Powerhouse middle-grade writer Gordon Korman turns his attention to the troubling issue of antisemitism, which has been appearing more and more frequently in the daily news. It is a subject that middle school readers currently need to address by reading about as well as by discussing the issue with their parents and teachers. This book may help initiate such discussions.
Protagonist Linc, his friends, and his family live in a quiet, mostly serene town, the claim to fame of which has been the discovery of prehistoric dinosaur tracks, until now. Now everyone is in shock to find that someone has vandalized the local school with a huge painted swastika. Members of the community, both adults and children, are quick both to suspect and defend one another. They decide to take action.
The principal initiates a “tolerance education” program, and the student council, inspired by the famous “Six Million Paper Clips” project in Tennessee, decides to begin a project of its own: construction of a huge paper chain made of six million links to hang on the walls of the school building. Linc becomes involved in this endeavor and also befriends Dana, the daughter of the only Jewish family in town.
Being a part of an enthusiastic school initiative, getting to know Dana, and finding out some previously unknown information about his own family background cause Linc to change, grow, and confront interesting and ugly truths about himself and the world around him. He learns about family and world history, as well as personal responsibility, and he struggles to figure out where he fits into the larger picture of the many truths he begins to absorb. He also begins to understand some of the uses, and especially the abuses, of media, a particularly important issue for young readers to examine and explore.
Interesting, provocative, and worth reading, the story may have been even more powerful had the original swastika been drawn by an antisemitic townsperson. The town’s Ku Klux Klan’s history, previously only rumored, is exposed. There is much to learn and discuss here, and the story ends on a note of positive action and emotional growth. An author’s note explains more about the renowned Tennessee paper clip project and provides some useful internet links, which will help readers learn more about racism and the Holocaust.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.