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8th Grade Superzero Hardcover – January 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2010 They don’t call it middle school for nothing. Reggie McKnight (aka "Pukey") is trying hard to stay under the radar after a really embarrassing start to the school year. But, he’s somehow been drawn into the middle of a big school election, a volunteer project at the local homeless shelter, and the role of "Big Buddy" for a kid in the neighborhood. How will he ever find time to finish his comic book, Night Man? Reggie might see himself as a wimpy kid, but he’s anything but as steps up to new challenges and confronts big questions about doing the right thing in a tough world. Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich's debut novel is a smart and satisfying read for teens and ‘tweens. --Lauren Nemroff

QA with Author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Q: What inspired you to write 8th Grade Superzero?

A: I was always inspired by the young people that I've met, taught, and interacted with along the way. Two groups in particular, The "Tara Belle Girls", 7th-10th grade students who participated in a discussion and creative arts group with me, and the "Peace of My Mind" crew, a faith-based teen discussion group that I led for a couple of years, were instrumental in the story's development. We had such rich, wonderful talks about our 'public' and 'private' lives -- who we'd been, who we were, who we wanted to be, and what we thought about our places in the world. In developing Reggie's story, I knew that I wanted to share what I'd learned from those teens who cared deeply about justice, friendship, community, and love in all of its forms.

Q: In 8th Grade Superzero, Reggie goes through some difficult experiences with his classmates at school. What did you find hardest about being in 8th grade?

A: There was definitely a "me" that I wanted to be, and sometimes that girl just didn't materialize when I wanted her to! When I was 13, there was a lot about me that was unusual in the context of the community in which we lived--my name, my cultural heritage, etc.--that made me stand out, and I constantly lived with that tension of simultaneously dreaming of being 'discovered' as someone special and desperately wanting to blend in.

Q: You have also mentioned that you were the “new kid” at school many times. How did you deal with it?

A: I sharpened my observation skills, and remember moments from childhood quite vividly, which I think continues to help me as a writer. I'd spend my initial few days at a new school trying to get the 'lay of the land', learning the social hierarchy and figuring out the best survival system. Once, I drafted a "popularity plan" that included notes-to-self like saying "Hi!" with a smile all day long, dotting my i's with hearts as much as possible, not rising to my feet whenever an adult entered the classroom, and avoiding use of the metric system. I don't think the plan worked. I went to one school in the U.S. at which I was the only Black person in the building; that experience brought considerable pain, and my first successful class election campaign. Two of my favorite school experiences were in Nigeria and Kenya; I remember those periods with such joy, I'd love to write about them one day. Even with the usual "Will I fit in?" questions that came with every move, I looked forward to the challenge of finding my place in a new school. I enjoyed moving around; we lived in communities that varied widely, and those experiences taught me a lot about tolerance, respect, and appreciation for community in both a local and global sense.

Q: Reggie finds great satisfaction in helping a local homeless shelter build community. How did your own experiences with service shape this aspect of Reggie’s story?

A: Reggie had the opportunity to see, as I did, that any type of service is a two-way street. He did not 'save' or 'rescue' anyone, and no person that he encountered acted as a talisman or magical figure whose primary purpose was to ease his guilt or facilitate his transformation to hero. He entered into relationships, with multi-dimensional people (I hope). The themes of small victories and personal action in the book were also major lessons learned in my own life. I found that there was just as much value (perhaps more) in being the person who offers a loving listening ear and a snack as there is in being the Big Speechmaker and shiny celebrity.

Q: Were any authors or books particularly inspirational to you growing up?

A: Such a hard question...There were so many! We had piles and piles books wherever we lived, and I could just go down and explore the shelves and discover new worlds on my own; I'm so grateful to my parents for that. A Wrinkle in Time is definitely one. My mom read it aloud to me when I was nine; I enjoyed those story times so much, and loved Meg Murry's warts-and-all courage and spirit. (And it was so encouraging to see someone like her 'get the Guy'!) The House at Pooh Corner is one of the early books that made me laugh out loud. I loved mysteries, and I was obsessed with Nancy Drew until I started wondering why she had the luxury of driving around in that little car all of the time and having a 'housekeeper' at her age. Agatha Christie was a favorite whose depictions of race and ethnicity honed my critical reading skills. Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre fed my hunger for 'hidden princess' stories, and I read them over and over again... I read and loved The Autobiography of Malcolm X when I was very, very young (so young that I wanted to marry him when I grew up. I didn't quite get how the story ended at first.). I also read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings when I was too young to really understand all they contained, but again, I was devastated and awed by their power. I've always loved a story with heart, and a character with soul.

