Have you been so busy with the start of school that you haven't heard about the Cybils' call for judges? This is a great year to be part of the excitement, but you only have until September 9th to apply.
If you have read a lot of middle grade realistic fiction and want to apply for that division, Yours Truly would be your
Gratz, Alan. Code of Honor.
August 25th 2015 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Kamran Smith, whose mother immigrated from Iran in the late 1970s and whose father is from the US, is a football player who is planning on going to West Point and follow in his brother Darius' footsteps. The two have always been close, and invented lots of games based on mash-ups of Persian mythology and modern fantasy stories like Harry Potter and Star Wars. When Darius shows up in news videos reading statements supporting Muslim terrorist activities against the US, the family is shocked and devastated. The Department of Homeland Security descends on the home, and Kamran is taken to be a "guest" of the government. Kamran firmly believes that Darius would never go against their "code of honor", and thinks he has been taken prisoner by the terrorists. He watches the videos more closely, and finds what he believes are clues that his brother is sending him. Agent Mickey Hagerty, who grew up in Ireland and whose brother was a suicide bomber, believes Kamran and helps him escape from the government facility in order to stop what the two believe is a plan to ignite bombs at the Super Bowl. With the help of various agents, some good and some not, Kamran is able to interpret his brother's messages and not only save the day, but rescue his brother as well.
Kamran is a fascinating character, who doesn't waiver in his faith in his brother until the very end of the book. While some might think that the brothers' games are a bit far fetched, I know that my children did role playing games where the Teletubbies met Star Wars, so it seemed perfectly reasonable to me! Kamran is confronted with all manner of people, both Muslim and non-Muslims, and he has to learn to read them and figure out whom to trust. His anger at the attacks on his family by the media as well as school acquaintance's is all too understandable. Hagerty is also a fascinating character, with his Irish background, and we are not sure if he is trustworthy either. He imparts some of his wisdom about dealing with people who stereotype him to Kamran that is valuable.
There are lots of twists and turns in the plot. Despite the somewhat slow start, this quickly became a spy novel that fans of Horowitz's Stormbreaker series or Gilman's The Devil's Breath will love. Readers with an interest in the military or who have experienced difficulties because of their ethnic background will enjoy seeing themselves in the pages of this gripping novel. How can you go wrong when the terrorists are targeting such a sacred American ritual... the Super Bowl?
Gratz has many diverse titles, and his prose is fluid and riveting. His Prisoner B-3807 was shortlisted for the Cybils Middle Grade Fiction Award in 2013; his Brooklyn Nine is engaging baseball fiction, and his Steampunk series The League of Seven shows a thorough understanding of what sort of story appeals to middle grade readers.
Before Mr. Gratz's head becomes to enlarged, I do have to say that I wasn't a fan of Something's Rotten or Samurai Shortstop. Too Young Adult for my taste!
It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.