Junior High

Illustration Courtesy of Ricardo Cortes from It's Just a Plant

The holidays are over, but if you spaced on buying the budding reader in your life a present, Ricardo Cortes’s It’s Just a Plant is available on the Barnes & Noble Website this month. It’s the story of Jackie, a young girl who walks in on her parents smoking marijuana. The rest of the book follows a fact-finding mission Jackie and her mom take to learn more about pot. They visit Farmer Bob, who grows it, and Dr. Eden, her mom’s groovy physician (who warns the child not to use the drug till she’s an adult). Then they run into some guys passing around a spliff in front of a Chinese takeout joint, who are promptly busted. That’s when she learns that “a small but powerful group decided to make a law against marijuana” from one of the cops, who lets the tokers go with a warning. And Jackie decides she’s going to “vote to make the laws fair” when she grows up.

“The book is not pro-drugs by any means,” says Cortes, 31, a T-shirt and skateboard designer who lives in Prospect Heights. “It’s about reconsidering the drug laws.” He sent it out to a dozen publishers, 80 percent of whom just said no. The rest liked the idea but thought children’s bookstores might not. So he self-published. (People who preordered the $17.95 book on BN.com also bought The Secret Garden.)

Cortes does not have kids but believes he’s doing them a service: “A lot of drug education uses scare tactics. The latest ads say smoking a joint leads to terrorism.” David R. Anderson of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America responds, “On the one hand, it’s almost laughable, but beyond that, it’s just irresponsible. No one would write a book called It’s Just a Drink.”

And one final question for Cortes: Are you high? “No,” he says. “It’s a little too early in the day for me.”

Junior High