Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh

Published by HarperCollins

Finding Junie Kim: Oh, Ellen: 9780062987983: Books

Summary:  Junie’s strategy for getting through middle school is to keep her head down and her mouth shut, even when a boy bullies her for being Korean.  When racist graffiti starts appearing in her school, her friends want to take a stand, but Junie’s not so sure.  But when she starts recording her grandfather’s stories about the Korean War for a school project, she sees the price that can be paid for not standing up for what is right.  After a family tragedy, her grandmother finally agrees to talk about her childhood, and Junie gets another lesson in courage.  Their inspiration leads Junie to confront her bully and to find her own way to lead the conversation about racism at school. Includes an author’s note about how her own family members’ stories inspired this book.  368 pages; grades 5-8.  

Pros:  The rich narrative shifts from Junie’s Trump-era story to her grandfather’s as a young boy and then her grandmother’s as a young girl.  Each one has its own fascinating cast of characters, and the Korean War sections will undoubtedly provide an education for readers, as they did for me.  This would be an amazing book to read and discuss with middle schoolers.

Cons:  The grandparents’ stories, especially her grandfather’s, revealed the motivation for the bullying behavior.  I wish there had been more of that for the bullies in Junie’s life, who just seemed like terrible MAGA hat-wearing boys.

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