Friday, November 7, 2014

Ellray Jakes Rocks the Holidays by Sally Warner

I have not seen many books for the 2nd-4th grade set that had an African American main character and is not set in an urban setting. So when I stumbled upon this series I was pleasantly surprised. Lancelot Raymond "EllRay" Jakes lives with his genius dad, mom and younger sister in California. His dad is a professor and his mom is a writer and they live a comfortable middle class life.

In this particular book Ellray is having a normal day until he accidentally offends the other 'brown" kid in class, Kevin. He then must do a set of challenges prescribed by Kevin in order for them to be even.

Although the book is aimed at young readers it still explores themes such as race and class. EllRay's dad for example explicitly tells him that he should make nice with Kevin since in his mind people of color need to stick together especially when they live in communities that are predominantly white. A non POC reader might find this hard to believe but this is completely true. Even EllRay's teacher Ms. Sanchez shares some of her story growing up in a different time.

EllRay is a shy kid and it just so happens that one of Kevin's challenges is to go up in front the school and emcee the winter holiday program. The debate over the name of the program is pretty funny and illustrates how pc life has become. As you would expect things do work out in the end without too much fuss-this is a Christmas adventure after all.

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