Mighty Inside

Levine Querido. Oct. 2021. 248p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781646140916.
Gr 4-7–In September 1955 in Spokane, WA, Melvin, a young Black boy, and his family are living in a predominantly white neighborhood. The presence of a small, supportive Black community within it does not stop the bigotry. Starting high school is intimidating enough, but between his stutter and the two racist bullies who will not leave him alone, life is tough. His brother Chuck gives him a list of dos and don’ts, but it is too difficult to follow the advice. Luckily, he meets Lenny, a Jewish sax player who quickly becomes a good friend. Lenny plays music, lives above the famous Harlem Club, and encourages Melvin to speak with Millie, the Japanese American girl whom Melvin has a crush on. Not only do the conversations with Millie make Melvin more confident, they increase his awareness of the treatment of Japanese people during World War II. Racial tensions build to a climactic confrontation that is based on experiences from the author’s own family.
VERDICT Set during the same time as the brutal murder of Emmett Till, this powerful novel weaves strong characters into the tapestry of civil rights, treatment of people with disabilities, fallout fear from the war, and ever-changing cultural shifts that defined the 1950s. An excellent middle grade purchase for any library.

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