Age Range: 8 - 14
Ella and Zachary, sixth-grade misfits, cling to each other to get through the taunts, rejection and, sometimes, abuse from their classmates.
Ella is the only black student, and her discolored skin tone has some calling her “Camo-Face,” short for camouflage. Zachary, or “Z,” is small for his age and takes refuge in fantasy to cope with abandonment by his father. When a new black student arrives and seems open to Ella, she has hope for a new friendship, especially because, even though he can fit in with the popular group, Bailey reaches out to her. The insecure Z sees this as a threat, and Ella is torn between her loyalty to him and her wish for some normalcy. This elegantly crafted story features strong writing and solid characterizations of both main and secondary characters. Ella and Bailey’s racial identity is one element in a full and richly textured narrative.
An out-of-the-ordinary setting—just outside of Las Vegas—and the nuanced picture of young teens and families under stress make this an outstanding follow-up to Magoon’s Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning debut, The Rock and the River (2009). (Fiction. 8-14)