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Minnie McClary Speaks Her Mind

Minnie McClary Speaks Her Mind

5.0 6
by Valerie Hobbs

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Minnie McClary is the new girl and knows that she doesn't quite fit in, especially not after she lost it one day in language arts. In art, Minnie has to paint a self portrait—but how can she do this when she doesn't even know who she is anymore? Things aren't great at home, either. Her uncle Bill is building a huge replica of the Apache helicopter he flew in


Minnie McClary is the new girl and knows that she doesn't quite fit in, especially not after she lost it one day in language arts. In art, Minnie has to paint a self portrait—but how can she do this when she doesn't even know who she is anymore? Things aren't great at home, either. Her uncle Bill is building a huge replica of the Apache helicopter he flew in Iraq, and her father has blown some sort of whistle and has to start over in a new job.
Then Miss Marks takes over Minnie's language class and encourages students to think critically about everything. They write their thoughts and questions in journals, marking the most private entries For Your Eyes Only. Minnie and her classmate Amira are inspired, but some people in town wonder why Miss Marks is encouraging students to ask these questions and just what, exactly, she's teaching. When a group of angry parents demands Miss Marks's suspension, Minnie finds herself asking a lot of questions—and figuring out what she has the power to change.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Suzanna E. Henshon
Have you ever been the new kid at school? Minnie McClary has just moved to Mojave, and she's the new kid on the block. She's lonely and misses her old friends. Why did her family have to move? Setting foot inside Mojave Elementary School, Minnie worries about making friends and fitting in. She doesn't know anyone at school and on the very first day Minnie makes the mistake of telling the entire class to be quiet. What could be more embarrassing? Soon Mindy meets Amira, and the two girls become friends. Mindy also enjoys learning from her new teacher, Miss Marks, who wears jeans and has a tattoo on her foot. Mindy loves writing in her journal, and pursuing self-discovery. But the people of Mojave challenge Miss Marks as a teacher, and Mindy worries that Miss Marks will lose her job. Should Mindy speak up, even if she can't change the course of events? Young readers will enjoy meeting this courageous heroine, who steps out of the pages of this book and becomes larger-than-life in the reader's imagination. Reviewer: Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D.
Kirkus Reviews
A shy sixth-grader learns to speak out against prejudice when her community rushes to judge an unusual teacher. Minnie is new to the school; her family has downsized since her father lost his job after objecting to an employee's unfair treatment. Minnie's newly minted teacher, Miss Marks, whose jeans and T-shirts, multiple ear piercings, tattoo and rumored lesbianism immediately raise eyebrows, captivates her language arts class with her unique teaching style. She's thoughtful and wise, challenging the class to think objectively, especially about prejudice. Minnie observes growing bias against not just Miss Marks, but also her new Muslim friend, Amira, but she's torn between remaining safely unobtrusive or taking a stand for what's right. Her Uncle Bill, an amputee war veteran, provides just the right nudge to Minnie as he begins to take control of his life. While Minnie's character is well-developed, others are painted with a frustratingly broad brush. Astute readers may wonder why Minnie's mother makes such a rush to judgment, facilely dismissing her daughter's opinion, and why there is such a sharp, seemingly swift response against a largely effective teacher. Some side stories lack sufficient development: that of a classmate who's abruptly withdrawn from school and another about a possible breach of Miss Marks' privacy at home by older students. Ultimately, this important topic deserves a more in-depth exploration than this brief, albeit thoughtful, effort offers. (Fiction. 10-13)
From the Publisher

“Fans of Claudia Mills' thoughtful and sometimes anxious protagonists will definitely take to Minnie and appreciate her widening understanding.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“Readers will cheer this protagonist on as she finds her voice--and perhaps be inspired to make their own voices heard.” —School Library Journal

