Me and Banksy

Puffin Canada. Jan. 2020. 224p. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780735266919.
Gr 4-7–Dominica’s private school’s Latin motto is “securitas genera victoria,” or security breeds success. Students at Mitchell Academy are carefully monitored through cameras in the classrooms and electronic ID tags that let their caregivers know their whereabouts. The students also use a forum for class assignments and run a blog, and outside of school use a social media platform comparable to Snapchat. Soon, anonymously shared videos of students start appearing all over the forum: one girl picking her nose, a boy with his fly down and shirttails sticking out, and one of Dominica turning her shirt right-side out in the library. The protagonist also develops a strong interest in the British artist Banksy, thanks to a book her grandmother gave her and an ethics class assignment. When Dominica’s school principal Ms. Plante brushes off her concerns about the video, Dominica secretly draws squirrels near her school’s security cameras and, with four friends who call themselves the Banksy Five, creates an art installation for the school’s open house that expresses concerns about the cameras. The villain, once revealed, feels caricature-like, despite a backstory. Full of twists and turns, Kyi’s novel reads quickly, and the characters’ motivations feel realistic. Although the ending wraps up loose ends a little too neatly, readers will appreciate its exploration of privacy, healthy skepticism, and thoughtful social media use. Privacy becomes a major theme, as does not believing everything one sees online, and using social media thoughtfully.
VERDICT This accessible introduction to Banksy is a general purchase for large library collections or where middle grade books about art are popular.

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