Mighty Inside

Mighty Inside cover
Mighty Inside by Sundee T. Frazier

By Sundee T. Frazier
Levine Querido, 2021
248 pages

African American Melvin is about to start high school in Spokane, Washington, in the 1950s, following in the footsteps of his high-achieving older brother, Chuck, and accomplished older sister, Marian. It would be a daunting prospect even if he didn’t have a stutter, one worsened by anxiety that Chuck’s well-meaning list of dos don’ts in high school don’t help. The behavior of his long-time white bully, who harasses him for his stutter, doesn’t help either. What does help is meeting Jewish Lenny on his first day. Lenny, an aspiring musician, talks enough for both of them, and when he learns Melvin plays accordion (Don’t ever bring your accordion to school is on Chuck’s list), he’s eager for the two to jam. But Lenny and his widowed mom live above the Empire Club, a Black-owned nightclub that Melvin’s parents don’t frequent because they object to the owner’s whites-only policy five nights a week. Melvin’s freshman year is eye-opening in many ways. He learns from Japanese American Millie, whom Melvin has liked since grade school, about her family’s imprisonment during the war. And closer to home, he realizes that his parents and other adults in the Black community have been sheltering their kids from a lot of racism. The more he learns, the more Melvin realizes that, stutter or not, he has something to say. A vivid sense of time and place and lively characterizations ground this appealing and insightful story. ©2021 Cooperative Children’s Book Center