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Pub Date 05 Sep 2023 | Archive Date 05 Sep 2023

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What if a school's mascot is seen as racist, but not by everyone? In this compelling middle-grade novel in verse, two best-selling BIPOC authors tackle this hot-button issue.

In Rye, Virginia, just outside Washington, DC, people work hard, kids go to school, and football is big on Friday nights. An eighth-grade English teacher creates an assignment for her class to debate whether Rye’s mascot should stay or change. Now six middle schoolers–-all with different backgrounds and beliefs–-get involved in the contentious issue that already has the suburb turned upside down with everyone choosing sides and arguments getting ugly. 

Told from several perspectives, readers see how each student comes to new understandings about identity, tradition, and what it means to stand up for real change.

"Waters and Sorell's plain spoken verse is always sharp and direct." —The New York Times Book Review

“The kids and I are so grateful for this gift you both have given to teachers, kids, and our world.” –Ms. Corgill, 5th Grade Teacher, Alabama

  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2023
  • A New York Public Library Best Book of 2023
  • A National Public Radio "Books We Love" title of 2023
What if a school's mascot is seen as racist, but not by everyone? In this compelling middle-grade novel in verse, two best-selling BIPOC authors tackle this hot-button issue.

In Rye, Virginia, just...

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ISBN 9781623543808
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Average rating from 33 members

Featured Reviews

This was such a great plot going on, it worked well overall and I thought it was a interesting story. The characters did everything that I enjoyed and they felt like they belonged in a young adult novel. It has a great concept and works well overall.

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An amazing and timely novel-in-verse told through multiple points of view about a group of eighth graders given an assignment to show the pros and cons of using Indigenous People as mascots. The teacher assigned the pairs and who was to argue for and against. Callie, a Cherokee Nation citizen, is assigned with Franklin who likes their Braves mascot who wields a tomahawk. The others are paired with those who feel the opposite. As the story unfolds, feelings and friends are hurt. Some groups are cyber bullied. The kids go to a school board meeting with a petition to show they want to have the mascot changed. What does the school board end up doing?

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I am finding it difficult to put into words how I feel about this novel in verse. I love it.

This is the first time I've read a book where each of the characters, on both sides of the issue presented (using a harmful Native stereotype as a school mascot), are people you can sympathize with. The authors took such great care to keep every person in this book human. No one was a villain, not really. But there were human beings who were wrong. And human beings who were hurt. And human beings who learned how to be better humans.

And I think that is what makes this book so special.

ᎦᎵᎮᎵᎦ. Galiheliga. Thank you, Traci Sorell and Charles Waters, for bringing this story into the world.

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This incredibly important and timely novel in verse was one I couldn’t put down. A teacher assigned students to debate whether or not a school mascot should change to something inoffensive. Students don’t get to choose their side, so it is difficult for some of them to change perspectives. The story is told in alternating perspectives among the six students and the teacher. Seeing them go through the process and the resulting actions is an important thing to watch. This would make an excellent read aloud for my activism unit.

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✨ Review ✨ Mascot by Charles Waters; Traci Sorell

Wow! I love novels in verse, and this one especially makes an impact. This book moves between the perspectives of six 8th-graders who are assigned a project to debate whether their school's mascot should stay or be changed. Each of the students comes from a very different perspective, and we see throughout the assignment how their perspectives change and grow, even among those that continue to resist against the idea of change.

It's a book that makes for a great point of conversation, especially among middle grades audiences about topics of race, justice, worldview, and more.

I did worry a little about whether the characters felt a little bit stereotypical -- not because they weren't real and believable, but because they're filling these sort of archetypal roles in the conflict. With that said, since it's written for a middle grades audience, this lack of nuance might also be valuable.

Overall, a really powerful read, and one that can inspire kids and adults!

Genre: middle grade, contemporary fiction, novel in verse
Setting: Rye, Virginia
Pub Date: September 5, 2023

Read this if you like:
⭕️ novels in verse
⭕️ middle grade books that tackle race and activism

Thanks to Charlesbridge and #netgalley for an advanced e-copy of this book!

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Really enjoyed the diversity of voices, the strength of the verse, and how compelling the narrative was! I highly recommend this for public and school library collections, and I think it would make an excellent children's book group title.

