The Skin I'm In

( 145 )


Maleeka suffers every day from the taunts of the other kids in her class. If they're not getting at her about her homemade clothes or her good grades, it's about her dark, black skin.

When a new teacher, whose face is blotched with a startling white patch, starts at their school, Maleeka can see there is bound to be trouble for her too. But the new teacher's attitude surprises Maleeka. Miss Saunders loves the skin she's in. Can Maleeka learn to...

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Maleeka suffers every day from the taunts of the other kids in her class. If they're not getting at her about her homemade clothes or her good grades, it's about her dark, black skin.

When a new teacher, whose face is blotched with a startling white patch, starts at their school, Maleeka can see there is bound to be trouble for her too. But the new teacher's attitude surprises Maleeka. Miss Saunders loves the skin she's in. Can Maleeka learn to do the same?

Thirteen-year-old Maleeka, uncomfortable because her skin is extremely dark, meets a new teacher with a birthmark on her face and makes some discoveries about how to love who she is and what she looks like.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Rebecca Joseph
In this remarkable first novel, Flake confronts issues of race and self esteem. Her protagonist Maleeka Madison is tormented by other students because of her dark skin. When Maleeka meets her new teacher Miss Saunders, she thinks she has finally someone who is worse off than her, because Miss Saunders's skin is blotched from a rare skin condition. As she watches Miss Saunders refuse to accept the taunts of children, Maleeka begins to explore her response mechanisms to the cruelty of her peers. In rethinking how she defends herself, Maleeka learns that she too often judges people by their appearances. This provocative novel explores the ways in which people's own insecurities can affect how they are treated along with how they behave.
ALAN Review
Maleeka Madison has problems fitting in with others at her school. Her hair is too nappy, her skin is too dark, her grades are too good, her clothes are too weird, and her teachers are too fond of her. She desperately tries to make friends and to be accepted by her peers. Her situation drastically changes when she meets Miss Saunders, and the changes are not always for the better. The Skin I'm In is a compelling novel of a young girl's struggle with self-acceptance and acceptance by her peer group. Through her struggles and with her teacher's help, she learns "to look into the mirror and like what [she sees], even when it doesn't look like anybody else's idea of beauty." Readers will find strong characters and an engaging plot in this book. Genre: Coming of Age/Realistic Fiction. 1998, Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, Ages 9 to 12, $14.95. Reviewer: Terrell Young
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Seventh-grader Maleeka Madison is miserable when a new teacher comes to her depressed inner-city school. Miss Saunders evidently is rich, self-assured in spite of the white birthmark across her black skin, and prone to getting into kids' faces about both their behavior and their academic potential. Black and bright, Maleeka is so swamped by her immediate problems that Miss Saunders's attentions nearly capsize her stability. The girl's mother has just emerged from a two-year period of intense mourning for her dead husband, during which time her daughter has provided her with physical and moral support with no adult assistance. At school, Maleeka endures mean-spirited teasing about the darkness of her skin and her unstylish clothing. She seeks solace in writing an extended creative piece, at Miss Saunders's instigation, and also in the company of a powerful clique of nasty girls. Told in Maleeka's voice, this first novel bristles with attitude that is both genuine and alarming. The young teen understands too well that her brains aren't as valuable as the social standing that she doesn't have. In the end, she is able to respond positively to Miss Saunders; she also becomes socially anointed through the affections of the most popular boy in the school. This message rings true in spite of the fact that Maleeka's salvation isn't exactly politically correct. Young teens will appreciate Flake's authenticity and perhaps realize how to learn from Maleeka's struggle for security and self-assurance.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Kirkus Reviews
A timid seventh grader finds the mettle to shake some bad companions in this patchy esteem-builder from Flake. Tired of being harassed in the halls for her dark skin and homemade clothes, Maleeka latches on to tough, mouthy classmate Charlese for protection, although the cost is high: doing Charlese's homework and enduring her open contempt. Enter Miss Saunders, a large, expensively dressed advertising executive on sabbatical for a year to teach in an inner-city school; Maleeka puts up a hostile front, but slowly, angrily, responds to the woman's "interference," creating a journal that is part diary, part a fictional slave's narrative that later wins a writing contest. As Maleeka inches toward independence, Charlese counterattacks, bullying her into incriminating acts that climaxes with a fire in Miss Saunders's classroom. The violence is contrived, the characters sketchy and predictable, but the relationship that develops between Maleeka and Miss Saunders isn't all one-way. A serviceable debut featuring a main character who grows in clearly composed stages. (Fiction. 11-13) .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781423103851
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Publication date: 7/17/2007
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 36,947
  • Age range: 12 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 670L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.36 (d)

