Inspired by their radical teacher, eight elementary school students speak up for what they believe in and make change in their school community.
In Scheerger’s middle-grade debut, she tackles issues of friendship, bullying, immigration, women’s rights, access to education, and homelessness/poverty. Speaking in a series of notes, letters, journal entries, and comics, eight diverse voices lead the storytelling as readers follow the fifth-grade year of Ms. Graham’s class (and their class frog, Kermit!). Ms. Graham’s unconventional approach encourages her students to make new friends and think outside of the box. When a few students take her advice to “immerse” themselves in their projects a little too far, the consequences are dire. Her students find the strength to fight for their rights and for one another; they remember their teacher’s words: “Remember change can take place on multiple levels. Even change within yourself is change.” When things finally start to look up, one student who’s accustomed to always speaking her mind writes: “I’ve learned something; / Once our rocks are thrown, pebbles or not, / We cannot stop the ripples / They have a life of their own.” Because this novel touches on so many important social issues, some feel neglected. Luckily, Scheerger’s attention to careful characterization keeps this novel afloat. Her characters are genuine and complex as they grow and change into radical young adults.
A thoughtful exploration of the power of the collective voice—growing up is owning up and speaking up. (selected resources, acknowledgments) (Fiction. 9-12)