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This was good, the imagery was a little harder to see over the door of no return. The way the book focuses on the mascot issue is one the we fought a few years ago and I guess still today. I will say in real life I was on prom ascot side but after reading this I can understand why the anti mascots wanted a change. Tessa was an interesting character and I felt her pain she wanted to do what was right. I think the students would enjoy this.

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Amazing and insightful—told from alternating perspectives of 8th grade students who hold various views about their school’s mascot (the Braves).

There are so many layers and issues which students today will be able to relate to.

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Having all the different perspectives of what the mascot means is an exciting way to read the book. A thought-provoking book that will bring hard questions to the forefront. I like how more indigenous books and/or authors are willing to get their culture to the table to say we are still here. With over 500 tribes in the US alone, most people don’t realize that. And because of that, they become “something else” on CNN. This will be a book I will make sure gets in the library on a reservation.

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A well-written look at a timely topic. This story is told from multiple points of view and is sympathetic to each one. Each character is developed, relatable, and real. There will be a lot in here to chew on and discuss for readers of all backgrounds.

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This book's story structure was so unexpected but a pleasant surprise! I enjoyed reading the different POVs, the storytelling kept me interested throughout and had me invested in the characters from very early on! The book covered a topic that I've been hoping to see covered in media like contemporary books for a long time, and it's a timely conversation to be had, so I'm extra glad to see it adapted for a younger audience. Books to come that are taking on the goal of tackling topics of racism in our society for adolescents should definitely take note from Mascot's narrative and form!

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I can hardly believe it's taken a book like this so long to hit the shelves! Mascot is timely, relevant, and includes perspectives of people from all sides of the discussion. Mascot presents ideas in a respectful way that young people will understand and relate to. Readers will almost certainly know some of these characters in real life. I can't wait for this book to be published so I can put a copy in my classroom library!

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This novel in verse set in Washington, D.C., cycles through six students that are dealing with the racist school mascot, a Native American Brave. The characters Callie (Indigenous), Sean (White - Irish), Teassa (White), Luis (Hispanic), Priya (Indian), and Franklin (African American) each have their own voices, beliefs, personalities, and family issues that shine through the book and the simple poetry that helps make this book a really fast read. Callie joins with Priya, Franklin, and Tessa in a campaign to change the racist mascot of the school, offended by the misrepresentations that fill every school event, sports and more. Luis and Sean don't seen a problem with the mascot, Go Braves all the way, which fractures the long held friendship between Luis and Franklin. The story begins with Callie and how uncomfortable and offended she is by the mascot, and how she joins with the others and how Luis and Sean split away from them. A debate of the pros and cons of the current mascot puts the middle schoolers in duo teams with those that don't agree with and might have to debate on the side they don't believe in either. The book brings in protest, presenting to the school board, getting parents and teachers involved, reaching out to the high school kids, too. an excellent look at racism as each student delves into the history of Indigenous tribes and their only racial identities as well. A wonderful, quick read.

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I thought this was a story that was timely and is going to spark interesting conversations with students. I like how each character had a specific point of view about the school 's mascot. It showed a realistic portrayal of how young people might handle this situation. I would recommend this book to middles schoolers who want a quick read with an engaging topic.

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An amazing novel in verse that you won't be able to put down. The story is told from multiple points of view: 8th grade students and their English teacher.

The teacher gives a group project, with assigned partners, for a debate about whether mascots should be native American or racist figures. Each pair if kids was also given which side of the topic they have to argue for. You see, when the kids go into the high school next year, their mascot would be the Braves, so they have some buy-in to the idea of whether they should change the mascot or not.

Timely and thought-provoking, this was a super fast read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

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This book was great! I loved how the students stood up for what was right. I also really enjoyed how the book was told in alternate perspectives so you could see each different character's ideas.

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When a school’s sport mascot is brought up for a debate, each student has plenty to say- for and against changing it. So much to learn. Eloquent and powerful.

