Monday, December 05, 2022

MMGM- Ezra Exposed

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

I have to admit that I almost didn't read this book. There was something about the cover that just looked too young. But, it was short (middle school students are rubbing off on me!), and there were about six titles on Edelweiss for December, so I gave it a go. I'm very glad. It's a great book about an important topic, and written in an appealing way. If you can find a copy of this, read it immediately!

Feldman, Amy E. Ezra Exposed
November 2, 2022 by Blackstone Publishing
E ARC provided bt Edelweiss Plus

**Lots of spoilers, because you should know what details are in the book**

For his tenth birthday, Ezra finally gets a cell phone, since all of his friends have one. He is even allowed an Instagram account because his friend with the most involved mother has let him have one. So, of course, when Ezra's sister's chicken nugget at his birthday dinner looks like a butt, he takes a picture of it and posts it to his account. The other fifth graders think this is funny, and soon Ezra is seeing butts everywhere: a peach someone wants to trade at lunch, the skin between his thumb and fingers, a cherry. He's gotten a few followers, and one of the most popular boys at school seems to know who he is now. When a friend makes a comment about beavers and says that maybe Ezra has a beaver butt, Ezra pulls down his pants slightly and snaps a photo of the top of his butt. At first, he just shows his friend, but the friend wants Ezra to send him the picture. Ezra does, not thinking much of it. He has other problems, like having to go to the mall to buy pants for graduation and forgetting a major science fair project until the night before it is due. With the end of the school year approaching, and the class trip to an amusement park looming large, Ezra is enjoying having his phone, and gets to enjoy a little of the dopamine rush we all get when people "like" our social media posts. When he is called to the office, he's a bit surprised. He'd said something about "my cherry-red butt", and gotten several in person comments about it, but was that enough to get him in trouble? Not only are his parents called in, but there's a police officer. Because he sent a picture of his naked butt, even part of it, it is consider a criminal act of sending a lewd picture of a minor, even though he is the minor. The police want to confiscate the phone and check to see if there are other pictures on it, and 15 of his classmates also had to hand over their phones. The student who got the picture and told a trusted adult it not punished, but the others have to go through training, and several are not allowed to go to the end of year trip. This includes Ezra, who has to take the training and isn't allowed to go to the amusement park, although he is allowed to attend graduation. His parents take the phone away until after he has taken the training, and wish they had thought to give more instructions to Ezra about the use of his phone. While he will have to live with comments about his butt obsessed past, hopefully most of the interest will blow over before he starts middle school in the fall. 
Strengths: Wow. This was a fine line to walk, but it was really perfectly done. Ezra isn't that interested in his phone or Instagram (and I was glad it wasn't a made up app name, like Instapic or Snapgram), and he's not purposefully sending naked pictures. When I give the internet safety talk that the state mandates, my students always say "Oh, I'd never do something like that,"but this makes Ezra's actions seem perfectly reasonable. Setting the book during the final few weeks of school, when everyone is distracted, worked well. The parents are fun and engaged with Ezra, and take appropriate actions when there is a problem.  The use of butts is inspired. Really. I can completely see a fifth grader sending that picture. There is a note at the end on Feldman's research into the legal implications, and I think the interview with the policewoman was perfectly done. I'm definitely buying a copy for the school library, and if I knew any eight year olds, I would get this for a birthday gift BEFORE they got a cell phone. I'm looking forward to what Feldman might write next. 
Weaknesses: The cover isn't my favorite and may take some hand selling. There were a few things that seemed anachronistic: going to the mall, the gym teacher smoking, the principal always wearing a brown suit, wearing pajamas, and sanitary pads in cardboard boxes being handed out after "the talk" in gym class. I was also surprised that that the gym teacher was not taken to task by the female teacher who overhears him telling the boys that they don't want to learn about menstruation; all they needed to know was to appease future girlfriends and wives during that time. I think now boys are taught about this. 
What I really think: For my own purposes, I wanted Ezra to be older, but this is such a great book for elementary students to read. My 6th graders will pick it up, but it will be a hard sell for 7th and 8th graders. I'm surprised there aren't more books dealing with children who get in trouble with cell phones. I would buy them all, since it is such an easy way for children to get into trouble. I would never buy a smart phone for anyone under 15. If security is a concern, a flip phone is all they need. 


  1. I agree with you about the cover—it's definitely more juvenile than the topic matter. And it's such an important topic, though it makes me sad! I'm happy to say my children have no interest in having cell phones yet, and their friends with phones have "dumb phones" with no apps or internet. It's so easy for adults even to get sucked in to the dangers of social media…I wish today's kids didn't have to deal with that on top of so much else.

  2. I think my niece got her phone way too young (ten, I think)! This sounds like a realistic situation and although I am unlikely to read it myself, it sounds like a good book for the school library! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Sounds like a worthwhile read on an important topic, pre cell phone. Happy MMGM

  4. I really am glad to know about this book. My great grandson is 8 1/2. I was talking to his mom and she wants me to start picking more realistic books for him. This would be perfect -- before he gets a phone. I remember we didn't give our daughter a cell phone (2000s) until she was in high school -- and they were really just phones then. She got herself into some trouble. Can't imagine 10-year-old kids with phones today.

  5. I'm so glad there is a story that is bringing early middle grade readers a warning about cell phones. I know a few kids who would keep their nose buried in one all day (Tik Tok and Snapchat are the usual cause). I can't wait to read this one and recommend it to our librarians. Thanks for bringing it to focus on this week's MMGM.

  6. I'm going to follow your advice and read EZRA EXPOSED immediately!

  7. Anonymous3:30 PM EST

    Wow. This sounds like a must read for kids in middle school. I would think a lot of teachers would like to use this in the classroom. I agree with you about the cover. Thanks for the heads-up on this book.