School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—Minnie's family, including her uncle, who lost a leg in the Iraq War, had to move when her dad "blew the whistle" at work and lost his job. Now Minnie is the new kid at Mojave Middle School, and she's not sure where she fits in. When a new language-arts teacher arrives at Mojave, she is unlike any teacher the sixth-grader has ever had. Young, hip Miss Marks encourages her students to ask questions-and draws negative attention from parents for her unconventional wardrobe and her tattoo, and for rumors that she's a lesbian. But Minnie loves Miss Marks; she makes Minnie think about important things and encourages her students to speak up. Because of this teacher, Minnie finds the courage to stand up for her Muslim friend and against prejudice, and eventually to stand up for Miss Marks, too. Readers will cheer this protagonist on as she finds her voice-and perhaps be inspired to make their own voices heard.—Laurie Slagenwhite Walters, Peachtree Montessori International, Ann Arbor, MI

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.30(w) x 5.60(h) x 1.00(d)
610L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 13 Years

Read an Excerpt

10:02. Room 2, Mojave Middle School, Home of the Mustangs.
Minnie McClary, row one, seat four, nervously watched the clock. If a teacher did not show up in exactly three minutes, Room 2 was going to explode. It had happened yesterday, and the day before that, and it was sure to happen again.
Some little thing would set it off, a belch or a fart, a spitwad would fly. Kids would wriggle in their seats. One boy would leave his desk, then another. They would prowl the room like dogs sniffing for trouble, or do some dopey thing to make everybody nervous, like standing on the teacher’s desk.
Minnie was trying not to worry about what would happen today. It was not her job to keep order. Like the rest of the class, she was only a kid. Unlike them, she was the new kid. She didn’t know where she fit in yet, or if she ever would.
She bit her lip and waited.
10:03. Feet shuffled, backpacks unzipped, forbidden cell phones appeared. Alicia, who always sighed dramatically, sighed dramatically. The boy who had allergies and never blew his nose began his nervous sniffle. Somebody hummed the theme from Jaws. Derek’s fingers drummed the desk.
Minnie tried to think about things outside this classroom, like the blank canvas in art class that was supposed to turn into a self-portrait. Her brother, Dylan, who had stopped being nice the minute he turned thirteen. Her uncle Bill, who was building a helicopter in the basement.
She tried not to think about her mom and dad arguing about Uncle Bill, but one thought led to the next, and then she was worrying. Minnie worried too much, her mother said. She should be having fun, like a normal eleven-year-old girl.
10:04. Amira, the girl across from Minnie, turned to her with dark, troubled eyes. She seemed to be thinking what Minnie was thinking: what if nobody came? In the three weeks since school began, their class had had five different subs. Only one of them, the principal’s wife, stayed longer than two days. She had gone on and on about the beauty of verb phrases, and then went home and had a baby.
Mr. Delgado came next. He yelled so loud the windows rattled.
Miss Valentine, number three, had laryngitis and couldn’t talk at all.
Mr. Spinks, a retired engineer, taught them how to make stealth planes out of notebook paper. He didn’t know what a verb phrase was.
And now their language arts class had fallen apart.
10:05. “Ow!” yelled Carl. He leaped from his desk, rubbing the back of his head. “Who did that?” He dived on Jorge and knocked him to the floor. Two of the girls and all of the boys, except for Todd Ingram, whose mother was the school board president, flocked to the back of the room.
Todd sat quietly and drew. Theresa the goth girl opened a book and began to read. Amira bowed her head. A trash can went clattering across the floor. Kids yelled and whooped and jumped around Carl and Jorge, who were scuffling on the floor.
Minnie counted to ten. Twice. She looked at the door through which no one was coming. She checked the clock: 10:06. Her face felt hot and her ears itched. She could not keep her feet still. Without thinking, without really knowing what she was doing, Minnie jumped up out of her seat and, with her fists clenched, shouted “Stop!” as loud as her voice would go. “Stop it!”
And something extraordinary happened. As if Minnie had cast a spell, every kid in the room did exactly what she said. They stopped what they were doing and froze in place. Now they were all staring at her, at Minnie the new girl, the very short, hardly noticeable new girl in the first row. Even Amira, the girl who might have been a friend, stared at her in horror, as if Minnie had sprouted horns.
