Children's Literature presented by the Women's National Book Association. A longtime resident of Los Angeles, she is currently working on her third novel.

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair