From the author of A Good Kind of Trouble, a Walter Dean Myers Honor Book, comes another unforgettable story about finding your voice—and finding your people. Perfect for fans of Sharon Draper, Meg Medina, and Jason Reynolds.
Eleven-year-old Jenae doesn’t have any friends—and she’s just fine with that. She’s so good at being invisible in school, it’s almost like she has a superpower, like her idol, Astrid Dane. At home, Jenae has plenty of company, like her no-nonsense mama; her older brother, Malcolm, who is home from college after a basketball injury; and her beloved grandpa, Gee.
Then a new student shows up at school—a boy named Aubrey with fiery red hair and a smile that won’t quit. Jenae can’t figure out why he keeps popping up everywhere she goes. The more she tries to push him away, the more he seems determined to be her friend. Despite herself, Jenae starts getting used to having him around.
But when the two are paired up for a class debate about the proposed name change for their school, Jenae knows this new friendship has an expiration date. Aubrey is desperate to win and earn a coveted spot on the debate team.
There’s just one problem: Jenae would do almost anything to avoid speaking up in front of an audience—including risking the first real friendship she’s ever had.---from the publisher
304 pages 978-0062836717 Ages 8-12
Keywords: friends, friendship, shyness, finding your voice, belonging, fitting in, African American, African American author, 8 year old, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old
“Here’s the big not-so-secret: Kids know what is going on. They also have the capacity to be deeply upset by it. What we might call ‘social justice’ boils down to what kids would call ‘fairness.’ As any parent knows, kids are keenly aware of who gets more cookies or less praise; studies tell us those as young as 15 months understand equitable treatment. Social issues like racism, sexism and classism are complex, but underlying them are simple concepts that kids can relate to and be moved by.”
-- Caroline Paul, “Activism isn’t just for adults and teens. We need to teach younger kids to be activists, too.” ideas.ted.com (7/2/18)
“With a lot of blacks, there's quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But we can't all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don't believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”
-- actor John Wayne, the Playboy interview (1971)
“At that time, not only were schools segregated but also other public places as well, such as pools, parks, and movie theaters. Some businesses even had signs that read, ‘NO DOGS OR MEXICANS ALLOWED.’”
-- from the picturebook, SEPARATE IS NEVER EQUAL: SYLVIA MENDEZ & HER FAMILY’S FIGHT FOR DESEGREGATION by Duncan Tonatiuh, Abrams, 2014
“I hold my phone out and take a selfie. My first one. I get the vest I made out of the closet and put it on, then sling my clock bag over my shoulder and take some more acting like I’m cool like Astrid and that’s when my door opens.
‘Dude,’ Malcolm says. ‘You are seriously tripping.’
Right behind Malcolm is Aubrey.
No way. No way is this flaming-hot-Cheeto-hair boy up here in my room.
‘What are you doing here?’ I ask, letting my bag slide off my shoulder and onto the floor. ‘How do you know where I live?’
Aubrey’s so fair, it’s easy to see the blush exploding all over his face like a bucket of red paint got tipped over his head. It makes his freckles stand out even more. ‘I sort of...followed you?’ He glances over at Malcolm and I’m sure Aubrey’s thinking that following a girl home is at the top of things her big brother might beat him up for.”
Meet eleven-year-olds Jenae and Aubrey, the duo who have something to say in this easy-to-love tale of friendship and activism. Jenae is a quiet black girl who does her best to stay under the radar. But from the first day of junior high, she somehow attracts the attention of the ever-smiling, enthusiastic, Aubrey. He’s a new kid in town and a fellow aficionado of Jenae’s favorite YouTube show, Astrid Dane.
Also, since the beginning of the school year, there has been a community debate over changing the name of their school from John Wayne Junior High to Sylvia Mendez Junior High. Aubrey and Jenae will end up learning a lot about these two historical figures when they pair up and choose the topic of the proposed school name change for an English class debate assignment. The only problem is that Jenae hates public speaking. She has no intention of standing up in front of the class. She comes up with a scheme to ditch school that day by deceiving both of her divorced parents, despite knowing that it will betray Aubrey, her one friend.
Over the years, the composition of the southern California community that named the school after John Wayne has changed. So has the community’s tolerance for white supremacists. Jenae’s grandfather has told her how their southern California community was once all white, but when a black movie star moved in, white flight gave him the opportunity to purchase the spiffy old mansion that Jenae and her mom share with him.
Jenae’s brother had been away at college until a serious knee injury ended his basketball career. Now, after surgery, Malcolm is convalescing at home, supposedly figuring out an alternate plan.
When their grandfather Gee suffers a severe stroke and stops speaking, Jenae rises to the occasion, devising ways to help him begin to recover. It’s a challenge, but the pair figure out some workable communication strategies.
Jenae and Aubrey are wonderful characters. It’s delightful to see them learning to express their needs to one another.
Given current events, the activist-driven community debate over the name of the school will make this a perfectly timed read for the summer or the beginning of the new school year.
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA
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