|Image: Norton Young Readers|
Free Lunch by Rex Ogle. 208 p. Norton Young Readers/ W.W. Norton & Company, September 10, 2019. 9781324003601. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)
Happy book birthday next week to Free Lunch!
Fact Friday features Free Lunch by Rex Ogle. This debut is Ogle's memoir of his sixth grade year. Eleven-year-old Rex likes school. It gets him away from his mom and her boyfriend who have explosive fights and tend to discipline Rex with their fists. He is especially looking forward to starting sixth grade. All that changes when his mother announces that Rex is now on the "free lunch" program. He can take the stares his Good Will clothing elicits, but the daily humiliation of announcing to the cafeteria cashier, who is hard of hearing, that he's getting a free lunch infuriates him. Then, his friends drift away because Rex's mom won't sign the permission slip allowing him to try out for football. They all make the team, leaving him the odd guy out. On top of all that, his language arts teacher seems to hate him. He doesn't want to act out but he's sick of being poor and he's afraid of the instability at home.
Back matter consists of an author's note, an author Q & A, a discussion guide as well as a writing guide(!) and resources for families in crisis.
Rex's voice is instantly relatable. His home life is horrific and yet, there are flashes of normalcy and even love. How Rex can even learn while dealing with the chaos is testament to his strength. Moments of humor and Rex's obvious love for his baby brother ease the tension. This powerful memoir depicts a family in crisis, one resilient child and is unforgetable. Free Lunch belongs in every school, classroom and public library.