Saturday, April 1, 2023

‘Attack of the Black Rectangles’ Review: A Timely Lesson on Censorship

BOOKSBOOK REVIEWS'Attack of the Black Rectangles' Review: A Timely Lesson on Censorship

Award-winning author Amy Sarig King takes a hard look at censorship and intolerance in her latest novel Attack of the Black Rectangles from Scholastic. It is written from the point of view of 12-year-old Mac Delaney who experiences censorship and difficulties at home that force him to action. Along with his two best friends, Mac embarks on a mission to fight the black rectangles in his class copy of The Devil’s Arithmetic.

“When Mac first opens his classroom copy of Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic and finds some words blacked out, he thinks it must be a mistake. But then when he and his friends discover what the missing words are, he’s outraged. Someone in his school is trying to prevent kids from reading the full story. But who? Even though his unreliable dad tells him to not get so emotional about a book (or anything else), Mac has been raised by his mom and grandad to call out things that are wrong. He and his friends head to the principal’s office to protest the censorship… but her response doesn’t take them seriously. So many adults want Mac to keep his words to himself. Mac’s about to see the power of letting them out.”

King’s novel is an exemplary novel for kids to learn about the concept of censorship and the avenues available to them to fight various injustices around them. As Mac’s journey takes him from the classroom to the office and eventually to peaceful protests, the mindset of the 12-year-old is accessible and well-written for young readers. Not only does the book highlight this issue but several others that will be familiar for many in today’s world as education comes under fire. King takes a hard look at what it means to keep words from kids “for their own good” and the ways that might be damaging to their intellectual journeys in school and relationships with the history of our world.

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Just because children are children doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of understanding complex issues or reading “grown up words,” which is exactly what King demonstrates. Attack of the Black Rectangles is written from King’s personal experience with censorship in schools. This is a great novel to open communication with kids about the topic as well as educate them in a very real and relatable way through young Mac. Not only is he battling this at school, but his home life is also in turmoil. Thankfully, his beautiful support system in his mother and grandfather help him deal with the difficult emotions he’s experiencing. Mac’s is a story many kids will likely find familiar, and it’s written perfectly for maximum impact with exceptional explanations for how to tackle these topics.

Attack of the Black Rectangles will be available online and in stores September 6.

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