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Count Me In

Book review by
Nayanika Kapoor, Common Sense Media
Count Me In Book Poster Image
Powerful, appealing story about 7th grader fighting racism.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Good introduction to the concept of racism, discussing what racism looks like after 9/11, and why inclusive communities are important. Discusses social media and how to use it appropriately for good causes, while still addressing privacy-related issues. Talks about what activism is and how to create positive social change in your own community. 

Positive Messages

Stand up for what's right, no matter how hard it can be at times. Persevere through obstacles. Racism is wrong, and our communities are better because they're diverse. Be loyal to your friends and family.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters are racially diverse, and the book positively represents immigrant families. Karina is principled and strong and creates real change in her community by standing up for what's right. She has a good relationship with her parents and grandfather. Chris finds it hard to make the right decisions at first but learns how to be a good friend and ally. 

Violence

A knife is pulled on the main characters, and a racist person threatens them and pushes one onto the sidewalk. Brief descriptions of violence against Sikhs and Muslims after 9/11. One of the main characters thinks about punching another character but refrains. Main character faces online harassment when she starts a social media campaign. 

Sex
Language

One of the characters uses the word "sandman" in reference to South Asian person.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Varsha Bajaj's Count Me In is the story of a young Indian American 7th grader who sees the effects of racism in her own life and battles prejudice in her community. When Karina's beloved grandfather is attacked by a racist who tells him to "go home," Karina knows that she can't stay quiet. She uses her voice -- and her friends -- to tell the world that communities are better when they're diverse and united. There's some violence that could be scary for younger readers: A knife is pulled on the main characters, and they experience a racist attack. The novel addresses complex topics like racism and 9/11 and is a good fit for readers looking to learn more about the things they hear about in the news. 

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What's the story?

COUNT ME IN is about Karina Chopra, an Indian American seventh-grader who's just trying to make it through middle school without having to deal with the mean boys in her class. When her beloved grandfather, Papa, moves in with her family, Karina's not sure what to expect. She certainly doesn't anticipate that one of the mean boys, Chris Daniels, will start getting tutored by Papa and actually become her friend. When Papa gets attacked by a racist man telling him to "go home" in front of Karina and Chris, they see that the stories they've heard about on TV are real. The kids decide that they can't stay quiet anymore and use the power of social media, their friends, and their story to showcase the beauty of diversity. Karina uses her voice to bring together her community, fight against hate, and make her home a better place. 

Is it any good?

This novel is a fantastic introduction to racism, activism, and social change for middle-grade readers. While kids may have additional questions, Count Me In can at least start to explain what readers might be hearing about in the news. The book is heartwarming and well-written, with lots of important messages and worthy role models. Karina may inspire readers to think about how they can create positive change in their own community by using their voice and their friends. This story is a timely and important one, and it offers an honest, heartwarming look into the lives of immigrant families across the country and the difficulties that they face. Karina and her friends are inspiring, and this is a must-read for aspiring activists. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about racism and how to work against it. How can we prevent racism in our own communities? What are some things that you can do, like Karina, to spread positive messages? 

  • How do you think social media should be used? Why do you think Karina's grandfather didn't want his picture posted on social media? Why do you think Karina did want to post it? 

  • Karina and her grandfather have a lot of fun traditions. What traditions do you and your family have? What new ones might you want to create? 

  • At first, Chris doesn't feel like he can be friends with Karina at school, even though he wants to. Do you ever feel like you can't be friends with who you want to at school?

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