cover image My Year in the Middle

My Year in the Middle

Lila Quintero Weaver. Candlewick, $15.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9231-5

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. (July)