*Starred Review* A profound treatise about institutional racism for the middle-grade set, Rhodes' (Ghost Boys, 2018) latest elevates beyond simple moralizing into a penetrating look into the soul of a young person struggling with how to become a Black man of character in a world that expects him to be less. Dropping the reader directly into a tony prep-school office where Donte anxiously awaits judgement for an offense he did not commit, Rhodes dials readers immediately into the boy's acute dread as he cycles through feelings of shame, anger, and confusion, ultimately leading to a nonconfrontation that causes him to be arrested. As we learn more about Donte and his biracial family, including his lighter-skinned brother, we come to root for him and his pursuit of redemption as he seeks to prove his self-worth to his bullies and his school community through fencing. His coach, one of the first Black Olympic fencers, helps him refine his talent and his ability to deal with the inequities he experiences on a regular basis. An entertaining story and happy ending does not take away from this powerful examination of how the educational and justice systems punitively treat children of color—and how this bias impacts their self-perception and esteem. A powerful work and a must-have for children's collections. Grades 5-8. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
In this novel, Rhodes brings middle graders a story of two biracial brothers, Donte and Trey, navigating racism, colorism, and bullying. Older brother Trey, the lighter-skinned sibling of the boys' black ("Mom thinks Nigerian and Congolese") mother and white (Scotch-Irish and Norwegian) father, is considered the "white brother." Donte, the "black brother," feels like he's "swimming in whiteness" at Middlefield Prep School, where he is regularly bullied because of his skin tone. When Alan, who constantly targets Donte, throws a pencil and Donte is blamed for it—then arrested when he expresses frustration—Donte's ready to fight back, on Alan's home turf: the fencing mat. Donte finds an African-American former Olympian to coach him, and trains to defeat Alan and earn his respect, all while he deals with his own legal troubles and the civil rights case his mother files. This novel offers a solid story, with relatable, three-dimensional characters considering identity, that will teach readers about colorism's effects. Ages 8–12. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich. (Mar.)
Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.
School Library Journal Reviews
Gr 4–6—Donte is having a difficult time adjusting to life at Middlefield Prep. Going to public school in New York City to now being one of the only black boys at a prep school in Newton, MA, is a dramatic shift. What's worse, all the kids at school keep bullying him and singling him out as different, while his lighter-skinned brother, Trey, passes with ease. After one too many incidents with Alan, the captain of the school fencing team, Donte decides that he has to beat him at his own game. This quest sets Donte and Trey off on a mission to find Mr. Jones, a black former Olympic fencer and Boston Boys and Girls Club employee, who agrees to teach them how to fence. Along the way, Donte makes friends, becomes an excellent fencer, and finds his place in the Boston area. In the first part of the book, Donte's school calls the police after he throws his backpack to the ground, and he is forced to go to juvenile court. Rhodes points out his privilege in being well off, and how the court is willing to treat him differently after seeing his white father and white-passing brother. Donte's story is a good primer for younger readers on microaggressions. Though the first few chapters of the book focus heavily on Donte's mistreatment at school, the story quickly moves into a heavy focus on his fencing journey. The depiction of Donte's confidence growing with each lesson and as he makes friends at the Boys and Girls Club is interesting and exciting. Readers will want to learn more about the sport. VERDICT Give to readers who love Jason Reynolds's "Track" series or Jewell Parker Rhodes's other offerings for young readers.—Kelsey Socha, Ventress Memorial Library, Marshfield, MA
Copyright 2020 School Library Journal.
Routinely compared to his submissive lighter-skinned brother, a Black boy at an elitist prep school is unfairly suspended in the wake of an incident involving the school bully, whom he tries to defeat in a fencing competition. By the award-winning author of Ghost Boys. 50,000 first printing. Simultaneous eBook. - (Baker & Taylor)
Suspended unjustly from elite Middlefield Prep, Donte Ellison studies fencing with a former champion, hoping to put the racist fencing team captain in his place. - (Baker & Taylor)
From award-winning and bestselling author, Jewell Parker Rhodes comes a powerful coming-of-age story about two brothers, one who presents as white, the other as black, and the complex ways in which they are forced to navigate the world, all while training for a fencing competition.
Framed. Bullied. Disliked. But I know I can still be the best.
Sometimes, 12-year-old Donte wishes he were invisible. As one of the few black boys at Middlefield Prep, most of the students don't look like him. They don't like him either. Dubbing him "Black Brother," Donte's teachers and classmates make it clear they wish he were more like his lighter-skinned brother, Trey.
When he's bullied and framed by the captain of the fencing team, "King" Alan, he's suspended from school and arrested.
Terrified, searching for a place where he belongs, Donte joins a local youth center and meets former Olympic fencer Arden Jones. With Arden's help, he begins training as a competitive fencer, setting his sights on taking down the fencing team captain, no matter what.
As Donte hones his fencing skills and grows closer to achieving his goal, he learns the fight for justice is far from over. Now Donte must confront his bullies, racism, and the corrupt systems of power that led to his arrest.
Powerful and emotionally gripping, Black Brother, Black Brother is a careful examination of the school-to-prison pipeline and follows one boy's fight against racism and his empowering path to finding his voice.
- (Grand Central Pub