Count Me In

Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Aug. 2019. 192p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780525517245.
Gr 4-8–Even though seventh graders Karina and Chris are next-door neighbors, they’ve never shared a class and don’t really know each other. Karina, whose family is Indian, even remembers a few times when Chris, whose ethnicity isn’t specified, sat idly by as his racist friends bullied her. But things begin to change when Karina’s grandfather Papa, bored after moving in with Karina’s family, takes up math tutoring—and Chris is his first student. Karina and Chris become unlikely friends and smooth over past differences. When the kids are walking outside one day with Papa, a white man who decides Papa is a terrorist pulls over and begins slinging hateful speech at the trio, culminating in a physical attack that sends Papa to the hospital. Karina and Chris draw on their friendship, their families, and the unexpectedly unifying power of social media for strength against fear and hatred. Fast-paced first-person narration alternates between Karina and Chris. This accessible read tackles weighty issues like racism and hatred, while the warmth of the growing friendship among Karina, Chris, and Papa carries readers through the book’s stressful conflicts to its satisfying conclusion.
VERDICT A solid recommendation for fans of books like Hena Khan’s Amina’s Voice and Gita Varadarajan and Sarah Weeks’s Save Me a Seat

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