The Usual Suspects
The Usual Suspects
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Annotation: Thelonius (a.k.a. T) is tired of being labeled. He's in special ed and has earned a rep as a prankster. But when a gun is found in the neighborhood and he becomes a suspect, T decides "criminal" is one label he won't allow to stick.
Catalog Number: #183989
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
No other formats available
Special Formats: Hot Title Hot Title
Publisher: HarperCollins
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Pages: 288
Availability: Available
New Title: Yes
ISBN: 0-06-279631-3
ISBN 13: 978-0-06-279631-8
Dewey: Fic
Language: English
School Library Journal
Gr 68 Middle-school pranksters Thelonius Mitchell and his best friend Nehemiah have been labeled "emotionally delinquent" and put in Mr. Blackmon's special education classroom, where they feel they're always taking the heat for things that aren't their fault (in fairness, they take the heat for some that are, too). When a handgun is discovered on the grounds of a nearby playground, the students in the special education class are the first ones hauled in for the principal's line of questioning. As Nehemiah and Thelonius work together to clear their names, they uncover information that has the power to exonerate thembut it also implicates a classmate who may not deserve to take the fall. Broaddus's experience as a teacher is front and center here; Thelonius's world and his self-awareness as he interacts with the adults around him (particularly Mr. Blackmon) provide insight into contemporary special education, and the thought processes of neuroatypical students and students with learning disabilities. Though the large cast of characters and uneven pacing makes narrowing down the culprit of the gun incident difficult, fans of whodunits with a social conscience will find lots to like here. VERDICT Broaddus's first foray into middle grade fiction is an overall success that provides a rare and much-needed glimpse into the world of exceptional learners. Katherine Barr, Cameron Village Regional Library, Raleigh, NC
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
When a gun is found near their school, seventh-grade pranksters Thelonius Mitchell and his best friend, Nehemiah Caldwell, must work together to solve the mystery before being blamed for something they didn't do. Thelonious narrates: "I've seen this movie play out many times before. Something goes missing? Must be one of us. Something gets broken? Must be one of us." On the other hand, their innocence is not so easily proven given their track record of pranks. How do they manage to pull off such hijinks as borrowing the homeroom teacher's credit card to pay for online poker? They are severely underestimated as students "warehoused" in the Special Ed room, where the revolving-door administration hopes to "fix" them instead of listening to and supporting them. This old-school system of rules enforced upon them, which Thelonius frequently compares to prison, ignores their gifts, such as Nehemiah's computer wizardry. There is righteous rebellion within their mischief; as Thelonius explains, "sometimes we have to turn the system on itself for us to get by." But that gun in the park is much more intense than their usual antics. Yet and still, they ain't no snitch. Broaddus spins a hilarious, honest tale that sees Thelonius wrestle with circumstances beyond his control and grow into a leader while doing so. His cleareyed narration describes an unjust system too many kids know intimately.Readers will love watching these two uniquely gifted black boys explore the complicated tensions between impulses and choices, independence and support, turnin' up and getting through. (Fiction. 8-13)
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Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Kirkus Reviews
School Library Journal (4/1/19)
Reading Level: 3.0
Interest Level: 3-6

Fans of Jason Reynolds and Sharon M. Draper will love this oh-so-honest middle grade novel from writer and educator Maurice Broaddus. Thelonius Mitchell is tired of being labeled. He's in special ed, separated from the "normal" kids at school who don't have any "issues." That's enough to make all the teachers and students look at him and his friends with a constant side-eye. (Although his disruptive antics and pranks have given him a rep too.) When a gun is found at a neighborhood hangout, Thelonius and his pals become instant suspects. Thelonius may be guilty of pulling crazy stunts at school, but a criminal? T isn't about to let that label stick.

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