Seventh-grader June Harper sets up a secret lending library when her school decides to ban books.
When June’s overprotective father finds a school library copy of a book called The Makings of a Witch, her parents put pressure on the school to place Ms. Bradshaw, the school librarian, on administrative leave and, in addition to emptying June’s home library, to strip the school library of anything deemed inappropriate. “Students in possession of unapproved texts will face disciplinary action,” reads the board resolution, and teachers will be fired. As a rule-follower, June is conflicted, but she can’t help feeling that this is wrong. Compounding her confusion are her reciprocated crush on eighth-grader Graham, who asks her to lie low and choose between him and books, and her best friend, Emma, who sympathizes with Graham. When June finds a Little Free Library in her neighborhood, she is inspired to create a contraband lending library in an abandoned locker. This quickly grows into a movement, if only users can keep it a secret. Varnes’ debut is a straightforward advocacy book for children’s right to make their own reading choices. Most characters default white except for brown-skinned implied Latina Abby Rodriguez. June’s narration is sometimes clumsy, and some characters, such as June’s parents, are thinly developed and come across as extreme. The ending, however, is realistically open-ended.
An accessible introduction to the importance of the freedom to read. (Fiction. 8-12)