15 Dec / The Boys in the Back Row by Mike Jung [in Booklist]
Newbie narrator Keong Sim – who, although born in Vietnam, shares Korean American heritage with Mike Jung – has less than a handful of audio credits, but his effervescent energy is a perfect match for Jung’s rollicking, heartwarming MG buddy epic.
Matt and Eric are bffs since fourth grade, bonded by band and comics. In sixth grade, Matt leaves the flutists and joins Eric in the drum section, but that means putting up with bully Sean as one of the boys in the back row. Despite the racist, sexist, toxic masculinity Sean and his cronies spew, Matt and Eric can always rely on each other to stand up to the haters.
Looking ahead, the band will be performing at the World of Amazement Spring Festival – which, oh wow!, is the same weekend as the coveted comics convention, DefenderCon, that’s being held practically next door. Rule-breaking plans are a definite must, especially since this precarious adventure is probably gonna be the boys’ last … because Eric’s mom’s new dream job means the family is moving as soon as sixth grade ends.
Sim’s spot-on engagement with Jung’s characters (many a wink-wink-nod-nod to #WeNeedDiverseBooks colleagues) never wavers – Sim is as comfortable with MG drummers as he is with embarrassingly woke parents. Finding just the right blend of excitement and reflection, Sim seamlessly enriches Jung’s latest engrossing, enthralling read.
Readers: Middle Grade