Black Brother, Black Brother
by Rhodes, Jewell Parker

Suspended unjustly from elite Middlefield Prep, Donte Ellison studies fencing with a former champion, hoping to put the racist fencing team captain in his place.

Jewell Parker Rhodes is the author of Ninth Ward, winner of a Coretta Scott King Honor, Sugar, winner of the Jane Addams Children's Book Award, and the New York Times-bestselling Ghost Boys. She has also written many award-winning novels for adults. When she's not writing, Jewell visits schools to talk about her books and teaches writing at Arizona State University.

*Starred Review* A profound treatise about institutional racism for the middle-grade set, Rhodes' (Ghost Boys, 2018) latest elevates beyond simple moralizing into a penetrating look into the soul of a young person struggling with how to become a Black man of character in a world that expects him to be less. Dropping the reader directly into a tony prep-school office where Donte anxiously awaits judgement for an offense he did not commit, Rhodes dials readers immediately into the boy's acute dread as he cycles through feelings of shame, anger, and confusion, ultimately leading to a nonconfrontation that causes him to be arrested. As we learn more about Donte and his biracial family, including his lighter-skinned brother, we come to root for him and his pursuit of redemption as he seeks to prove his self-worth to his bullies and his school community through fencing. His coach, one of the first Black Olympic fencers, helps him refine his talent and his ability to deal with the inequities he experiences on a regular basis. An entertaining story and happy ending does not take away from this powerful examination of how the educational and justice systems punitively treat children of color-and how this bias impacts their self-perception and esteem. A powerful work and a must-have for children's collections. Grades 5-8. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Following on Ghost Boys (2018), Rhodes delivers another middle-grade novel that takes on complex, historical topics while emphasizing young people's agency and healing. This outing starts with Donte Ellison wishing for invisibility, as compared to being a hypervisible "nighttime dark" student at upper-crust, overwhelmingly white Middlefield Prep. Maybe if he were invisible, he wouldn't constantly be in trouble for doing nothing—unlike his older and much-lighter-skinned brother, Trey, who walks the hallways with cool. A tragic, unjust incident occurs early on when the headmaster sends for police officers to handcuff, arrest, and jail Donte after an incidental brush with a teacher. Donte's mother (she is black and their father white) challenges the school on its racism, yet within the social world of the schoolyard, the injustice is further compounded by bullies' smirks. Donte responds by devising a plan to make the school see him, in all his dignity, respect, and potential. He leaves the upper-class Boston suburb where he resides and heads to the inner-city Boys and Girl Club, where he finds a former star fencer who now serves his home community. Through this mentorship and other new relationships, Donte discovers more about the gifts of his identity and the pride of cultural heritage. These lessons in self-discovery offer a deeply critical insight for young readers. Placing biracial boyhood and the struggles of colorism at its center, the novel challenges readers to pursue their own self-definition. (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2019 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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