Junebug

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Reeve McLain, Jr.–Junebug–has a big dream that keeps him going. He dreams that someday he and his younger sister and mother will move from the awful housing project where drugs, gangs, and guns are part of everyday life. Junebug’s tenth birthday is coming up, and he knows the gangs and drug dealers will be after him to join them. But he has a big birthday plan to keep his hope alive. He’s going to launch his glass-bottle collection filled with notes of his dreams and wishes. Maybe some way, somehow, Junebug’s dream will come true.

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“A warm and inspiring tale . . . Readers will be rooting for Junebug and his dreams all the way.”—Kirkus Reviews, Pointer Review
From Booklist

Gr. 4-7. Junebug lives in the projects, taking care of his little sister, Tasha, when his mother works. He avoids the older boys in gangs and dreams of someday becoming a boat captain. Afraid of changing his life, bleak as it is, for something unknown, he hopes his mother won’t move the family across town and take the new job she’s been offered. However, when his young Aunt Jolita gets too friendly with a bad crowd and begins drawing him in, he realizes that leaving is the family’s only hope. Junebug is a compelling, thoughtful narrator whose wishes and determination are balanced by Jolita’s absence of dreams and character. The novel is hard-hitting and unleavened by humor, but Junebug’s likable personality and the upbeat note at the end will leave readers satisfied. A likely choice for school literature circles. –Susan Dove Lempke

“Junebug is a compelling, thoughtful narrator whose wishes and determination are balanced by Jolita’s absence of dreams and character. The novel is hard-hitting and unleavened by humor, but Junebug’s likable personality and the upbeat note at the end will leave readers satisfied. A likely choice for school literature circles.”—Booklist
From School Library Journal

Grade 3-6 Junebug is the story of risks taken and goals achieved by a small nuclear family struggling against a harsh environment. Nearly 10-year-old Reeve McClain, Jr. (Junebug) says, “For my birthday wish I would like to sail a boat.” Hardly an ordinary request for a black kid living in the projects of New Haven. Especially since the other big topics on the boy’s mind are how to avoid the pressure to join a gang, the sense of abandonment once his 16-year-old friend flees town to escape a drug lord, and ways he can help make his mother’s tough life a little easier. The characters are fresh and vivid: self-involved, fast-traveling Aunt Jolita; little sister, Tasha, remarkably sensitive and shy; and Mama, who finally steps off the treadmill of daily survival when her job provides a chance to move away. Junebug himself is quite clear about who he is and where he should be going. Told in the first person, the narrative is immediate and casual, the setting starkly revealed. The book is engaging and suspenseful, with enough scary characters and situations to keep most readers engrossed. The youngster, by the way, gets his wish in the end via a message placed in each of 50 bottles and set to sea. The ultimate message, however, is that change is possible when responsibility is an individual obligation. Mead’s writing approaches the power of Walter Dean Myers’s novels about inner-city life, but is for a younger audience. Carolyn Noah, Central Mass. Regional Library System, Worcester, MA

“Junebug is the story of risks taken and goals achieved by a small nuclear family struggling against a harsh environment. The ultimate message, however, is that change is possible when responsibility is an individual obligation. Mead’s writing approaches the power of Walter Dean Myers’s novels about inner-city life, but is for a younger audience.”–School Library Journal

Each of my books about kids in other countries–Iran, the Balkans, Sudan–was created when I got to know kids from other cultures who finally had been resettled in my town of Portland, Maine. They are now American kids, my neighbors and yours, who came from poverty and war.

Read about other parts of the world and take a journey there through the eyes of other kids your age. Travel by stories!
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