Black Brother, Black Brother

Little, Brown. Mar. 2020. 240p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316493802.
Gr 4-6–Donte is having a difficult time adjusting to life at Middlefield Prep. Going to public school in New York City to now being one of the only black boys at a prep school in Newton, MA, is a dramatic shift. What’s worse, all the kids at school keep bullying him and singling him out as different, while his lighter-skinned brother, Trey, passes with ease. After one too many incidents with Alan, the captain of the school fencing team, Donte decides that he has to beat him at his own game. This quest sets Donte and Trey off on a mission to find Mr. Jones, a black former Olympic fencer and Boston Boys and Girls Club employee, who agrees to teach them how to fence. Along the way, Donte makes friends, becomes an excellent fencer, and finds his place in the Boston area. In the first part of the book, Donte’s school calls the police after he throws his backpack to the ground, and he is forced to go to juvenile court. Rhodes points out his privilege in being well off, and how the court is willing to treat him differently after seeing his white father and white-passing brother. Donte’s story is a good primer for younger readers on microaggressions. Though the first few chapters of the book focus heavily on Donte’s mistreatment at school, the story quickly moves into a heavy focus on his fencing journey. The depiction of Donte’s confidence growing with each lesson and as he makes friends at the Boys and Girls Club is interesting and exciting. Readers will want to learn more about the sport.
VERDICT Give to readers who love Jason Reynolds’s “Track” series or Jewell Parker Rhodes’s other offerings for young readers.

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