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Mascots approaches the topic of cultural representation, appropriations, and allyship in a fresh and thoughtful provoking way. The diverse characters (ethnicity, religion, gender, orientation, and age) give readers so many perspectives to consider while figuring out where they personally land on the issue of team mascots. I appreciated the fact that this novel is written in verse. Not only did it lend itself well to having multiple narrators for the book. But, it creates a quick and accessible read for middle grade or teen readers. The format makes an important issue an approachable read for a wide audience. The characters, like any group of students & adults, all started at different places in the discussion on whether or not the school mascot and traditions were racist depictions of Native Americans. Through their school assignments, family discussions, research, and experiences, almost every character demonstrates some growth or movement on the issue or on how to deal with friends and loved ones who aren’t on the same side as you. The author approaches what could be a highly divisive and hotly contested issue in a calm, respectful way, using relatable experiences and analogies to show the character’s navigating through the opinions to understand what they personally believe to be true. I will definitely be adding this to our school’s collection this year. Thank you to Net Galley for a digital ARC.

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School mascots are a hot button issue in a school district in Washington DC, where the NFL team has recently been renamed the commanders.

A middle school English teacher challenges the six students in her honors class to present a side of the debate to keep the Rye mascot, the Braves, or to replace it. The six are of different identities, Indigenous, Black, Indian, Hispanic immigrant, white ex-homeschooler, white, working class, impoverished, upper middle class, and are paired up with another who doesn't share their views.

Thematically based on Langston Hughes' Theme for English B, the book is written in verse, but feels more stream of consciousness rather than poetry.

In Colorado where I live, where Native mascots are slowly being phased out, though not without a fight, this book will resonate with the teens I know. They'll be inspired by the fight that the BIPOC kids take to remove the mascots, as well as recognize how an Indigenous adult in the book can feel like the mascot is part of his heritage. Additionally, kids will relate to having a white savior try to take the reins, and how some folks don't care about mascots at all while they are trying to survive. Will definitely recommend for acquisition by both middle school and high school libraries.

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4.5 stars for me. I like that this was a novel-in-verse that tried to show the feelings of a number of different characters from a number of different vantage points in life. I found a few to be a little stereotypical but I think that was to fit the message of the story and likely necessary without adding a lot of length.
I viewed this in Kindle and it was tough to get the formatting correct for reading it as a verse novel. That might say more about my device than anything, but the chapter titles were all off and I didn't get some of the features of verse formatting that might have been there.
Overall, an important story and message, suitable for MG or YA (or adult) discussion, this novel brings the issue of mascot or names that are offensive to others, particularly Indigenous peoples to light. I especially enjoyed that they used a team nickname that is still being used (Braves). I can only imagine what kind of discussion this would trigger in Atlanta (home to the Braves MLB team, which has a very high profile right now).

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Beautifully written by Traci Sorell (of the Cherokee Nation) and Charles Waters, "Mascot" tells the story of a group of 8th-grade Honors English students in a middle school in Rye, Virginia (just outside Washington, DC). This hardworking suburb filled with a mix of families has a long-standing football tradition, all centred around their team and the mascot.

"You see that made up image painted
on the cafeteria and other school walls,
that stupid tomahawk-chop chank,
and that cheap chicken-feather headdress,
and you think that means me,
means Native Nations.

None of that represents anything Indigenous.
Just white supremacy."

When their teacher assigns the contentious debate topic of asking students if the mascot should stay or go - chaos ensues.

Kids reflect on their own beliefs and ideologies - some with an open mind and some stubbornly unable to see the issue from another point of view. Arguments spill beyond the classroom walls into the community, affecting the whole school, their families, and, eventually, the whole town.

Written in verse, it is incredibly wonderful to watch the characters struggle as individuals, within their families, with friendships, and with classmates as the issue unfolds. The depth of character development with which readers are gifted is remarkable. The details are rich, subtle and yet thorough. They may lead to the learning/unlearning that readers may find themselves doing as they inevitably identify with one or more of the characters along the way.

It is a timely topic well-written with likeable, relatable characters, honest and authentic middle-grade angst and emotion, and adults who make the story ring true just enough to be genuine realistic fiction. Every middle school should be adding this to its shelves.

