Seventh grader Link Rowley is in big trouble with his parents. Link is a huge prankster and his latest epic plan was to spread lard on the road through town. Great idea except for the part where the truck when sliding into the light post. Not good. His father has told Link he can't be on the soccer team this season - it's his punishment for the lard on the road trick.
So life is not what Link wants it to be. Then, things at school explode. Someone has painted a swastika on the wall of the school atrium. All 600 students are called to the auditorium and the school begins six weeks of tolerance education. Then, things at home explode.
Link's parents finally tell him the truth. His grandmother is Jewish. Her parents handed her off to a convent when she was a baby to protect her from the Holocaust, Link's mother is Jewish. Turns out Link is Jewish. And he and the only Jewish girl in his school, Dana, are about to become a team so Link can "nail" his bar mitzvah.
Wow, life is going crazy. School is getting crazier and crazier as more and more swastikas start showing up all over the place. Who is doing this?
Caroline McNutt, student government, gathers as many students together and the idea is born for the kids of this middle school to make 6 million construction paper links - one to represent every Jewish life lost in the Holocaust.
As always, Gordon Korman introduces us to a good guy. He's a prankster but he still has some redeeming parts of his character and for now anyway, Link is embracing his Jewishness and is determined to get the bar mitzvah right.
So, why would someone paint a swastika on a middle school wall? Why would that person not understand that what he/she was doing was a hideous statement. Why would that person not have empathy for others - especially others who have lived a history of being the underdog and had to fight to survive genocide?
Wonderful discussion points abound. Why do families pass down hatred? What is the value of celebrity? Can a town change its value system?
Gordon Korman gives us a character to root for, a character to admire, and a character who may see himself differently by the end of the story. A wonderful chance to see the good and the bad in a community and to figure out how to move beyond the old ways of thinking. 256 pages 978-1338629118 Ages 8-12
Keywords: mystery, middle school, prejudice and racism, vandalism, Holocaust, Jewish, diversity, diverse books, family, values, 8 year old, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
********* An unforgettable novel from the New York Times bestselling Gordon Korman. Link, Michael, and Dana live in a quiet town. But it's woken up very quickly when someone sneaks into school and vandalizes it with a swastika.
Nobody can believe it. How could such a symbol of hate end up in the middle of their school? Who would do such a thing?
Because Michael was the first person to see it, he's the first suspect. Because Link is one of the most popular guys in school, everyone's looking to him to figure it out. And because Dana's the only Jewish girl in the whole town, everyone's treating her more like an outsider than ever.
The mystery deepens as more swastikas begin to appear. Some students decide to fight back and start a project to bring people together instead of dividing them further. The closer Link, Michael, and Dana get to the truth, the more there is to face-not just the crimes of the present, but the crimes of the past.
With Linked, Gordon Korman, the author of the acclaimed novel Restart, poses a mystery for all readers where the who did it? isn't nearly as important as the why?---from the publisher
“Almost two-thirds of young American adults do not know that 6 million Jew were killed during the Holocaust, and more than one in 10 believe Jews caused the Holocaust, a new survey has found, revealing shocking levels of ignorance about the greatest crime of the 20th century.
According to the study of millennial and Gen Z adults aged between 18 and 39, almost half (48%) could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto established during the second world war.
Almost a quarter of respondents (23%) said they believed the Holocaust was a myth, or had been exaggerated, or they weren’t sure. One in eight (125) said they had definitely not heard, or didn’t think they had heard, about the Holocaust.”
-- The Guardian (9/16/2020)
“A tall, thin man wearing a hood and a mask was caught on a security camera plastering Nazi stickers on a Jewish museum in Alaska’s largest city early Tuesday.
He drove a scooter to the Alaska Jewish Museum, placed one sticker on the door and jumped to place three more stickers of hate on windows before driving off...About 45 minutes later, another sticker was placed on the main entrance door to Mad Myrna’s, a gay bar in downtown Anchorage.”
-- Mark Thiessen, “Man seen on security camera placing swastika stickers on Jewish museum in Anchorage” Anchorage Daily News (5/28/21)
“How can people be so heartless?
How can people be so cruel?
Easy to be hard
Easy to be cold”
-- MacDermot, Rado & Ragni (1967)
Michael Amorosa [who snuck back into school in the evening to retrieve the phone he forgot in his locker]:
“I shut my locker and turn to leave.
Only I don’t leave. I freeze.
I blink and blink again, struggling to wrap my mind around what I’m seeing.
It’s spray-painted in red on the blank expanse of wall about the staircase leading to the second story--that large X with each arm continued at a right angle.
I stare at it in horror in horror and disbelief, hoping that my eyes are deceiving me and this ugly red symbol is something other than what I know it is.
Dana Levinson [A relatively new student, daughter of an archaeologist, and the only Jewish student, at Chokecherry Middle School]:
“The main atrium is more crowded than usual. Mr. Brademas, the principal, is urging everyone to move on to their lockers, but nobody’s budging. They’re all gazing up at a gigantic beige tarp that’s been duct-taped to the wall. Two custodians are perched on the stairs, working furiously behind the billowing sheet with long-handled mops. Red-stained water is trickling down and puddling on the floor.
I blurt,’ Is that blood?’
Andrew Yee, and eighth grader whose mother works with Dad at the dinosaur dig, takes my arm and starts leading me out of the atrium. ‘Come on, Dana. Nothing to see here.’
I shake him off. ‘Are they putting up a mural?’
‘Nah,’ he replies. ‘They’re just cleaning.’
At that moment, the duct tape separates from the plaster and the tarp peels away and drops to the floor. I stare at the wall that’s now revealed.
I gawk. I goggle.
The lines have been blurred by the custodians’ mops, but it’s very clear what someone has painted up there. As I gaze in shock at the swastika in the atrium, it occurs to me that I’ve never seen one firsthand before.”
Principal Brademas [speaking at a hastily-called school-wide assembly]:
“We don’t know who did it, and we don’t know what that individual’s motive might have been. But I felt it was important for us to get together as a school community and clear the air before the rumors get out of hand.’
You’d think we’re in an empty room. That’s how silent it is.
‘People might tell you,’ the principal goes on, ‘that the swastika on our wall is an ancient symbol, a kind of cross, that has had many meanings over the centuries. Don’t believe it. Today the swastika has only one meaning: pure hatred. Most notoriously, it is the symbol of Nazi Germany, an evil regime that killed millions. It screams not just anti-Semitism, but every other kind of racism and intolerance.’”
Who is responsible for the hateful act perpetrated at Chokecherry Middle School? Will the administrators or the police succeed in getting to the bottom of it? What will come of the principal’s plan for a school-wide toleration education project?
Through the eyes and statements of six students, we observe the repercussions of this hate crime in a fictional Colorado town. The principal narrator is Lincoln Rowley, a popular- and generally despicable jock and troublemaker who, at first glance, will likely be included on any reader’s shortlist of suspects. Was this another of Link’s antics, one that’s a million miles over the line?
Over the course of this surprising story, we learn some ugly historical truths about this small Colorado town, situated four hours outside of Denver. The town starts receiving unwelcome online notoriety when it turns out that the swastika incident at the school is not going to be a one-and-done affair. Not even close.
LINKED is a first-rate whodunnit; a notable introduction to Nazis, white supremacists, and the Holocaust; and a dynamite coming of age story. It’s well suited for 8-14 year olds.
As he has done with previous books focused on significant issues, Gordon Korman engages readers with a light touch and relatable tween characters.
The 6 million Jews murdered during the Holocaust outnumber the current population of Colorado. It’s still impossible to wrap my head around that number, but this book helped.
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA
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