Eighth-Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday- Perkovich.
In the author bio we learn that Rhuday-Perkovich studied with Paula Danziger and Madeleine L'Engle. I believe this fact shows itself early on in this well layered debut novel.
After an incident on the first day of 8th grade, Reggie is called Pukey. Reggie is doing is best to lay low. His best friends are Ruthie a young revolutionary and Joe C, an artist.
Reggie and Ruthie are active members of their church's youth group. The group is doing a project at a local homeless shelter. Reggie's mom signed him up to be a Big Buddy at school.
"Eighth graders can be paired up with kindergarten kids as "Big Buddies," and Ruthie's parents and my parents fell over themselves signing us up to be positive role models. Joe C. doesn't have to do the activity thing the way we do. Whenever I say that to my mom, she just says, "White folks have that luxury"
Reggie schools is holding an election for President. Tired of the popular kids always winning, and with a little confidence from his Dora the Explorer shoes* Reggie finds himself in the race. One of Reggie's biggest tormentors is Donavan, a former friend, now campaign manager of the very popular Justin.
All the stories come together in the end. I really enjoyed how the story moved. The author does an excellent job of handling several things at once. Many young readers will be able to relate to Reggie's father being out of work. When the novel works Pops is searching for a new job.
I do think Rhuday- Perkovich towed the too much lesson line towards the end. Though that did not keep me from loving this book. The author isn't giving more of the same. This is new.
There aren't enough middle grade novels with a main character of color that's male. I love Reggie for many reason. One of the biggest is that he's Jamaican. The Rhuday- Perkovich doesn't make this an issue of it nor does she ignore it. Reggie simply is who he is. His parents are proud Jamaican's, especially Pops.
Pops Ranking -
"Trinidad is above Bardados and Guyana in Pop's personal Caribbean Country Rankings, but nowhere near Jamaica, "the crown jewel." Don't get him started on Haiti."
Rhuday-Perkovich took time to fully develop Reggie and his friends. The three get along very well though they do have fights and misunderstandings, making it that much more believable.
I hope this isn't the last time we see Reggie and his friends. Ages 10 up.
Scheduled released date Jan. 1.
A starred PW review
* I am not saying anything else about an 8th grade boy wearing Dora the Explorer sneakers, or there power. Oops I've send too much. Go buy the book.