The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade

The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade
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Release Date
August 29, 2017
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In sixth grade, bad things can happen to good kids. Bullies will find your weakness and jump on it. Teachers will say you did something wrong when really didn't mean to do anything wrong. The kids who joke the loudest can drown out the quieter, nicer kids.

Maverick wants to change all that. One of the last things his father left him was a toy sheriff's badge, back when Maverick was little. Now he likes to carry it around to remind him of his dad - and also to remind him to make school a better place for everyone... even if that's a hard thing to do, especially when his own home life is falling apart.

THE SECRET SHERIFF OF SIXTH GRADE is a story about standing up for yourself - and being a hero at home and in the halls of your school.

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Maverick's mother has trouble keeping a job due to her alcohol consumption, which probably also influences her bad taste in men. When her current boyfriend becomes abusive, Maverick vows that he will try to help out the people around him the way that super heroes do, and he carries a small badge that his deceased father gave him as a reminder. He fails at it, though, getting into impulsive problems at school, where it doesn't help that his locker is right in between those of boys who give him a hard time. He is called before the "scary" principal Mr. Overby, "The Bee"twice on the first day. To his surprise, the principal is fairly understanding. Could it be because he really believes the sign Maverick sees in his office: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."? Maverick is told to call his mother, but when she doesn't answer, he calls his Aunt Cat, and claims that she is his mother. As the situation at home gets worse, things start to fall apart at school as well. Luckily for Maverick, the teachers at school are supportive, and Aunt Cat is willing to step in when Maverick needs her. Maverick starts the year wanting to save others, but he will be lucky to make it through sixth grade saving himself.
Good Points
This is another excellent addition to the Sonnenblick cannon of serious books that are also funny. In the tradition of Zen and the Art of Faking It, Notes From the Midnight Driver, and Curveball, we are able to explore the a difficult home situation without the book slipping into horrible sadness. Maverick is an engaging, true-to-life middle school student, and the fact that he has problems at home is handled in a painfully realistic way. Principal Overby's philosophy is one I try hard to remember, and this book shows in an amusing yet sympathetic way how much better the world would be if everyone would keep that philosophy in mind.

Maverick thinks about and expresses his problems in a uniquely quirky way. His mother is described without apologies or sentimentalizing, and the aunt makes his situation less dire than it could be.

This is an excellent introduction to Sonnenblick for slightly younger readers, and will be popular with readers who enjoy tales of understanding and kindness like Palacio's Wonder and Buyea's Because of Mr. Terupt.
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