cover image We Could Be Brothers

We Could Be Brothers

Derrick Barnes, Scholastic Press, $17.99 (176p) ISBN 978-0-545-13573-3

Barnes (The Making of Dr. Truelove) offers an earnest story of the nascent friendship between two middle-grade boys, who have had very dissimilar upbringings despite both growing up in Kansas City and attending the same school. Brought together during after-school suspension (in a depressing subterranean room with "an ancient Michael Jordan ‘Reading Is Fundamental' poster that was so old, Jordan had hair"), Robeson Battlefield and Pacino Clapton discover there is more to the other than either suspects over the course of a few days. Pacino nicknames Robeson "Crease" for his well-pressed pants ("You must have an industrial pressing machine at the crib"), uptight nature, and sheltered community where he lives; Robeson is equally quick to judge Pacino, based on his sloppy appearance, coarseness, and wrong-side-of-the-tracks address. But as a school bully's threats escalate and the boys spend time with each others' families, understanding and respect bloom. While Robeson and Pacino can at times seem too good to be true, Barnes paints a realistic and hopeful portrait of a community in which adults and youth alike learn the value of both self-reliance and mutual support. Ages 10–14. (Nov.)