Gr. 5-8 Mac Delaney is a smart and curious sixth-grader whose mother and grandfather encourage dialogue, learning, and calling out injustices, including glaring omissions in history lessons. When Mac and his friends, Marci and Dennis, are assigned to a literature circle to read (prolific author) Jane Yolen’s book about the Holocaust, The Devil’s Arithmetic, they’re thrilled to be reading together. Then Mac finds black rectangles blocking out certain words and phrases in the book, and he realizes he and his friends are victims of one form of censorship. The three set out to learn exactly what’s being censored, who’s responsible for the black rectangles, and what the school board intends to do about this obstruction to their learning. Every challenge they meet—including adults who treat them as if they are just dumb kids—fuels their convictions. Along with Mac’s grandfather, Mac and his friends spend Saturdays protesting outside the local independent bookstore—not against the bookstore but to bring awareness of this travesty to book lovers, book shoppers, and passersby. The novel’s publication is perfectly timed in light of the resurgence of book banning currently occurring in our country, and these spot-on characters perfectly illustrate how censorship is an impediment to education. Sprinkled into the story are the sweaty palms of one’s first crush and the ups and downs of a single-parent family. These kids are excellent examples of the awareness, drive, and intelligence that are often overlooked in 11- and 12-year-olds.
Attack of the Black Rectangles by Amy Sarig King published on September 6, 2022.