Even Minnie seemed to be staring at Minnie. She could not believe what she had done, or that the floor would not open and let her drop through.
10:07. The doorway filled with the huge body of their principal, Mr. Butovsky, wearing his navy blue suit and a red tie knotted beneath his chins. “Back to your seats!” he bellowed. Kids scurried to their desks, quick as lizards. Minnie slid into her seat, her heart ticking like a clock gone haywire.
Mr. Butovsky had been their sub for two days. He had read to them out of a book called Crime and Punishment. For a while the class had been patient. But the words were huge and the sentences went on forever. “So he kept torturing himself,” Mr. Butovsky had read, looking down over his three chins and through the reading glasses balanced on the end of his nose, “tormenting himself with these questions, and he seemed even to derive some pleasure from it.”
No one could understand why the principal had chosen to read them the crime book. Yes, they had been bad. Yes, they had thrown spitwads and played games on the phones they weren’t supposed to bring to class. But they didn’t murder any little old ladies like the guy in the book did.
They had listened a while longer to find out what their punishment would be. Maybe this was their punishment! One by one they had all given up on the crime book, even Minnie, who always did everything right.
But Mr. Butovsky was upbeat today and all of his chins were smiling. “I have some very good news, children,” he said, righting the trash can. “We have found you a teacher.”
Nobody said a word. Room 2, fourth-period language arts, was wary of new teachers who blew in and out like the wind across the desert.
“Her name is Miss Marks and she’ll be starting tomorrow,” he said. “You will have her for the rest of the year.”
“The whole year?” said Alicia, who was pretty and brave and always spoke up.
“The whole year,” said Mr. Butovsky. “Now let’s get to work, shall we?” He opened Crime and Punishment to the page he had marked. Eyes glazed over. Jorge laid his head on his desk. Carl used his backpack as a pillow. Amira sat without seeming to breathe, as patient as stone.
Minnie tried, really tried, to listen, but all she could think about, the only thing she could think about, was what she had done. The enormity of the thing. How she had jumped right up out of her seat and yelled at the top of her lungs. She still couldn’t believe that she’d done it. Her face tingled with shame. Her whole body felt hot and sticky. It was wrong. It was wronger than wrong: it was embarrassing, and she would never live it down.
She sat with her hands clenched together, her own shrill voice still ringing in her ears.
Mr. Butovsky looked up from the book, squinting at the window. “Will somebody please lower that blind?” he said. Nobody moved. Then Carl, from the very last seat in the very last row, in his nastiest, nasally voice, said, “Let Miss Goody-Goody do it.”
Every face turned toward Minnie.
Derek and Carl did a fist bump. “Dude!” said Derek.
Somebody snickered, then somebody else.
Minnie stopped breathing. She blinked and blinked to hold back her tears, but they leaked out all the same, rolling over her cheeks and off her chin as Amira, wearing her black head scarf, got up and with her perfect dancer’s posture went to the window and lowered the blind, and Minnie waited to die.

Text copyright © 2012 by Valerie Hobbs

Meet the Author

Valerie Hobbs is the recipient of the 1999 PEN/Norma Klein Award, a biennial prize that recognizes "an emerging voice of literary merit among American writers of children's fiction." She is the author of young adult and middle-grade novels including Sheep, Defiance, Anything but Ordinary, and The Last Best Days of Summer. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in English from the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she has taught academic writing. Valerie lives in Santa Barbara, California, with her husband.

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Minnie McClary Speaks Her Mind 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hair: long blonde and wavy <br> Eyes: shimmering blue like clear ocean waters <br> bo<_>ob size: 36 DD <br> body type: fit with curves and a shaved pu<_>ssy <br> about: im a model, i dance and cheerlead, im Athletic and single :) <br> Love <br> Minnie &infin
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its the best book ever
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love how she has to learn how to stand up for other people who are different like her teacher and her new friend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All out of my mind book ,read it today
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yey. Well, anyways, I'm gonna sleep. Love you. *He kisses her goodbye* "Sleep well."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago