It Doesn't Take a Genius -- New Middle Grade Novel


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The past year has been full of many things. There have been so many upsets in our society. We are living through a worldwide pandemic. We saw citizens attack the Capitol Building. And then there is George Floyd. The verdict is in and his killer has been found guilty. Now we await the sentencing. But his death caused a spark in our nation and probably the world to look at systemic racism. These are some of the thoughts I entered this book with and what an amazing book. The book is It Doesn't Take a Genius by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. It is a new middle grade novel. 

From the Publisher: 

Emmett and his older brother Luke have always been "Batman and Robin," though they're quick to bicker about who's who. Spending the summer at a historic Black summer camp seems like a wonderful adventure for the two to share, but since Luke is there as a junior counselor, he seems to spend all of his time being everyone else's big brother, and ignoring Emmett.

As Luke seems to be moving on to new adventures, Emmett struggles in unexpected ways, especially in swim class and the "It Takes A Village" entrepreneurship class. Without his brother to turn to for support, Emmett works to build a new crew of "superfriends," who'll help him plan something spectacular for the end-of-camp awards night and celebration. Along the way, Emmett learns that no matter what, there can be many ways to define family.

It Doesn't Take a Genius is inspired by the feature film Boy Genius, starring Miles Brown, Rita Wilson, and Nora Dunn.

From Me:

This book is powerful for many reasons. First, it is an amazing coming of age story. Emmett is struggling with his older brother moving on in life. It is a struggle that many younger siblings go through. I know I felt it with Emmett as I remember my own childhood. I'm the youngest of three girls, so I knew what he was feeling. Second, the camp is a place for Black youth to gather and learn some of the Black history as well as ways to help build the Black community. There are some strong messages in there and as a white girl I found them so interesting and so important. I wish Camp DuBois really existed. (Note: there is a real Camp Dubois but it is a camp from the Lewis and Clark Expedition.) Third, Emmett is growing into himself. It is the first time he is making friends without the help of his brother. He is struggling with no longer being the smartest in the room. The camp is full of achievers and his achievements are not as great as he was thought. He has to come to terms with who he is and what his own talents are. He also needs to learn some time management. Finally, the book also deals with coming to terms of the loss of a family member. Emmett's father died when he was five. Emmett doesn't have as many memories of his father as his brother or mother yet they never want to talk about him. Emmett is able to talk to some of his friends and learn about others loss. The world is slowly becoming not all about Emmett for him. It is a powerful lesson to have. 

This book is humorous as well as emotional. The reader feels Emmett's struggle but enjoys the ups with him as well. The group of friends he meets at the camp help one another grow and support each other in a way that I truly wish the world could do everyday for each of us. The book is a page turner and kids will enjoy reading this. Although there is mention of Black history throughout the book it does not go into much detail about it. However it can serve as a starting point for kids who want to learn more about it. I love that when Emmett is at his lowest point his friends rally around him. He feels like he failed and then is able to turn his failure into helping others succeed. It is so much about building community and helping others. I hope you will check it out!