THE JACKET by Andrew Clements


Age Range: 8 - 12
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Clements (Things Not Seen, below, etc.) offers a heartfelt and well-meaning but somewhat simplistic novella that explores racial-consciousness–raising. When sixth-grader Phil Moreli attempts to bring lunch money to his younger brother in their school’s hallway, he quickly meets up with his sibling—or so he thinks—because there’s his brother’s very distinctive jacket. He is startled when its wearer turns out to be an African-American boy whom Phil has never seen. He wrongly leaps to the conclusion that this boy stole the jacket and a brawl ensues. Once the combatants face off in the principal’s office, the truth about how the jacket came into this stranger’s possession comes out. Daniel, the African-American boy, had been given the jacket as a gift by his grandmother who, in turn, received it from her employer—Phil’s mother—for whom she works as a cleaning woman. Daniel is angry that a white boy would automatically think of him as a thief and humiliated at an act of what he considers condescending charity. He storms out, first throwing the jacket on the floor. Regarding this as a gauntlet and feeling ashamed, Phil is now galvanized into reassessing his feelings and assumptions about African-Americans. He realizes that he actually knows little about them and is convinced that he is prejudiced. Phil’s attempts to come to grips with his guilt and chagrin will help young readers reevaluate their own attitudes toward people who are different from themselves. Clements mostly steers clear of easy answers and admirably avoids the cliché of having the boys become fast friends at the end, though each does come to realize that the other is “a good guy.” (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-689-82595-1
Page count: 80pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2002


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