An aspiring biologist who’s bullied because of his disability finds friends when he enters a go-kart competition.
When middle schooler Milo Braverman enters a new after-school program in a new city, he braces himself for a new round of jokes, pity, and names like “bug-boy” and “cripple.” Milo, who walks with forearm crutches due to an unspecified congenital disability, cocoons himself in his field-guide sketchbook to avoid attention. But soon, some kids at The Club admire his sketches: Broadway musical aficionado Javi; accident-prone “Hurricane Addy;” artistic Noah; and Noah’s athletic sister, Zoe. In spite of himself, Milo gradually warms to them. When Miguel, the kindly director, announces the annual go-kart team rally, Milo is determined to race and prove he belongs. As the kids combine their various skills and endeavor to build an adapted go-kart in time for the rally, their enthusiasm feels natural, as does Milo’s anxiety. Obstacles arise, and Milo’s anger and mistrust sympathetically illustrate bullying’s lasting effects. Though a tad heavy-handed, Milo’s identification with a “brave” oak tree that “had overcome everything standing in its way” feels apropos; the optimistic, open ending implies that Milo’s growth, like the resilient oak’s, is an ongoing process that’s “hard, but not impossible.” Javi is from Guatemala; Milo and the other kids are ethnically ambiguous, though descriptions of Addy’s red hair, Noah’s “dreadlocks,” and Zoe’s braids will probably have readers imagining the former as white and the latter two as black. Nondescript, uncredited line drawings dot the margins.
A realistic, hopeful take on meeting challenges and making friends. (Fiction. 7-12)