From Booklist

Ever since his nervous stomach betrayed him on the first day of school and he threw up on the principal’s shoes, Reggie has been universally known as “Pukey.” No wonder his main goal is now to be as invisible at school as possible. This starts to change when his church youth group becomes involved with a volunteer project at a neighborhood homeless shelter and Reggie discovers the value of community activism. Before you know it, he’s declared himself a candidate for class president, become a Big Brother and an oral historian, and more. It may be an overstatement to call Rhuday-Perkovich’s large-hearted first novel agitprop, but there’s no question about the didactic purpose. Unfortunately, in her quest to persuade her readers to her point of view, she sometimes lapses into lecturing instead of creating, and a few too many subplots slow down the narrative pace. Nevertheless, she manages to bring both passion and compassion to a story that has its moments of humor and genuine emotion, and will be highly useful for classroom discussion. Grades 6-9. --Michael Cart

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 640L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books; 1st edition (January 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545096766
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545096768
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,760,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Darcy Wishard on February 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Reggie Mcnight is one of those characters from a book who grabs you from the very beginning a never lets go. Everything about him is flawed perfection :o) This is one of the best middle grade books I've ever read...funny, heartwarming, sad and inspiring, it has just about everything you could want in a good book!

This wonderful read deals with the sensitive issues of race, bullying, poverty and homelessness. The characters are so fully developed, that when I finished reading the book it really felt like they were kids I knew who moved away and I was sad to see them go!

This book is a must read for Tweens and middle-grade readers! Get it now!

Hey, even you young adult readers will find a gem here!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mia on January 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Book Review
This book was really fun to read. I normally zip through books but this one actually took awhile, because there was such an interesting plot line; I really wanted to absorb it all. It doesn't have any fake characters like some books do that are too perfect. All of the characters have good traits, but they have flaws as well. It makes it much more fun to read, and much less predictable. Not only was it well written, it also had a meaningful story line, which made me think as I was reading it. Definitely one of my favorite books!!
Mia Ellis, 13, Mt. Hebron School, Montclair, NJ
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Book Worm Mom on February 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved the wit and humor of the characters, especially the main character Reggie. The author addresses some very serious topics, and she does so with grace and humor. Highly recommended for middle-schoolers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lydia on May 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'm somewhat intimidated by this book. It was that good. Seriously, it was that good. Don't let the cover fool you, this book packs a big punch.

Reggie (Pukey) McKnight struggles with his 8th grade image. After a disastrous beginning in the 8th grade he begins to search for a way to change, to be someone other than "Pukey", a nickname bestowed upon him by the class bully. Sounds good, right? But then the story really digs deep.

Reggie learns about the homeless, about faith, about service and friendship. I can't even begin to describe how much I loved the supporting characters in this book as well. Ruthie and Joe C. were everything I wished I could have had in 8th grade. Smart, thought-provoking, aware children who were just plain good.

I also really loved how this book dealt with such a wide, diverse racial group in such an understated, matter-of-fact way. History is taught in such a way that it doesn't feel as if it's being preached and the culture is talked about so sweetly and perfectly that I began to feel as if this was the way I wanted to grow up.

My favorite moment of the book is the scene with the Dora shoes. You'll have to read the book to understand, but I will say this. As I read the part I began to discuss it with my 7 year old nephew. He nodded as I came to the end of the story and, in a simple sentence, he told me of his insight into the story. I was flabbergasted at the level of maturity it showed in him and so pleased that a story could provoke his thoughts in that way.

This goes on my favorites for the year list. I feel as if I'm a better person just for having read it and I encourage you to do the same. I haven't felt this strongly about a book since I read Marcelo in the Real World last year.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By DAC VINE VOICE on March 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
After an incident on the first day of 8th grade, Reggie is called Pukey. Reggie is doing is best to lay low. His best friends are Ruthie a young revolutionary and Joe C, an artist.

Reggie and Ruthie are active members of their church's youth group. The group is doing a project at a local homeless shelter. Reggie's mom signed him up to be a Big Buddy at school.

"Eighth graders can be paired up with kindergarten kids as "Big Buddies," and Ruthie's parents and my parents fell over themselves signing us up to be positive role models. Joe C. doesn't have to do the activity thing the way we do. Whenever I say that to my mom, she just says, "White folks have that luxury"

Reggie schools is holding an election for President. Tired of the popular kids always winning, and with a little confidence from his Dora the Explorer shoes* Reggie finds himself in the race. One of Reggie's biggest tormentors is Donavan, a former friend, now campaign manager of the very popular Justin.

All the stories come together in the end. I really enjoyed how the story moved. The author does an excellent job of handling several things at once. Many young readers will be able to relate to Reggie's father being out of work. When the novel works Pops is searching for a new job.

I do think Rhuday- Perkovich towed the too much lesson line towards the end. Though that did not keep me from loving this book. The author isn't giving more of the same. This is new.

There aren't enough middle grade novels with a main character of color that's male. I love Reggie for many reason. One of the biggest is that he's Jamaican. The Rhuday- Perkovich doesn't make this an issue of it nor does she ignore it. Reggie simply is who he is. His parents are proud Jamaican's, especially Pops.
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