Linked by Gordon Korman

Linked by Gordon Korman. Scholastic Press, 2021. 9781338629118

Format: Uncorrected proof

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre: Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book?  Chokecherry, Colorado is a pretty quiet place.  As far as most of the residents know, their town’s claim to fame is the discovery of some fossilized dinosaur poop currently being excavated by a team of visiting paleontologists.  So it is surprising to everyone when a swastika appears on a wall in the middle school; as school and town officials take action to find the vandal and implement a tolerance education unit, the students try to create their own way forward.  They hit upon the idea of assembling a paper chain with links representing the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and kids from all factions of student life get involved.  Unfortunately, swastikas keep appearing all over the school, and it is soon revealed that the Ku Klux Klan has a history in Chokecherry.  The town gains national attention thanks in part to ReelTok, a YouTube star who has set up camp in town to get to the truth.  

Linked is told in rotating chapters by several of the main student characters (as well as transcripts of interviews with ReelTok.)  Link, a popular prankster, has just learned that his grandmother was taken in as an infant by nuns after losing her entire family to the Holocaust.  Despite his Catholic upbringing, Link decides to embrace his Jewish heritage and sets out to prepare for his bar mitzvah.  Dana, the daughter of one of the paleontologists, is the only Jewish student at the middle school and as such finds herself suddenly the center of attention, despite being previously ignored by most.  Michael is one of the only students of color at Chokecherry Middle School; he heads up the art club and thus the paper chain project, and was also the first person to see the first swastika.  Caroline is the president of the 7th grade class, who is excited about the great publicity the project is bringing to the school – including truckloads of paper chain being shipped in from around the world.  While the mystery of the swastikas hangs over all of their heads, these students and others come together in unexpected ways to confront the realities of prejudice and racism in their town and create a tribute to the victims of the Holocaust.  The ultimate revelation will likely surprise readers, and even though the immediate crisis is resolved, it leaves a lot of questions for further discussion.  Gordon Korman is a master at creating characters his readers can recognize and relate to, and Linked is no exception; incorporating themes of acceptance and inclusion make it a real page-turner. 

Anything you did not like about the book? No

To whom would you recommend this book? This will appeal to Gordon Korman’s legion of fans as well as readers of ‘school story’ authors like Andrew Clements or Rob Buyea.  An appropriate readaloud in grades 4-6 along the lines of Alan Gratz’ Ban This Book

Who should buy this book? Public, elementary and middle school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Fiction

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts

Date of review: September 9, 2021

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