Review posted February 15, 2023.
Scholastic Press, September 6, 2022. 258 pages.
Review written August 8, 2022, from an advance review copy picked up at ALA Annual Conference.
2022 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#7 General Children's Fiction
Attack of the Black Rectangles is a story of censorship in a sixth-grade classroom -- and the kids who decide to protest.
Mac and his friends Marci and Denis are happy to be in the same lit circle in their new classroom, reading The Devil's Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen. But then they discover two places where words have been blacked out with a sharpie -- and it's the same in all of the books. What are the words someone didn't want them to read?
Naturally, they go to get an uncensored copy of the book. The first passage is in a scene where girls in a concentration camp are naked in front of the Nazis. The words blacked out are "hands over her breasts."
The kids feel insulted. As Marci points out, in sixth grade, they're old enough to have breasts, but they can't say the word? However, when they talk to the principal, she doesn't seem concerned.
So they decide to take their message to more people. But at the same time they're fighting censorship, Mac's dad is causing their family some problems that have Mac torn up inside. And he wonders about his feelings for Marci. And there's a kid at school who gives him a hard time.
Something I like about this book is that the author shows that even the teacher who censored the book isn't all bad. As Mac says at the start, "No one is ever just one thing." I like how the kids take on the challenge and show that in many ways, censorship is a matter of disrespect.
This book is, of course, very timely. And sadly, it's based on something that actually happened to the author's son. When she brought up the issue with the principal, they treated it like a big joke. After all, the books weren't banned.
I appreciate that this book takes on an issue that adults may want to dismiss and shows kids it's important. They'll feel empowered to speak up if censorship ever happens to them.