Age Range: 11 - 13
Email this review


 An African-American fifth-grader develops a sturdy sense of responsibility and weathers some personal crises in this value-driven story. Troubled by his parents' divorce, his mother's remarriage, and a class bully, Joey lets schoolwork slide and gives his stepfather the cold shoulder, refusing to call him anything but ``Mr. Johnson.'' But after several incidents of fighting, shoplifting, and sullen behavior, Joey doesn't like what he's becoming and, with the help of pep-talks from adults and friends, begins to turn himself around. When he accidentally lets his stepfather's beloved Airedale out, Joey mounts a search, finds the injured animal, and gets a part-time job to help pay her medical expenses; by book's end, he's also helping his stepfather at work and has even qualified for an accelerated ``young scientists'' program at a university. While celebrating the importance of honesty, integrity, and supportive family relationships, Boyd also tries to raise consciousness on racial issues, through both dialogue (``Mr. Johnson, does being an African American make everything harder for you?'' ``The short answer is yes and the longer answer is yes'') and incident (Joey's teacher, pegging him as a troublemaker, tries to ease him into a ``special ed'' class instead of recommending him for the gifted program). Boyd has messages to deliver, but she's not strident about them; her characters aren't always consistent- -Joey's calm, intelligent, loving stepfather explodes with rage when he learns that his dog is gone--but she respects them, young and old, and stresses their better qualities. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 31st, 1993
ISBN: 0-02-711765-0
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1993