Meet the Author

Sharon G. Flake won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award for her first novel The Skin I'm In and is a two-time Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book winner. Beloved by children and adults, critics and booksellers, librarians and teachers, she is the author of a middle-grade novel and five books for young adults that have sold more than half a million copies. The mother of a college-age daughter, Flake writes full-time from her home in Pittsburgh.

To learn more about Ms. Flake, please visit her at

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

THE FIRST TIME I SEEN HER, I got a bad feeling inside. Not like I was in danger or nothing. Just like she was somebody I should stay clear of. To tell the truth, she was a freak like me. The kind of person folks can't help but tease. That's bad if you're a kid like me. It's worse for a new teacher like her.

    Miss Saunders is as different as they come. First off, she got a man's name, Michael. Now who ever heard of a woman named that? She's tall and fat like nobody's business, and she's got the smallest feet I ever seen. Worse yet, she's got a giant white stain spread halfway across her face like somebody tossed acid on it or something.

    I try not to stare the first day that amazon woman-teacher heads my way. See, I got a way of attracting strange characters. They draw to me like someone stuck a note on my forehead saying, "losers wanted here." Well, I spend a lot of time trying to fit in here at McClenton Middle School. I ain't letting nobody ruin it for me, especially no teacher.

    I didn't even look up when Miss Saunders came up to me that day like I'm some kind of information center.

    "Excuse me," she says. She's wearing a dark purple suit, and a starched white shirt with matching purple buttons. That outfit costs three hundred dollars, easy. "I'm trying to find the principal's office. I know it's around here somewhere. Can you help me?"

    Before I catch myself, my eyes ricochet like pin balls, bounding from John-John McIntrye's beady brown eyes right up to hers. I swallow hard. Stare at her till John-John whacksme on the arm with his rolled-up comic book.

    "That-a-way," I say, pointing up the hall.

    "Thank you. Now what's your name?" she says, putting down her briefcase like she's gonna stay here awhile.

    "Maleeka. Maleeka Madison—the third," I say, smacking my gum real loud.

    "Don't let that fancy name fool you," John-John butts in. "She ain't nobody worth knowing."

    Miss Saunders stares down at him till he turns his head away and starts playing with the buttons on his shirt like some two-year-old.

    "Like I say, the office is that-a-way." I point.

    "Thank you," she says, walking off. Then she stops stone still, like some bright idea has just come to her, turns around, and heads back my way. My skin starts to crawl before she even opens her mouth. "Maleeka, your skin is pretty. Like a blue-black sky after it's rained and rained," she says. Then she smiles and explains how that line comes from a favorite poem of hers. Next thing I know, she's heading down the hall again like nothing much happened.

    When she's far enough away, John-John says to me, "I don't see no pretty, just a whole lotta black." Before I can punch him good, he's singing a rap song. "Maleeka, Maleeka—baboom, boom, boom, we sure wanna keep her, baboom, boom, boom, but she so black, baboom, boom, boom, we just can't see her."

    Before I know it, three more boys is pointing at me and singing that song, too. Me, I'm wishing the building will collapse on top of me.

