The Kids of Widney Junior High Take Over the World!

Schiffer Kids. Sept. 2020. 144p. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780764360183.
Gr 4-6–On the first day of sixth grade at Widney Junior High, Robbie Wilson is thrown against a locker. His rescuer is Peewee, who pelts Robbie’s aggressor with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and then invites Robbie to band practice after school. The band meets regularly at Mr. Monagan’s house (a Widney music teacher and former rock musician) and is comprised of kids from the special education program. The band members are serious about their music; Robbie appreciates their talent and is welcomed into the group with open arms. Robbie does not have a developmental disability, so the trope of a kid who is not disabled explaining how kids with disabilities live and function to others (and the presumption that the reader is not disabled) is alive and well in this text. Robbie, through trial and error, learns a lot about his new friends. He is often politely, but firmly, schooled by them as well. For example, Peewee, who has autism and is legally blind, tells Robbie that he needs to ask before he offers assistance, because Peewee doesn’t want Robbie’s help. But that might not be the case for Cain, who is also blind, and if Robbie wants to know what Cain wants in terms of assistance, Robbie needs to ask him. Robbie becomes the band’s honorary assistant manager and helps the band navigate issues relating to an important gig and getting signed to a big record label. Klickstein has written an upbeat fictionalized story based on the real band The Kids of Widney High who, to date, have produced four albums. Well-placed black-and-white cartoonlike illustrations complement the text.
VERDICT The Kids of Widney High is a remarkable band, and Klickstein’s story provides readers an opportunity to learn about their music and world while simultaneously modeling for readers how to sensitively interact with individuals with disabilities. Recommended as a secondary purchase.

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