Monday, June 04, 2018

MMGM- Breakout

36528200Messner, Kate. Breakout
June 5th 2018 by Bloomsbury Children's Books
ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter

Nora and Lizzie are enjoying the end of the school year in their small, east coast town, waiting for field day and all of the leisure of summer. When two prisoners break out of the local prison (for which most of the local residents work), things become tense. Nora's young brother becomes obsessed with trying to catch the "bad guys" before his birthday party, and reporters and search teams take over the town. For a summer project, the students have been assigned to write five letters for a town time capsule, and Nora and Lizzie throw themselves into the project, reporting on all of the events. They are joined by a new girl, Elidee, who has moved to town with her family because her brother is serving 15 years in the prison and they want to be able to visit and check on him. Since Elidee is black, and there is only one other black student in their grade, she feels awkward and spends a lot of her time writing poetry in the style of Jacqueline Woodson and other authors. As the search continues and tensions rise, field day is canceled. Lizzie's grandmother is arrested on suspicion of helping the two inmates. A local festival and 5k run still takes place after school is out, but the suspects are cited during it, people are pulled off the streets and sheltered in public buildings. Told through articles, letters, texts and photographs, Breakout chronicles three girls' interpretations of a particular event (based on an actual occurrence in Messner's area), and shows how the town learns lessons about perceptions, principles, and prejudices.
Strengths: I always adore Messner's work, and it was interesting to see how she fictionalized one of her own experiences in this innovative format, which is reminiscent of Holm's Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff (2006). Students being involved in current events and having interests like writing always makes for a great story. The bibliography at the back has a lot of good book suggestions for further reading-- you can take the English teacher out of the classroom, but I'm glad that the classroom has never fully left Ms. Messner!
Weaknesses: The problems with racial profiling and the difficulties that people of color face today are timely and touched upon in a helpful fashion, but a bit lost among all of the other things going on in the book.
What I really think: This is a rather long book, and the changes in format could make it challenging for readers to follow. While there are many middle school students who love poetry, very few of them attend my middle school. If your students love poetry or really enjoy books with letters, texting, etc., definitely get this right away!.
Ms. Yingling


  1. It does seem like MG books are getting longer. The last three I've read averaged a whopping 500 pages. I do love Kate Messner and her previous stories so will give this one a go. I may have to slip in a short Charlie Joe Jackson before I do!

  2. This is one busy book, but I love that it is based on an experience Kate Messner had in her community. This sounds very entertaining!