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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Varsha Bajaj's Count Me In is the story of a young Indian American seventh-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?
- Author: Varsha Bajaj
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Activism, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
- Publication date: August 27, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 172
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: September 25, 2020
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