Black Brother, Black Brother

Book review by
Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media
Black Brother, Black Brother Book Poster Image
Boy challenges school bully in exciting sports story.

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Kids say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The kids on the Boys and Girls Club fencing team learn the story of Alexandre Dumas, French author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Crisco. Dumas' father, son of a Black enslaved person and a French mother, was a celebrated general in Napoleon's army. Donte's mother, a civil rights lawyer, explains the landmark U.S. legal case Brown v. Board of Education and the way legal action can be used to advance social causes.

Positive Messages

Self-awareness is the key to success. Don't let other people distract you from your goals or from what you know is right. Find your people; they're out there somewhere. When the world is cruel, sticking together with family makes all the difference. You can redeem yourself by serving others.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A family consisting of a White father, Black mother, and two sons show supportive, loving bonds and the ability to speak candidly about society as well as their own lives. An older man redeems his youthful mistakes by serving as a mentor to young people, using sports to help them develop their identities and moral compass. Donte learns to sublimate his anger and self-pity into his pursuit of excellence and good sportsmanship.

Violence & Scariness

There are episodes of bullying and racial taunts throughout the story. The "N" word is hinted at, but not used. A White boy harasses a Black boy continually, including tripping him at a sports match causing injury to his wrist. A Black boy is hauled away from school handcuffed in a police car, despite being innocent of what the teacher accused. As the car drives away, students taunt him.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Black Brother, Black Brother, by Coretta Scott King Author Award winner Jewell Parker Rhodes (Ghost Boys), is about a dark-skinned, biracial boy (with a Black mother and a White father) who masters fencing in order to challenge the school bully to a competition. There are episodes of bullying and racial taunts throughout the story. The "N" word is hinted at, but not used. A White boy harasses a Black boy continually, including tripping him at a sports match, causing injury to his wrist. A Black boy is handcuffed and hauled away from school in a police car, despite being innocent of what the teacher accused. As the car drives away, students taunt him.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byAnna B. November 11, 2020

Amazing

I read this to my ten year old sister we both loved it. It taught us a lot about racial injustices.

What's the story?

When BLACK BROTHER, BLACK BROTHER begins, Donte is in the headmaster's office at Middlefield Prep. Donte, a skinny, biracial kid with dark skin, has been accused of throwing a pencil at a girl in class. The real perpetrator is Alan, a rich, White kid whose family has its name on school buildings. After Donte shows his anger and frustration by slamming his backpack on the ground, the headmaster calls the police. He's taken away in a police car with the whole school watching, humiliated. Even his brother, Trey, a light-skinned, athletic boy who's much more popular at school, asks Donte if he did anything, rather than automatically having his brother's back. Donte's mom, who's Black and works as a civil rights attorney, launches a case against the Massachussetts Board of Education, with Donte as the lead plaintiff. Donte seeks his own revenge: He wants to beat fencing star Alan in a match. He finds a role model and coach at the local Boys and Girls Club, a Black man who once won an individual silver medal in foil fencing and competed in the Olympics.

Is it any good?

Suspenseful and inspiring, readers will root for Donte to best his tormentor and understand that he's a winner regardless of the outcome. In Black Brother, Black Brother, author Jewell Parker Rhodes creates a story that diverse kids can relate to. There's a nerdy kid who becomes a sport star, an athlete with a sensitive side, and boys and girls who play sports together. The parents are heroic and kind. The unfair teachers get their comeuppance. Still, readers see the characters go through some challenges. Brothers Donte and Trey adjust to a move from New York City to suburban Newton, Massachusetts, and a switch from public to private school. Their biracial family confronts racism that affects their otherwise privileged life.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about "colorism" in Black Brother, Black Brother. Though they have the same biological parents, Donte is dark skinned with African American features and hair type; his brother, Trey, is light skinned with White features and hair type. That leads their classmates to tease them both. When have you seen color matter among your family and friends or at school? 

  • What other stories that center on a sports competition have you read or seen? Why do you think they're so popular with authors and audiences? 

  • How does the author use the story of Alexandre Dumas, his father, and the movies made from his work (The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Crisco) to support her messages?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love family stories and sports tales

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