Attack of the Black Rectangles

attack of the black rectangles  a s king

Award-winning author Amy Sarig King takes on censorship and intolerance in a novel she was born to write.

When Mac first opens his classroom copy of Jane Yolen's The Devil’s Arithmetic and finds some words blacked out, he thinks it must be a mistake. But then when he and his friends discover what the missing words are, he's outraged.

Someone in his school is trying to prevent kids from reading the full story.

But who?

Even though his unreliable dad tells him to not get so emotional about a book (or anything else), Mac has been raised by his mom and grandad to call out things that are wrong. He and his friends head to the principal's office to protest the censorship... but her response doesn't take them seriously.

So many adults want Mac to keep his words to himself.

Mac's about to see the power of letting them out.

In Attack of the Black Rectangles, acclaimed author Amy Sarig King shows all the ways truth can be hard... but still worth fighting for.---from the publisher

272 pages                                            978-1338680522                                         Ages 9-12

Keywords:  censorship, books, reading, finding your voice, standing up for yourself, social issues, dysfunctional family, father/son, understanding your feelings, understanding your emotions, dealing with feelings, dealing with emotions, school issues, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old


“Honesty is the best policy

Be honest in all you do

Tell the truth and treat people fairly

And they’ll do the same for you”

– The Smothers Brothers (1990)

“Gov. Kathy Hochul has directed the New York State Division of Human Rights to investigate the Smithtown Library Board after it passed a resolution in a vote of 4-2 Tuesday to remove books and decorations related to LGBTQ+ Pride Month from displays in its children’s sections.

Smithtown Library’s Board of Trustees oversees four libraries in the Town of Smithtown: the Commack, Kings Park, Nesconset, and Smithtown libraries. In a memo, the board told the heads of each library to remove LGBTQ-related books from children’s room displays.

‘Public places are prohibited by law from engaging in discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Everyone – and particularly our state’s young people – deserves to feel welcome at the library. For many LGBTQ+ kids, libraries are a place of refuge and information where they can be welcomed and affirmed for who they are,’ Hochul said in a statement. ‘We will not tolerate a “Don’t Say Gay” philosophy taking root in our state. I look forward to seeing the Division of Human Rights take prompt action to investigate these reports.’”

Long Island Press (6/23/2022)

“The Smithtown Library Board of Trustees in Long Island, NY voted Thursday to reverse their earlier decision to remove LGBT books and displays celebrating Pride Month from the children’s sections of all four libraries in their district. The emergency meeting reversed the decision in a 4-2 vote after more than 1,000 people attended following national criticism of the move. The original vote, on Tuesday, June 21st, was widely condemned as anti-LGBTQ censorship, as similar decisions are being made in libraries and schools across the country.”

–, “Long Island Library Board Reverses Decision to Remove Children’s Pride Displays” (6/28/2022)

I grew up in Commack, so that news meant a lot to me.

“It’s been a while since I’ve seen your face

It’s been a while since I’ve walked this place

I see the monkeys riding on their bikes

Racing through the impossible night

You say you’re feeling like a new tree

Man they’ll cut you from limb to limb

Pick your pocket with such delight

Shake it to the right

Shake it in the light

Oh can’t you see the glitter

The glitter in their eyes”

– Patti Smith (2000)

“By the time I pass the intersection where my house is, I’m crying and trying not to cry, which makes me cry worse.

I can’t go home.

So I walk to the park. It’s dark, which is the best time to cry.

There are three teenagers under the pavilion, so I walk across the bridge and then down the bank of the creek and then under the bridge, and I sit there on the big rock, head in my hands, and cry about everything. The board meeting, Marci, Dad, Mom, Grandad, Gram. I cry about all of it. I think about Hannah in the book–The Devil’s Arithmetic–and I cry for her and for all those people who lived through something so impossible to understand. I cry because the world is a cruel place. I cry because sometimes things don’t make sense. I cry because I feel bad for crying. I have a nice house, a nice mom, a warm bed.”

I love this kid! Mac Delaney is experiencing a hell of a beginning to his sixth grade year. He’s dealing with an abusive, whacked-out father. He’s dealing with a teacher who is a well-known repressive force in town and who doesn’t appreciate Mac’s honest questions about U.S. history. He’s dealing with a bullying classmate. And the icing on the cake is Mac and his friends discovering that the book their lit circle is reading has been censored. Passages in the book have been Sharpied over, creating the black rectangles of the book’s title.

ATTACK OF THE BLACK RECTANGLES is a story that shows how vitally important it is for adults to be honest with kids. Fortunately for Mac, he has a loving mother and devoted grandfather. He can trust them because they do believe in being honest with him and have taught him about the less pleasant aspects of U.S. history. With their support, Mac and his best friends take on the teacher, principal, and school board over the desecration of Jane Yolen’s award-winning Holocaust-related The Devil’s Arithmetic.

ATTACK OF THE BLACK RECTANGLES is both a coming-of-age tale and a stellar tween friendship tale, painting a moving picture of the connections between Mac, Denis, and Marci as they approach their teen years.

The story could not be more relevant, given current events coming out of Smithtown, Florida, Texas, and too many places. In library school, we studied the Supreme Court case Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982), in which the Court held that the First Amendment limits the power of junior high and high school officials to remove books from school libraries because of their content. Forty years later, it’s the same old sh…err…stuff.

Young people need to know the truth about history, science, sexuality, and other topics. They will soon own the future and they need to be as educated and wise as possible to live their lives well and to make decisions that will save the planet.

ATTACK OF THE BLACK RECTANGLES is a must-have for those serving 10-14 year-olds. And you’ll definitely want to have an (uncensored) copy of The Devil’s Arithmetic on hand, too.

Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

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