Attack of the Black Rectangles

Scholastic. Sept. 2022. 272p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338680522.
Gr 5 Up–King’s latest novel is so timely and relevant, some readers may feel like the author has been privy to what’s going on in their own schools. Mac is in the sixth grade and is a kid who knows his own mind. His teacher is known around town to be a strong, conservative influencer—for reasons that are never explained. Ms. Sett runs her classroom like she seems to run their small town, with antiquated rules and expectations. Girls aren’t allowed to wear shorts to school and no junk food is available, and these are enforced city ordinances. Ms. Sett is a conundrum when she doesn’t tolerate bullying and is an advocate of children but then censors books in her classroom including the book Mac is reading, The Devil’s Arithmetic, in a literature circle. When Mac and his classmates find black marker has been used in all the books to mark out words thought to be inappropriate for sixth graders, Ms. Sett has gone too far (not even canceling Halloween got the kids as riled up as the “black rectangles”). While Mac and his friends work against censorship, Mac is also dealing with his father’s mental illness. He has a good mom and grandad to support him when things get very confusing with his dad. Readers will find it easy to side with the outraged students and parents who go to the principal and then the school board to protest censorship and make sure the rules will protect everyone, and not just the opinions of one person. This title is slightly more sophisticated and mature than Alan Gratz’s Ban This Book but is equally satisfying.
VERDICT A striking book on censorship; a must-have in all middle grade classroom and school libraries.

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