12-year-old Mac has been raised by his mother and grandfather to stand up for the truth. When his 6th grade class are given copies of Jane Yolan’s The Devil’s Arithmetic for a literacy unit, he’s shocked to see some words are blacked out. He and his friends, Denis and Marci, buy a copy at the bookstore to find out what has been censored. When they discover the word “breast” has been blacked out, they’re furious that someone thinks they’re too immature to read that.
They start a campaign to get the censored books replaced with new copies which turns into a town-wide debate about book banning and First Amendment Rights.
It’s not just about censorship though. This is also Mac’s story about a typical sixth grader experiencing the normal issues of that age such as his first crush and the insecurity that comes with that. Unfortunately, he’s also dealing with a cruel, possibly mentally ill father whose scheduled visits become more erratic and strange, leaving Mac angry and confused.
I think Mac’s story stands on its own merit as a wonderful middle grade novel and I recommend it for ages ten and up. I also recommend it as a conversation starter. It’s unabashed criticism of censorship and book banning is sure to stir the pot of this controversial subject.
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