Four smart but underachieving students—Zander, LaShonda, Bobbi, and Kambui—at a Harlem school for the gifted and talented star in Myers’s (Sunrise over Fallujah) thought-provoking if occasionally heavy-handed first installment of the Cruisers series. Giving the quartet one last chance to shape up, the assistant principal issues them a challenge: while the other eighth graders are divided into Union and Confederate sympathizers for a study project, the Cruisers (named after an alternative newspaper they produce) are charged with negotiating peace. Tensions and tempers flare when students writing as “the Sons of the Confederacy” contribute a pro-slavery editorial to the official school paper (“I mean, there I was, black from locks to ’Boks, from dreads to Keds, but I just didn’t think much on it and now it was all up in my face,” thinks Zander). Through Zander’s levelheaded narration and editorials mostly written by the Cruisers, Myers explores freedom of speech, the role that race and the Constitution played in the 19th-century slavery debate, the moral implications of slavery, and the effectiveness of peaceful demonstration—a lot of food for thought for a slim novel. Ages 9–12. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/26/2010 Release date: 08/01/2010 Genre: Children's
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