By Kekla Magoon
(Aladdin, Hardcover, 9781416978046, 224pp.)
Publication Date: January 4, 2011
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
Set in a suburb of Las Vegas, Ella and Zachary, called Z, have been friends forever, but Z has always been “the weird kid” in their class. He collects stubby pencils, plays chess, and maintains an elaborate –and public– fantasy life, starring himself as a brave knight. Z’s games were okay back in 3rd or 4th grade, but by now their other friends have ditched them both. Z doesn’t care, but Ella longs to be part of a group of friends, even though most of the class makes fun of her. Ella’s mother is black and her father (now deceased) was white, and she’s the only black girl in their sixth grade class. When a new boy, Bailey, moves to town, he befriends Ella, because they are now the only two black kids in class. But Bailey is popular – popular enough to make Ella cool and give her a wider circle of friends – but only if she stops hanging out with Z. Ella’s faced with a difficult decision – remain loyal to the boy who has been her best and only friend for years, or pass up the opportunity to be one of the popular kids that she has always longed to be.
Kekla Magoon has worked with youth-serving nonprofit organizations in New York City and Chicago. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and her first novel, The Rock and the River, won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent. She resides in New York City and you can visit her at KeklaMagoon.com.
"This elegantly crafted story features strong writing and solid characterizations of both main and secondary characters. Ella and Bailey’s racial identity is one element in a full and richly textured narrative. An out-of-the-ordinary setting—just outside of Las Vegas—and the nuanced picture of young teens and families under stress make this an outstanding follow-up to Magoon’s Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning debut, The Rock and the River (2009).
-KIRKUS, December 2010, *STAR
"Magoon writes with insight, wit, and compassion. Characters are appealing; action is well paced; and adolescent angst is palpable. Although Ella’s skin condition and Z’s psychological problems are not clearly defined, the trauma of both is conveyed. Ella is caught between a desire to hang out with Bailey and the popular crowd or remain loyal to eccentric Z, and her actions, musings, and guilt will resonate with readers.–Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC
-SLJ, January 2011
"This novel, by the author of The Rock and the River (2009), is a sensitive, quietly powerful look at discovering inner strength, coping, and thriving—or not—in the face of tragedy.— Heather Booth
BOOKLIST, February 2011
"All characters are well constructed. The story is written in a style that many early teens would appreciate for its real life parallels and issues. "
-Library Media Connection, May/June 2011