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My Year in the Middle
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My Year in the Middle
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In a racially polarized classroom in 1970 Alabama, Lu's talent for running track makes her a new best friend — and tests her mettle as she navigates the school's social cliques.Miss Garrett's...
In a racially polarized classroom in 1970 Alabama, Lu's talent for running track makes her a new best friend — and tests her mettle as she navigates the school's social cliques.Miss Garrett's...
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Description-

  • In a racially polarized classroom in 1970 Alabama, Lu's talent for running track makes her a new best friend — and tests her mettle as she navigates the school's social cliques.

    Miss Garrett's classroom is like every other at our school. White kids sit on one side and black kids on the other. I'm one of the few middle-rowers who split the difference.

    Sixth-grader Lu Olivera just wants to keep her head down and get along with everyone in her class. Trouble is, Lu's old friends have been changing lately — acting boy crazy and making snide remarks about Lu's newfound talent for running track. Lu's secret hope for a new friend is fellow runner Belinda Gresham, but in 1970 Red Grove, Alabama, blacks and whites don't mix. As segregationist ex-governor George Wallace ramps up his campaign against the current governor, Albert Brewer, growing tensions in the state — and in the classroom — mean that Lu can't stay neutral about the racial divide at school. Will she find the gumption to stand up for what's right and to choose friends who do the same?

About the Author-

  • I'm a certifiable nerd. It seems I can never get enough of maps, dictionaries, birds, or moss-covered rocks. At various times in my childhood, I wanted to be an archaeologist, a biologist, or a psychoanalyst—not that I always understood what people in those professions do. But those early ambitions faded away and I ended up becoming an artist and a writer. In fact, when I was kid I spent a lot of my free time reading and drawing. My sister and I created an entire town of imaginary characters. We drew their faces on ruled paper and made up stories about their lives, as dramatic as any on a soap opera. This was probably pretty good training for writing books.

    Writing a novel is hard work that involves lots of wadded-up paper and many clicks of the delete key. But it's also fun. You get to create characters and come up with interesting twists and turns to put them through. Sometimes writers recycle pieces of their lives to use in a story. I sure did. Lu, my main character, is from Argentina. So am I. After my family immigrated to the U.S., I spent my growing-up years in Alabama, which is why you'll find plenty of Southern twang in my novel, as well as some South American flair. After Lu's school desegregates, she goes through some rough and tough challenges involving racism. This happened to me, too. But almost everything else in Lu's story was invented. For example, she's a talented runner with winning potential. Not true of me!

    Three things you didn't know about me
    Something goofy: Can you draw curves or faces on an Etch A Sketch? I can. You should try it!

    Something magical: A few years ago, while I was vacationing at the beach, a tiny shorebird stood in the palm of my hand to nibble on some crushed corn chips. I'll never forget the feeling of its tender feet pressing against my palm. Luckily, I have a video of that moment and can relive it whenever I want.

    Something wild: When I was in fourth or fifth grade, a snake expert came to visit my school. That's how I got the chance to hold a king snake. I won't lie—it was a bit weird, because the snake wiggled a lot and its skin was as rough as pebbles. Still, it was a super-cool experience and I'd happily do it again. See? I told you I was a nerd!

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 21, 2018
    Set in 1970 in the fictional town of Red Grove, Ala., this debut for young readers by Weaver (Darkroom) follows a sixth-grade class during the first year of integrated public schools through the bubbly voice of Argentinian immigrant Lu Olivera, who sits in the middle row, between the black and white students. Election year campaigning provides the backdrop: Governor Brewer, who favored school integration, is fighting for his seat against segregationist ex-governor George Wallace. After Lu discovers that she shares a talent for running with Belinda, a black classmate, their friendship grows, but Lu’s former friends become distant and mean. Politics infiltrate the classroom as some parents prepare to send their kids to private school, and Lu’s attempts to remain apolitical backfire, particularly with the cute boy she likes. As tensions build, Lu longs for the courage to “really speak up, like somebody with surefire gumption and the good sense to stand up for her friends.” Readers will root for this spirited protagonist to find her moral footing in this solid, enjoyable work of historical fiction. Ages 8–12.

  • Kirkus

    June 1, 2018
    It is spring 1970 in Alabama, and in spite of the racial tensions that come along with integration and the upcoming race for governor, sixth-grader Lu Olivera can't stop thinking about running--or more importantly, the discovery that she can run.It's hotter than Hades the day Lu first runs in preparation for Field Day. She flies "like the blue blazes" and barely squeaks past classmate Belinda at the finish line for the win. As they mill about catching their breath and each other's eyes, Belinda gives a nod of respect. Lu nods back, but not without a bit of trepidation upon reminding herself that "around here, black and white kids don't mix. No siree bob." You see, being from Argentina, Lu is one of the "middle" kids in the class. White kids sit on one side of the room, black kids, including Belinda, on the other, and those that are left occupy no man's land. Readers will follow Lu through the spring of her sixth-grade year as she discovers not just the extent of her running ability, but how much gumption one tiny immigrant girl can have. It's not always easy standing up for what is right, but sometimes, you just can't stay in the middle. While Red Grove, Alabama, is a fictional town, the story is inspired by the author's very real experiences growing up in Alabama. Young readers will relate to Lu as she navigates friendships, first love, and politics, cheering her on to the finish line. An important and relevant story that will make kids stop and take a look at the world around them. (Historical fiction. 9-13)

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    July 1, 2018

    Gr 4-6-Sixth grader Lu Olivera is born to run, but worries that her parents, immigrants from Argentina, will not allow her to pursue sports. Undeterred, she starts to pal up with talented African American runner Belinda. Lu's world starts to shift away from old friends like Phyllis and Abigail, whose eyes are firmly planted on teen fashion magazines portraying mostly blue-eyed and blonde girls and whose families are against racial integration. Instead, the tween is drawn to the more socially conscious world of her older sister Marina and her crush Sam, who are both working on the campaign to defeat George Wallace's 1970 reelection. Her awareness of the racism against brown and black people and the personal and political efforts to fight it start to garner more of her attention and spur her to action. Young first-generation immigrants will see themselves reflected in Lu when she translates for a Cuban neighbor, and again when she finds herself "in the middle" and must either stand with her friends Belinda and Spider or side against them with her silence. Colloquial language and pop references abound, with detailed pencil illustrations at the onset of each chapter. VERDICT A well-drawn depiction of an immigrant experience with a social justice lens. A solid addition for public and school libraries.-Sara Lissa Paulson, City-As-School High School, New York City

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    June 1, 2018
    Grades 4-7 Readers will be immediately transported to early 1970s Alabama in this story about Lu Olivera, a sixth-grader who finds herself drawn ever more deeply into the civil rights movement and politics at her school. Argentinian Lu doesn't fall neatly into the category of white or black, so she manages to more or less stay out of politics; but the more things heat up with local elections, and with Lu's budding friendship with Belinda, who is not white, she finds she can't stand idly by. This lovely coming-of-age story is complete with crushes, discovery of a passion, and a whole lot of '70s American style and slang, as well as terms like higgledy-piggledy, which might be unfamiliar to young readers but is understandable in context. This story is inspired by the author's experiences, and it shows in introspective Lu's observations of people around her. An excellent read for any budding activist or history buff, as well as pretty much any kid who likes a story about kids finding their gumption.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

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    Candlewick Press
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