On the surface, seventh graders Kirsten and Walk couldn’t be more different. Kirsten is an overweight secret eater who hides her unhappiness over her parents’ constant fighting behind mountains of candy bars and bags of potato chips. Walk is a smart loner trying to make it as one of the only black students in Kirsten’s mostly white private school. But they become unexpected friends when Walk stands up for Kirsten when she is falsely accused of stealing a teacher’s wallet. When they each begin to talk about their new friendship at home, their families become suspicious, and neither Kirsten nor Walk can understand why. Is it because Kirsten is white and Walk is black? While that seems to be the rationale at first, there is another reason their parents don’t want them to become friends, a secret that will shake the growing tree of their relationship to its very roots when they find out. What looks like a benign school story from its innocent, colorful cover is actually a pretty deep read that will challenge the way you think about race and economic class, and help you understand that even though they often try to convince you otherwise, adults mess up too. And if you haven’t read her stuff before, you’ll definitely want to go back and check out Choldenko’s hip historical fiction, Al Capone Does My Shirts.
If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko