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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
You Gotta Have Heart is a coming of age novel for children and preteens written by Bruce Bernstein. Alan Michaels was excited and just a bit nervous about his first day of classes at Sensei Hideki’s School of Karate. He was the first boy from the Home who had received a full scholarship to the dojo, and he felt this was his chance to be really good at something. Alan was small for his age, but he couldn’t help standing up for his roommate, Chris, a younger and smaller boy, who was often tormented by Frankie and Jack, two older boys. The first person the twelve-year-old met as he entered the dojo was tough looking, even scary, but Alan almost thought he noticed Mr. Morris smiling at him as he bowed in greeting. Sensei Hideki was an even bigger surprise. He was just a few inches taller than Alan himself, but his presence was more powerful than Mr. Morris’s was. Sensei Hideki confirmed that Alan would be learning self-defense, but he’d also get so much more out of his karate training if he was willing to work hard.
Bruce Bernstein’s coming of age novel for children and preteens, You Gotta Have Heart, has it all. Bernstein’s characters are multi-faceted and complex, making them seem real. His location, especially as seen through the eyes of Alan Michaels, who knows so much about the city and its history, will surprise even those New Yorkers who think they know everything there is to know about that amazing island. The plot, which follows a young orphaned boy as he comes of age, is inspiring, moving and unforgettable. Alan’s world opens up beautifully from the moment when he climbs up those three flights of stairs for the first time. Watching as it happens is so illuminating and powerful. This book may very well have kids putting down their game controllers and getting into martial arts instead -- and that’s a very good thing. You Gotta Have Heart is most highly recommended.