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In 1970, schools in Red Grove, Ala., have been desegregated. But in reality, “black and white kids don’t mix.” In Lu Olivera’s sixth-grade class, the white kids sit on one side of the room and the black kids on the other. Lu and a few other students sit in the middle row because their parents believe in equal rights.

As an immigrant from Argentina, Lu feels “like a sparrow thrown in with a bunch of blue jays.” Her mother repeatedly tells her, “We’re foreigners. We’re not supposed to get involved.”

But when Lu discovers her ability for running track and becomes friends with Belinda, an African-American girl who also excels at running, Lu’s white peers—some of whom she considers her friends—reject and mock her.

Even as the people of Alabama listen to the hateful rhetoric of segregationist ex-governor George Wallace running for political office against current governor, Albert Brewer, so too Lu, on a personal level experiences the consequences of racial tensions.

Much to her surprise, Lu figures out “how to grow gumption.” She finds the courage to abandon the middle row, taking her own stand against injustice.

In this thought-provoking, deeply stirring, and at times humorous novel based on the author’s childhood experiences as an immigrant from Argentina, juvenile readers witness the trials and triumphs of a girl who chooses to do what is right, no matter the cost. The book contains some profanity. Ages 10 and up. (Candlewick)

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