This is a great homage to reading, books, librarians, and the freedom to read. My librarian heart just loves the message of this story.
This would be a great book for group discussion at schools and libraries, since it opens up the topics of censorship and right to read, which can be major issues, especially for middle school libraries in small or rural areas.
As a band geek, and also having a degree in music, I really loved all the band moments in this story. It almost feels like this story was written just for me, to align with all my loves, interests, and career paths, so that’s super fun but obviously won’t apply to all of you.
Having taught middle school for 6 years, the voice was off for me and felt much more YA than MG. The dialogue is also very mature and contained none of the uncertainty or social awkwardness of middle school interactions, which is something I happen to love about that age level. That being said, I think my 6th graders would have loved this story, because most middle grade readers like to read up. They love to read about characters who are older and more mature. They also love to read about characters who are confident and brave, which June definitely is. I suspect this book will fly off the library shelves.
There are some situations that are a bit extreme, so you do have to be willing to suspend disbelief a few times. For example:
SPOILERS HERE: (ends at next all caps)
what happens with so many of the books in the school library being boxed up and hauled out is pretty extreme, and most libraries and schools, even those in small and rural areas in the midwest (which is where I worked for 6 years), have policies and procedures in place for dealing with challenges to materials and censorship issues. Also, most administrators and school staff are well-educated and trained in how to handle matters such as this.
I did deal with some wild behaviors from parents, as a middle school librarian in a very conservative town, and there are some towns that do seem to employ administrators and staff who make poor choices in challenge situations, as we see it in the news from time to time. However, the level this went to before it got national media coverage shocked me.
With such a well-trained librarian, her first call would have been to her library association, who would have loudly supported and backed her up at a statewide level. Then her next call probably would have been to her teaching association, who would have challenged the legality of the suspension and protected her legal rights. ALA would have received notice right away, either from the school librarian, or a library friend, and they likely would have investigated and added legal support, in addition to potentially calling in the ACLU for help and media coverage.
One thing library folk do well is stand out against censorship and stand up for the right to read, and this school had an amazing librarian. In a real life situation, she would have taken action, as that is what would have been in the best interests of her learning community. Now, the reality of the situation is, that while most librarians and educators would know these things, most students aren’t going to, so it won’t interrupt their enjoyment of the story.
Honestly, it was something I tried to look past, because the extreme nature of this situation, though unlikely, really helped along the plot and theme of the story. And the reality is that most actual book challenges are very boring and not worth writing a story about, so I probably wouldn’t have wanted to read the book had it followed what is realistic in a situation like this.
SPOILERS END HERE
Overall, this is an excellent, heartfelt story about the power and value of reading, and I truly enjoyed it. The fact that the voice is more YA might even be in this book’s favor, as it’s going to increase the appeal of the novel to some adult readers who tend to like YA but sometimes struggle with MG stories.
Also, the audiobook narration is excellent, and this would be a great book to listen to and discuss on a family road trip. If you have children, you should totally do that. This directive is middle school teacher, library media specialist, and band queen approved. You’re very welcome. 😉
Book 327 read in 2018