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August 2018 Back-to-School Horn Book Herald: Middle School

March Forward, Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine
by Melba Pattillo Beals; illus. by Frank Morrison
Houghton     214 pp.
1/18     978-1-328-88212-7     $16.99

As one of the Little Rock Nine, Beals helped integrate Central High School in 1957; here she recounts the childhood years that led up to that important step (described in the epilogue). Fear was a constant, as she learned early that “the color of my skin framed the entire scope of my life.” Beals’s account is made even more immediate by photographs and Morrison’s child-friendly black-and-white illustrations.

Like Vanessa
by Tami Charles
Charlesbridge     284 pp.
3/18     978-1-58089-777-8     $16.99

Despite considering herself “too dark” and “too fat,” eighth grader Vanessa dreams of following in the footsteps of her beauty-contestant mother, who left when she was a baby. Talented singer Vanessa gets her chance when her school holds its first-ever beauty pageant. Readers of Charles’s debut novel will empathize with Vanessa’s journey to earn the crown as she struggles to maintain friendships, develop self-confidence, and confront her family’s demons.

Class Action
by Steven B. Frank
Houghton     251 pp.     g
4/18     978-1-328-79920-3     $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-328-47691-3     $9.99

Sixth grader Sam Warren feels homework leaves no time for things he wants to do. With the help of his retired-lawyer neighbor, Sam and classmates put together Warren v. Board of Education. Once granted class-action status, the case is off to the Supreme Court. Though hardly credible, the story is entertaining, and readers will learn much about constitutional law and the legal rights of students. Glos.

You Go First
by Erin Entrada Kelly
Greenwillow     288 pp.
3/18     978-0-06-241418-2     $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-241420-5     $8.99

Two brainy middle-school outcasts — twelve-year-old Charlotte and eleven-year-old Ben — find companionship through a longstanding, long-distance online Scrabble rivalry while dealing with dramatic changes in their lives. Neither one confides in the other, but slowly they begin to communicate outside the game. With character-revealing prose, Kelly holds readers’ attention as the narration moves back and forth between the fully realized protagonists and their intricately drawn home and school settings.

Running Through Sprinklers
by Michelle Kim
Atheneum     209 pp.
4/18     978-1-4814-9528-8     $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-9530-1     $10.99

Across-the-street Vancouver neighbors Sara (half-white, half-Korean), and Nadine (half-white, half-Japanese), have always been together — but then Nadine skips a grade and heads to high school, leaving her best friend behind. First-person, present-tense narration sympathetically evokes Sara’s convincingly complicated feelings of confusion, grief, and anger during this year of upheaval. Debut author Kim’s introspective story of moving from childhood to adolescence has a bygone and memoiristic sensibility.

This Is Our Constitution: Discover America with a Gold Star Father
by Khizr Khan with Anne Quirk
Knopf     216 pp.
10/17     978-1-5247-7091-4     $16.99
Library ed.  ISBN 978-1-5247-7092-1     $19.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5247-7093-8     $10.99

This clearly written, straightforward study of the Constitution is written by Pakistan-born Khan, who spoke passionately at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Khan’s personal voice, plus an abundance of sidebars, speech bubbles, black-and-white photographs, and diagrams, is interesting and readable. Back matter includes a plea to young people to take a stand for the Constitution and a valuable guide to landmark Supreme Court decisions. Ind.

Merci Suárez Changes Gears
by Meg Medina
Candlewick     361 pp.     g
9/18     978-0-7636-9049-6     $16.99

Merci Suárez attends elite Seaward Pines Academy, where the sixth grader does community service to pay for her tuition. Now in her second year, Merci must participate in the Sunshine Buddies program, mentoring new-kid Michael Clark (“a boy!”), and enduring the teasing of mean-girl Edna Santos. Medina writes with sincerity and humor to convey the experience of growing up in a close-knit Cuban American family.

The Champions’ Game: A True Story
by Saul Ramirez, as told to John Seidlitz
Canter     152 pp.
5/17     978-0-9977402-4-0     $21.99
Paper ed.  978-0-9977402-3-3     $14.99

In 2010, Saul Ramirez got a job as an art teacher at Henderson Middle School in an impoverished El Paso, Texas, neighborhood. Chess was another of his passions, and several years later the team he started won the state championship and — improbably — the nationals the very next year; they are now a perennial power. Ramirez narrates the uplifting and inspiring true story of his team of “underdogs.”

Sunny [Track]
by Jason Reynolds
Atheneum/Dlouhy     163 pp.
4/18     978-1-4814-5021-8     $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-5023-2     $10.99

Sunny, the team’s best miler, decides he doesn’t want to be a runner. Coach suggests he try the discus, a choice that is reflected in the novel’s structure — a series of diary entries that each spin around another incident or memory, revealing the tragic origins of Sunny’s track career. The story’s slow build lets Sunny’s strengths and vulnerabilities gain him a place in our hearts.

The Creativity Project
edited by Colby Sharp
Little     278 pp.
3/18     978-0-316-50781-3     $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-316-50778-3     $9.99

Forty-four contemporary children’s book people each contribute a writing prompt. Then each one responds to someone else’s prompt. The result is a combination anthology and inspiring craft manual. Both prompts and responses include prose, poetry, photographs, drawings, and comics. The emphasis is on pleasure, but readers will notice an aspect to creativity that isn’t made explicit in the introduction: almost none of the contributors obeys the rules. Ind.

From the August 2018: Back-to-School issue of The Horn Book Herald.

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