    John-John McIntyre is the smallest seventh grader in the world. Even fifth graders can see over his head. Sometimes I have a hard time believing he and me are both thirteen. He's my color, but since second grade he's been teasing me about being too black. Last year, when I thought things couldn't get no worse, he came up with this here song. Now, here this woman comes talking that black stuff. Stirring him up again.

    Seems like people been teasing me all my life. If it ain't about my color, it's my clothes. Momma makes them by hand. They look it, too—lopsided pockets, stitching forever unraveling. I never know when a collar's gonna fall off, or a pushpin gonna stick me and make me holler out in class. I stopped worrying about that this year now that Charlese lends me clothes to wear. I stash them in the locker and change into them before first period. I'm like Superman when I get Charlese's clothes on. I got a new attitude, and my teachers sure don't like it none.

    It's bad enough that I'm the darkest, worse-dressed thing in school. I'm also the tallest, skinniest thing you ever seen. And people like John-John remind me of it every chance they get. They don't say nothing about the fact that I'm a math whiz, and can outdo ninth graders when it comes to figuring numbers. Or that I got a good memory and never forget one single, solitary thing I read. They only see what they see, and they don't seem to like what they see much.

    Up till now, I just took it. The name calling. The pushing and shoving and cheating off me. Then last week something happened. I was walking down the hall in one of Char's dresses, strutting my stuff, looking good. Then Char walked up to me and told me to take off her clothes. There was maybe eight or nine kids around when she said it, too, including Caleb. I thought she was kidding. She wasn't. So I went to the girls' room and put my own stuff back on. That's when I made up my mind. Enough is enough. I deserve better than for people to treat me any old way they want. But saying that is one thing, making it happen is something else.

    So you see, I got my own troubles. I don't need no scar-faced teacher making things worse. But I got this feeling Miss Saunders is gonna mess things up for me real bad.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 145 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 145 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 16, 2010

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    Sassy,smart,and dramatic

    When I read this I could completely relate to her.
    I had self esteem problems to and knew how it felt to be bullied in school and be an outcast.

    I really loved this book. I read it three times.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 12, 2011

    This Book Is Awesome!

    Maleeka Madison, an average middle school student, has trouble fitting in at her school. Students tease her about the dark colors of her skin. Maleeka lives with her Mom in a urban area. Her Dad died not too long ago. Maleeka is picked on for the way she dresses, the color of her skin, and she is constantly under peer-pressure around her "so-called" best friends. Her small crew consists of three people: Char, Raina, and Raise. They force her to do things she totally dreads to do and treats her like their own personal slave. One day a new teacher namd Miss Saunders came to their school as an english teacher. Maleeka and other students noticed that she had what looked like a white stain across her forehead. Little did Maleeka know, Miss Saunders was goiong to help her out tremendously in the long-run. When Maleeka got in trouble because of things Char caused, Miss Saunders was the one who helped her, but Maleeka ignored the help and kept hanging with the wrong crowd. Char, Maleeka's friend,decided she did not like Miss Saunders, so she wanted to vandalize her classroom and wanted Maleeka to do the dirtiest work of all. At first they tried to blame it on Maleeka, but she did not want to be falsely accused. On that day, she came out and said who was behind it. After that, she was still in trouble, but she finally accepted herself for the skin she was in. This book is great for people who have trouble finding themselves. It is something that Jr. High kids can actually relate to. Anyone under peer-pressure opr is being bullied should read this book. If you are a young reader looking for something simple, but exciting to read, I definitely reccomend this book. It is fullof irony and surprises on every page. Things that you would have never thought would happen shows up and gets you on the edge of your seat. Once you start reading this, you will not put it down!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    This is an excellent read for all tweens through adults. The culture of our world places restrictions and boundaries based on ethnicity, religion, location, status, and color or the lack of color. It is not about the skin, but what comes from the person.

    Sharon G. Flake clearly painted a profound picture of descrimination and how we make acceptions just so that we can belong to a group of people that are inferior to us. This story is clearly written with no hidden messages. I appreciated that the writing was not filled with empty facts and fluff material to add length to the story.

