While set in the present day, Walter Dean Myers‘ The Cruisers takes us back to the mindset of the Civil War era through eighth grade students. Zander and his friends, the Cruisers, have to prove their potential at Da Vinci Academy, a school for New York City’s gifted and talented, in order to stay. When a role-playing assignment on the Civil War turns personal, Zander is designated peace-maker by Mr. Culpepper, the assistant principal who doesn’t appear to be unbiased. Through the reenactment of history, Zander discovers present day attitudes toward race, violence and free speech. He also finds out who comes out of the proverbial woodwork when he heads up a protest against the Sons of Confederacy.
So much is packed into this short book but I think the candid portrait of race and how we talk about it is one of its most important aspects. The Cruisers is first in a series about Zander Scott and friends. Walter Dean Myers is the new ambassador for children’s literature in the US.
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