From the acclaimed author of Frindle comes a compelling exploration of race relations, told through the experiences of an elementary-school student. In The Jacket, a sixth-grader makes the wrong assumptions about another student simply because of his color, and as a result, he is forced to examine his own racist thoughts and how they play out in his life.
A sixth grader realizes he is prejudiced when he falsely assumes that an African-American schoolmate has stolen his coat. "The story pointedly delivers a timely message and can serve as a springboard for dialogue about tolerance and self-honesty," wrote PW. Ages 8-12. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
When sixth-grader Philip Moreli spots his brother's jacket on a fifth-grader he doesn't know, sparks fly and the boys wind up in the principal's office. The jacket, it turns out, was a gift, not stolen property, and Philip must consider his assumptions about how African-American Daniel ended up with the jacket. The aftermath of the explosive encounter prompts some honest soul searching and a new awareness of race and place on Philip's part. Both boys learn that honesty and a second chance to look at life from another's point of view make understanding it a little easier. Once again, Andrew Clements demonstrates a deft portrayal of kids in schools and a willingness to tackle important themes. Philip and Daniel are likeable characters, and the plot and dialogue are as honest as the problems are real. This well-written story about the growth of one boy's social conscience will find a welcome place on the shelves of thoughtful readers and teachers. 2002, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, $12.95. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Anne Field
Gr 4-7-Sixth-grader Phil sees another boy wearing his younger brother's jacket and accuses him of stealing it. After both of the students end up in the principal's office, Phil discovers that his mother gave the garment to the African-American woman who cleans their house. Lucy Taylor then gave it to her grandson, Daniel, the accused thief. Phil's anger, embarrassment, and confusion over the incident give him a new awareness of race and prejudice. This thin story is more like a character sketch than a fully realized novel. The incident forces Phil to examine himself at a level he has never before considered. He gets along fine with all the kids at school, but all of his friends are white. He has known Lucy all his life, and although he likes her, he has never thought about the details of her life or known that she has a grandson who attends his school. Events are told from Phil's point of view, so Daniel's reactions are experienced on a limited basis only. When the protagonist pays a surprise visit to Daniel's home, he discovers that the neighborhood is almost a mirror image of his own. While purposeful and a bit heavy-handed, the book may spark discussion with a class exploring racism, tolerance, and prejudice. Parents or church youth leaders may also find it useful.-Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Clements (Things Not Seen, below, etc.) offers a heartfelt and well-meaning but somewhat simplistic novella that explores racial-consciousness-raising. When sixth-grader Phil Moreli attempts to bring lunch money to his younger brother in their school's hallway, he quickly meets up with his sibling-or so he thinks-because there's his brother's very distinctive jacket. He is startled when its wearer turns out to be an African-American boy whom Phil has never seen. He wrongly leaps to the conclusion that this boy stole the jacket and a brawl ensues. Once the combatants face off in the principal's office, the truth about how the jacket came into this stranger's possession comes out. Daniel, the African-American boy, had been given the jacket as a gift by his grandmother who, in turn, received it from her employer-Phil's mother-for whom she works as a cleaning woman. Daniel is angry that a white boy would automatically think of him as a thief and humiliated at an act of what he considers condescending charity. He storms out, first throwing the jacket on the floor. Regarding this as a gauntlet and feeling ashamed, Phil is now galvanized into reassessing his feelings and assumptions about African-Americans. He realizes that he actually knows little about them and is convinced that he is prejudiced. Phil's attempts to come to grips with his guilt and chagrin will help young readers reevaluate their own attitudes toward people who are different from themselves. Clements mostly steers clear of easy answers and admirably avoids the cliche of having the boys become fast friends at the end, though each does come to realize that the other is "a good guy." (Fiction. 8-12)