    This book should be mandatory reading on every middle school, high school, and college campuses. Copies of this book should be placed in teachers lounges and breakrooms around the world.

    Everyone should buy the book, read it, get the message, and pass it on to someone else.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2013

    After reading the book, ¿The Skin I¿m in,¿ by Sharon G. Flake, I

    After reading the book, “The Skin I’m in,” by Sharon G. Flake, I think this book should be read by many others. I think this book is a learning lesson for many people and can teach all of us important lessons. As an earlier review on barnes and noble said, “The Skin I'm In is a compelling novel of a young girl's struggle with self-acceptance and acceptance by her peer group... Readers will find strong characters and an engaging plot in this book, “ Says Terrell Young from ALAN reviews.  As you can tell I’m not the only one who loves this book. This book teaches kids many valuable lessons, has intelligent characters, and can relate to many of us even adults.For example, Maleeka Madison is bullied by other students because of her dark skin. When Maleeka meets her new teacher Miss Saunders, she thinks she has finally met someone who understands what she is going through, because Miss Saunders's skin is blotched from a rare skin condition and gets made fun of as well. This helps Maleeka because Miss Saunders refuse to let the rude remarks of children bring her down.  With that in mind, this makes Maleeka rethink her reactions to the bullying and gets a better perspective on it all.  In rethinking how she defends herself, Maleeka learns that everyone judges people by each other’s appearance, including herself. This shows you the strength in this character because she realizes her own faults and learns from them and uses them in a positive way. After getting bullied, not many people would sit back and analyze what they do, and what they can do to stop it, but Maleeka did which shows her strength. It also shows the valuable lessons, that we have to embrace our insecurities and we can’t let other people bring us down. This also relates to literally every single person at some point in their life, which makes this book very goodPeople are constantly getting judged, whether it’s at school, or at work, you will always be judged. This book shows how you can deal with that and not let it interfere with your life. 
    Moving on, my favorite character in the book is Maleeka. I think she is an example of a flawless and strong person. She went through a lot in the book, from bullying, to getting teased, it was a lot. Almost everyone has been bullied and we can all say it isn’t fun. For Maleeka it was very hard because she was the only one who was black. Therefore, it shows her strength. Over the course of the book, we can see her portray her strength as she doesn’t let people bring her down. On the way she may have done some stupid stuff like being her friends personal slaves, doing everything they say. But as this book is, everything is a learning lesson. She learned from that, and got comfortable in her own skin. It was truly amazing to see her come all that way and finally accept herself, and have other accept her. Wrapping up, my favorite quote of the book was, “It’s not about color, It’s about how you feel about who you are that counts,” (Flake 40). I liked this quote the best because I find it very relative to the main moral of this story that is along the whole course of the book. Constantly in this book we learn about how color isn’t important, and how it’s the inside that counts not the outside. I think in this quote the author articulated it very well and got her moral across very effectively. In conclusion, this book is a wonderful book full of surprises and many valuable life tools that can help us as people. I recommend it to anyone, even adults can relate to it so it;s really for everyone. Just remember once you open the first page, you’ll never be able to put the book down! 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2012

    great book

    great book

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  • Posted March 4, 2012

    This book is GREAT!!! Once i started reading this book i couldn'

    This book is GREAT!!! Once i started reading this book i couldn't put it down. This is a MUST read book!!! ALL GIRLS READ THIS BOOK!!!!

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  • Posted October 10, 2011

    You must check it out!!!!!!!!!

    This book is great because it could wisk you away and make you want to read on to pages after pages

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2011

    Every Girl In The World Should Read This Book!

    I love this book when I was in the sixth grade my teacher Mrs.Richardson read this book to our class I could relate to the character so much( not the tall part i'm short) it was just a eye opener it did change my way of thinking for the better I'm happy to be a beautiful African American young lady I am now 20 years old and I still remember this book I work with children and I can't wait to read this with them.I would recommend this book to girls of all races!

