MATT'S CRUSADE by Margot Marek


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A seventh grader has to make a difficult choice when he learns that the local Army base is storing nuclear weapons. Football is practically worshipped in Hancock, and Matt has just made the Middle School team, thanks to years of hard work. Then he sees a missile being loaded at the base, and his activist social-studies teacher shows a film about Hiroshima. Deeply affected, he considers his priorities: a sit-in is planned, but on a game day; if he misses the game, he'll be dropped from the team. Finally choosing the protest, he finds most of his friends plus his father (a disabled Vietnam vet) ranged against him. The pros and cons of Matt's decision are discussed, but briefly; although Marek's sympathies are obvious, she keeps the story moving and allows readers to do their own thinking. But the response to the protest is drastic: the teacher's car is torched, and the demonstrators are met with tear gas and mass arrest. Matt spends the rest of the day in jail with an untreated injury, but comes home to a hero's welcome. Like Langton in The Fragile Flag, Marek draws a parallel with the medieval Children's Crusade, adding emotional force to her story (even though the parallel is inconsistent with the authors' argument that children are not entirely powerless in society). Matt behaves bravely and plausibly; and Marek certainly hasn't minimized the risks of peace-mongering. Somewhat heavy-handed, but stimulating.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Four Winds/Macmillan