Attack of the Black Rectangles by Amy Sarig King

Attack of the Black Rectangles by Amy Sarig King. Scholastic, 2022. 9781338680522

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

Format: ARC (9/22 pub date)

Genre:  Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? What do you do when your teacher assigns you a book with words crossed out? If you’re Mac Delaney, you ask ‘Why?’ and ‘By whom?’ It turns out that the grownups at Mac’s school aren’t thrilled to answer those questions.

Mac is in sixth grade, and he’s tired of teachers and other grownups treating him like a kid. He and his his friends Marci and Denis are not satisfied with the answers they are given as to why the word ‘breasts’ is elided from Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic. If they can learn about the Holocaust, they certainly can handle the word for a part of human anatomy. The friends start a campaign to bring attention to the censorship of their reading material, and are supported by Mac’s eccentric, funny grandfather. But Mac also has other worries: his estranged Dad has disappeared, taking Grandad’s car, Mac’s baseball equipment and other household items. Mac wonders if he will turn out like his dad, angry and selfish and unlikable. Plus, Mac starts to feel a crush on Marci. How can he balance all of these pressures?

Mac immediately draws readers in with his blunt, first person narration, seeming older than his years. He’s also very funny in his observations of his family and classmates. What a likable character, despite his low opinion of himself! Marci, Denis and Grandad, and even the bully Aaron are nicely fleshed out and believable. In addition to taking on the issue of censorship of a real book (Jane Yolen even has a walk-on role in the story!), this engaging novel is also an exploration of Mac’s deeply personal existential crisis around his flawed father. I love the character of Grandad – an older person who has a lifelong practice of mindfulness to deal with his PTSD from war – and he plays an important role in helping Mac figure out how to process his emotions.

An author’s note explains that the story is based on what happened at her elementary school with the same book. She also gives several sources to consult if a reader faces book challenges at their school.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  Middle grader readers who like realistic fiction that takes on social issues. It’s a great classroom read on the subject of censorship, especially during Banned Books Week!

Who should buy this book? Elementary, middle school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: September 16, 2022

This entry was posted in *Book Review, Amy Sarig King, ARC, Censorship, Middle grade novel, Realistic fiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.