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  • Posted February 10, 2011

    Highly recommended/amazingly interesting

    The Skin I'm In by Sharon G. Flake is a fiction book. This is about a 13 year old girl in middle school. The school that she go's to is McClenton Middle School. Her name is Maleeka Madison. This takes place mostly at school and home. The most she gets picked on is when Miss. Saunders comes along. She is the new teacher in the school. Maleeka's best friend Charlese (Char) HATES being told what to do, but when Miss Saunders steps up to the plate Char doesn't like it at all.

    I would recommend this book from grades 5-8 because it has a lot of things happen that little kid wouldn't understand. I liked The Skin Im In because the action starts right at the beginning. Its not boring and drags on like a fish being pulled out of the water. I also like the character Maleeka because she is out- going and a risk- taker that just wants to have fun. Like when she was walking home from Chars house and she knew that neighborhood was dangerous but she still walked to the and back. But something did happened, remember when I said the boys tried to make her kiss them. Well yeah that was when she was walking home from Chars. Anyway I would rate this book an 8.5 out of 10. This is a good book for when you get bored and have nothing to do on a snow day. When I started reading his book I could not put the book down. It put me in a whole other place, like I didn't even know what was going on in my house.

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  • Posted January 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Necessary Read

    Maleeka Madison didn't always feel bad about herself. It was the taunting and teasing of her peers that caused her to feel like she was nothing because she had dark skin. Besides making fun of her complexion they teased her about her hair and her clothes and they even picked on her because the teachers liked her and because she got good grades. It seemed like there was nothing she could do to be accepted. Then one day Maleeka created a fictional character for an English assignment. Eventually, this made up slave girl helps Maleeka find the courage to speak up for herself, demand respect and accept the skin she's in. This story shows just how much some young people have to deal with and how cruel other young people can be. The message Flake makes very clear: Self acceptance is much more important than social acceptance

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  • Posted January 9, 2011

    Ok book. Good for a quick read.

    I read The Skin I'm In in about two days. It was a very short read with a lot of peer pressure issues being recognized in the story, which I think is important in the life of a teenager. Maleeka is faced with the pressure to kiss the two thugs, burn the school, and skip class to smoke. In the story she frequently writes in her Akeelma diaries to take her mind off the pressure from Charlese that she feels every day. Her feelings of pressure only increase when John-John sings the song written about Maleeka in front of her. Her only real friend is her Mom, who makes her clothes and frequently gives her advice about life. The story escalates when she sneaks into school on a Saturday and burns a classroom to ashes. In reality, it was Charlese that burned the room, but the only Maleeka knows that. The tale was a heart wrenching tale, but poorly written. I do not recommend the story to anyone above seventh grade. Joe Roddey, Ms. Lasley's 2B class.

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  • Posted December 9, 2010

    Come and get this awesome book.!

    Are you looking for a great ,entertaining book that will make you feel like you are actually in the book?Well then check out "The skin I'm In" by Sharon G. Flake. To tell you a little about the book,there is lots of things that this book talks about. The protagonist of this book is maleeka is a young teenage girl that has a pretty tough life because her mom doesn't get paid really good and her dad left her and her mom when meleeka was a little girl. The book begins with maleeka not having enough clothes and wearing the same clothes to school each week so she complains with her mom about that issue.

    The plot gets really good when I start to read about one of maleekas friend. This girl is one of the popular girls in school. Every boy wants to go out with her. All the girls want to be like her. My favorite part of the book was when maleeka stood up for her own self and was not scare of that one girl that she has always been scared of. She had the guts to put the girl in her place. I like this part because that tells me that even though my character may show that she listens and does what other people tell her at least she has something inside of her that tells her to stand up for her self when its the right time.

    As I read,this book made me think about how in every school girls like this girl exist they try to make their friends do bad things just so they can fit in her group. Teens can connect to this book well mostly girls because this problem mostly happens with girls and sometimes with boys. This book helped me realize the you control your life. This theme was clear when I kept on reading on how that girl made maleeka do things she didn't wan to do. To put it in little words she bossed maleeka around too much and when maleeka finally opened her eyes and said "stop I control my life not you".

