A tale of finding a place to belong with a specific setting but universal appeal.
Albert Quashie is tired of being little. Shorter than his tall brothers were at his age, Albert is insecure and nervous about starting middle school, especially since his best friend has moved away from their small Caribbean island to Brooklyn. On the first day of school, Albert’s fears are realized when he is mocked for his height; worse, he finds that though he’s always been good at math, now that he’s skipped a year he’s lost his edge. Albert’s parents seek to lift him from his funk by allowing him to help his father’s band, and at its performance, Albert sees stilt walkers. He’s inspired by the bravery and beauty of their art and discovers the leader is also his school bus driver. Albert is soon invited to join a group of high school stilt walkers, and while at first he feels awkward and nervous, he eventually discovers a place he can belong. Third-person narration makes the pain of Albert’s insecurity and loneliness so real readers are sure to sympathize with his plight. The island setting is painted in such vivid detail that the nuances of both culture and climate shine through, exploring the uniqueness of Albert’s island home while also highlighting the universality of human experience.
Exceptional. (Fiction. 10-14)