Zander Scott and three of his friends have just been appointed Peacekeepers for the eighth graders at Da Vinci ...a school in Harlem for the gifted and talented. Now Zander's life isn't all that easy right now. His grades are slipping and this may be the last chance he has to earn the privilege of staying in this school. At home his mother is struggling with difficult choices about how to earn the money she needs to make ends meet and keep her ex-husband from taking Zander off to Seattle, Washington. The wise and crafty Walter Dean Myers is delivering a whole maze of thought to us about choices and honesty and taking responsiblity. Using the opposing sides of the American Civil War and handing Zander and friends the tool of an alternative school newspaper, he begins to test us. Much of the story is written in a dialect that might evoke some comment from those for whom it is not everyday speech. Is this dialect civilized or not? In a guest editorial the Sons of the Confederacy announce the south is seceding so they can continue their work of civilizing Negroes. Have you ever read the Declaration of the Causes of Secession? Is every white person a racist? Okay a question for you...what do we mean by civilized...do we mean just making someone else more like us or do we mean accepting some of the differences and respecting them? Zander and his friends, The Cruisers, have a whole lot of thinking to do and a whole lot of decidin' before them. Maybe it will all just end in a beat down. This is a short book packed with some tremendous discussion starters. Perfect for a bookgroup or a class beginning to study the American Civil War. 126 pages Ages 11-14
Zander, Kambui, LaShonda, and Bobbi are students at the DaVinci Academy for the Gifted and Talented in Harlem but the assistant principal (and "chief executioner") Mr. Culpepper wants them gone because of poor grades and behavior. When the school begins an intensive unit on the Civil War, student Alvin McCraney writes a guest editorial in Zander's newsletter "The Cruisers" from the point of view of the Confederacy. The editorial fuels some underlying racial tensions and it looks like students at DaVinci Academy are going to come to blows. Zander and his friends are charged with brokering a peace between both sides of the conflict. In the process they find that it is harder than you think to make a stand when everyone else seems to disagree and even harder to step back from anger and hurt feelings.
Recommended by Susan Grigsby, Teacher-Librarian, Georgia, USA