    I really enjoyed reading this book.! I think this book was in between good and bad. Why? Well because its good in a way that the author describes each event. Its bad because you kind of get tired of reading about the same things that happened each day. I would recommend this book to someone that likes to read about suspense stories about teenage girls.

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  • Posted September 3, 2010

    You must read this amazing book!!!

    Maleeka is a young girl in junior high, with low self-esteem. She is having a hard time dealing with problems at home. At school everyone teases her for the color of her skin. Because of the position she is in she hangs out with the wrong people. The new teacher helps her on her journey to gaining her confidence, to love herself for who she is. She eventually learns to be assertive and to love the skin she was born in.

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  • Posted September 3, 2010

    Perfect for....anyone!

    Maleeka is a teenage girl who tries to fit in the best way she can in middlle school like any other teen! Sharon really knew what she was doing when she wrote it!
    Maleeka,a 6th grader at McCleaton Middle,has beautiful black skin and her peers always pick on her for it.The main one who does it the most is Jhon-Jhon.He always calls her names,makes faces at her and he's even made a mean song about her! When Caleb sees this he stops talking to Maleeka so she won't get picked on,but that makes the problem worse.So with no options left,Maleeka goes to Charlese Jones for help.Char lets her hang with her and the twinsand gives her clothes,but she takes advantage of her.But then,Miss Saunders comes in the picture and changes everything....and she isn't scared of nobody!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2010

    I gave it two stars to be nice.

    I found this book uninspiring and stereotypical. I didn't like it at all.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 10, 2010

    Great read. Wonderful life lesson!

    The author gives insight into not only the lead character but every African American girl that has to deal with the color of her skin and the challenges of life that comes with it. It is an encouraging book that is great for just leisure reading and/or a better understanding of one's self.

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  • Posted March 10, 2010

    The Skin I'm In

    This book is an inspiration for young girls who deal with peer pressure. The story tells about the life of a typical girl in middle school who is finding and becoming comfortable with her self. The book addresses self-esteem, and the audacity of one to make wise decisions. The book is also able to help girls cope with being taunted for their appearances. "I stare at myself for maybe twenty minutes in Daddy's mirror. I don't get it. I think I'm kind of nice-looking. Why don't other people see what I see? I think." The main character (Maleeka) struggles with being pulled in various directions by friends, family, and teachers. Maleeka's teachers and her mother want to see her do well, her friend's not so much. At the end of the day the most important thing to remember is that you only have yourself. Flake does an outstanding job portraying teenaged girls and their struggles.

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  • Posted October 13, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    about maleeka

    Maleeka is like a responsible person that I will probably be her but right now I would be myself but if I was her I would not listen to Charlese and Charlese would fight me I would fight her back because if you tell the teacher they would care but Char wouldn't.Since JuJu(charlese only oldest sister)wouldn't care either.The only time when she care is when Miss Saunders let Char past she would be more happy. But Maleeka she love to learn, love to write about Akeelma and she loved Caleb.

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  • Posted September 1, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Skin I'm in by Sharon Flake

    The skin I'm in is great book. What like about the book is Maleeka the main charather, she been always tease about the color of her skin. This is the reason she has low self-steem. She is in the 7th grade along comes Miss Saunders, then its when the problems begins. I liked the end of the book because Maleeka becomes stronger and confident her self. I recomend to read this book to everyone because of the valuable lesson you learn.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2009

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    Khalin's Review

    It is about a thirteen-year-old girl named Maleeka Madison. She feels uncomfortable because of her skin color. Then one a new teacher comes in and Maleeka sees her. She notices that the teacher is also different because she has a birthmark on her face. It is not like many birthmarks because it is white and it looks like a patch. The teacher's name is Miss Sauders. To Maleeka's surprise Miss Sauders likes Maleekas skin. Will Maleeka learn to also love herself for who she is?

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