Free Lunch
Free Lunch
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Annotation: A sixth-grader from an economically disadvantaged family struggles in a new school, where he is forced to endure humiliation over his secondhand clothing and public daily requests for his school's free lunch program.
Genre: Government
Catalog Number: #195182
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Pages: 203 pages
Availability: Out of Stock from Publisher
ISBN: 1-324-00360-X
ISBN 13: 978-1-324-00360-1
Dewey: 921
LCCN: 2019014202
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
Middle school can be daunting, even under ideal conditions. But if, like Rex, you are also dealing with a father who abandoned you, a mother and her boyfriend who beat you, food and housing insecurity, and the stigma of free lunch, the results can be overwhelming. Ogle's memoir details the first semester of sixth grade, where his grade-school friends desert him for football; some teachers prejudge him because he is poor and Hispanic; and the elderly, deaf lunch lady never remembers his name, forcing him to loudly announce his situation daily. Eventually, he meets fellow outsider Ethan, who introduces him to the world of comics and true friendship. Ogle's engrossing narrative is rich in lived experience, offering a window into the ways that poverty can lead to domestic violence and feelings of unworthiness. The abuse Rex and his mother suffer will disturb many; too many others will recognize Rex's circumstances as their own. Appended with an author's note, Q&A, and social services resources, this is an important and ultimately hopeful memoir.
Kirkus Reviews
Recounting his childhood experiences in sixth grade, Ogle's memoir chronicles the punishing consequences of poverty and violence on himself and his family.The start of middle school brings about unwanted changes in young Rex's life. His old friendships devolve as his school friends join the football team and slowly edge him out. His new English teacher discriminates against him due to his dark skin (Rex is biracial, with a white absentee dad and a Mexican mom) and secondhand clothes, both too large and too small. Seemingly worse, his mom enrolls him in the school's free-lunch program, much to his embarrassment. "Now everyone knows I'm nothing but trailer trash." His painful home life proffers little sanctuary thanks to his mom, who swings from occasional caregiver to violent tyrant at the slightest provocation, and his white stepdad, an abusive racist whose aggression outrivals that of Rex's mom. Balancing the persistent flashes of brutality, Ogle magnificently includes sprouts of hope, whether it's the beginnings of a friendship with a "weird" schoolmate, joyful moments with his younger brother, or lessons of perseverance from Abuela. These slivers of relative levity counteract the toxic relationship between young Rex, a boy prone to heated outbursts and suppressed feelings, and his mother, a fully three-dimensional character who's viciously thrashing against the burden of poverty. It's a fine balance carried by the author's outstanding, gracious writing and a clear eye for the penetrating truth.A mighty portrait of poverty amid cruelty and optimism. (author's note, author Q&A, discussion guide, writing guide, resources) (Memoir. 9-12)
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Recounting his childhood experiences in sixth grade, Ogle's memoir chronicles the punishing consequences of poverty and violence on himself and his family.The start of middle school brings about unwanted changes in young Rex's life. His old friendships devolve as his school friends join the football team and slowly edge him out. His new English teacher discriminates against him due to his dark skin (Rex is biracial, with a white absentee dad and a Mexican mom) and secondhand clothes, both too large and too small. Seemingly worse, his mom enrolls him in the school's free-lunch program, much to his embarrassment. "Now everyone knows I'm nothing but trailer trash." His painful home life proffers little sanctuary thanks to his mom, who swings from occasional caregiver to violent tyrant at the slightest provocation, and his white stepdad, an abusive racist whose aggression outrivals that of Rex's mom. Balancing the persistent flashes of brutality, Ogle magnificently includes sprouts of hope, whether it's the beginnings of a friendship with a "weird" schoolmate, joyful moments with his younger brother, or lessons of perseverance from Abuela. These slivers of relative levity counteract the toxic relationship between young Rex, a boy prone to heated outbursts and suppressed feelings, and his mother, a fully three-dimensional character who's viciously thrashing against the burden of poverty. It's a fine balance carried by the author's outstanding, gracious writing and a clear eye for the penetrating truth.A mighty portrait of poverty amid cruelty and optimism. (author's note, author Q&A, discussion guide, writing guide, resources) (Memoir. 9-12)
Word Count: 47,953
Reading Level: 3.7
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 3.7 / points: 7.0 / quiz: 505596 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.2 / points:13.0 / quiz:Q77605
Lexile: HL540L

Free Lunch is the story of Rex Ogle's first semester in sixth grade. Rex and his baby brother often went hungry, wore secondhand clothes, and were short of school supplies, and Rex was on his school's free lunch program. Grounded in the immediacy of physical hunger and the humiliation of having to announce it every day in the school lunch line, Rex's is a compelling story of a more profound hunger--that of a child for his parents' love and care. Compulsively readable, beautifully crafted, and authentically told with the voice and point of view of a 6th-grade kid, Free Lunch is a remarkable debut by a gifted storyteller.


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