A shy sixth-grader learns to speak out against prejudice when her community rushes to judge an unusual teacher.
Minnie is new to the school; her family has downsized since her father lost his job after objecting to an employee’s unfair treatment. Minnie's newly minted teacher, Miss Marks, whose jeans and T-shirts, multiple ear piercings, tattoo and rumored lesbianism immediately raise eyebrows, captivates her language arts class with her unique teaching style. She's thoughtful and wise, challenging the class to think objectively, especially about prejudice. Minnie observes growing bias against not just Miss Marks, but also her new Muslim friend, Amira, but she’s torn between remaining safely unobtrusive or taking a stand for what’s right. Her Uncle Bill, an amputee war veteran, provides just the right nudge to Minnie as he begins to take control of his life. While Minnie’s character is well-developed, others are painted with a frustratingly broad brush. Astute readers may wonder why Minnie’s mother makes such a rush to judgment, facilely dismissing her daughter's opinion, and why there is such a sharp, seemingly swift response against a largely effective teacher. Some side stories lack sufficient development: that of a classmate who's abruptly withdrawn from school and another about a possible breach of Miss Marks’ privacy at home by older students.
Ultimately, this important topic deserves a more in-depth exploration than this brief, albeit thoughtful, effort offers. (Fiction. 10-13)