Take Back the Block

Take Back the Block cover
Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles

By Chrystal D. Giles
Random House, 2021
240 pages

Ages 8-12

Sixth grader Wes Henderson lives in the predominantly Black neighborhood of Kensington Oaks. When his neighborhood is targeted by a developer making attractive offers to buy people’s homes, some, like his best friend’s family, find it hard to resist. It creates a rift in their neighborhood between those who feel they can’t afford to say no and those who want homeowners to unite against taking the offers. Wes, who has been dragged along to more than one protest by his mom, and has a friend recently displaced by another development who is now homeless, wants to remind his neighbors of how much they have in common and works with his friends to organize a block party. Soon, however, he’s determined to do more, connecting with the leader of a local group called “Save Our City” while tying what’s happening in his community to a social justice research project at school. Wes, his family members, friends, neighbors, and others are distinct, dynamic characters in this story in which the theme of change resonates throughout: Change in the community impacts the lives of Wes and his friends and neighbors; changes in their lives impacts their friendships. Even as Wes realizes change itself—in lives, in communities–is inevitable, the results of his research efforts and the work of Save Our City have a welcome yet realistic impact, setting some limits on the extent to which his neighborhood can be transformed. ©2021 Cooperative Children’s Book Center