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A very accessible book about a group of 8th grade honor English students in a suburb of Washington D.C. who are assigned a debate about whether or not the high school should change its current mascot (the Braves). The book is told in multiple perspectives including a girl of Cherokee heritage who recently moved from Oklahoma. The authors do a good job of balancing views in the book. This would be a great addition to a 7th or 8th grade English class or a class that focuses on social justice.

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This is such an important book, and I'm so glad it exists in the world. Thanks to the authors, NetGalley and Charlesbridge for an advance reading copy.

There are many great things about this book. The first is the topic. Sports teams with discriminatory mascots have been in the news for years, and it's about time someone wrote a story for kids to read that will help them form a well-rounded opinion. The story is told from the perspective of many middle graders in the same school. Some are horrified, damaged even, by the mascot, and some are proud of it. Reading about their opinions is fascinating. I also loved how some characters grew and changed, and some stayed the same. Just like real life.

In my opinion, the only downfall of the book is the amount of perspectives. Although it is important to read many ideas on this topic, this could have been done through the perspective of about three characters. Fewer characters to keep track of (the target audience is middle grade, don't forget) and we could get to know them more in-depth.

All in all, I respect and admire this book. Well done!

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A student's argument in class leads their teacher to set up a debate among all of the students. Should their school, Rye High School, keep a stereotypical Native American mascot complete with ax chopping motions and made up dances, or should they change it to a non-offensive mascot? Surprisingly, these students are only in eighth grade and their teacher assigns the class a viewpoint that often opposes their own beliefs and asks them to argue the point with research.

The students learn that they have to truly work together, and not just use their privelege, but magnify the voices of People of Color. Some learn that their views have changed while others learn more nuance. I think this would be a great way to introduce the topic of debate, and to look at a controversial topic from different viewpoints. I highly recommend this book for schools and libraries.

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The tagline of this book is “Discrimination is discrimination, even when people claim it is ‘tradition,'” and this tagline tells you exactly about the theme of the book. Told from four students’ points of view, it looks at a school where there is a lot of school spirit around their sports team, called the Braves, and a new student starts who is indigenous and is horrified at the appropriation of her culture. The book is written in verse which gives such well written insight into each of the students’ point of view as these kids aim to make a difference. I read this book in one sitting–it is such a great read where you want to know what is going to happen, so you cannot put the book down.

This topic is also so very timely! I saw Traci Sorell at AASL, and she shared that about 2,000 K-12 schools still have Native American-themed mascots. I know of a couple in my area, and I hope that someone shares this book with them to get the conversation going as the book does a beautiful job of looking at the effects of the ignorant choices that were made in the past (and that too many continue to ignore, despite the racism).

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This is a book in verse told in multiple points of view on both sides of the Native American mascot debate. Through a debate assignment given by a middle school teacher students get involved in this highly political topic. Through the many points of view the author is able to show many sides of the debate and thinking. Friendships are made and lost over the topic. A topic that is not widely seen in middle school or high school books.

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This was such a fascinating and important novel to read. I am eager to recommend it to our young patrons, whether they love novels in verse, stories about timely issues, realistic fiction, or stories about racial injustice.

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I shared this book at NCTE and ALAN. I have also been sharing it regularly at teacher events. Thanks for sending this my way so I could get the word out! The book is SO NEEDED.

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This was a hard but important read. It was really difficult to be in the head of the kids who didn't understand the injustice, like when you're reading Lolita. I worry that kids will read those chapters and use them to justify what they already believe. Great pub timing to be on shelves for Thanksgiving.

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This one was an eye opening read. That fits for the current times we are in. And each of the main characters could indeed be in any middle school or high school in America. I wish this one existed when I was a teen.

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Can a mascot that appropriates another culture ever truly be considered an "honor"? What does it take to change "tradition"? These are questions a small class of English honors students ask themselves when they are tasked by their teacher to present arguments for or against the school's Native American appropriated mascot.

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In Rye, Virginia an eighth-grade class is debating whether the school’s mascot is appropriate or should be changed. The novel in verse follows six of the students as they contemplate and delve into interviews and research regarding their topic. Each of the students come from different walks of life and experiences that help shape their initial opinion on the topic, but this is a conversation that continues outside of their classroom as well.

“Mascot” is an important book that discusses a difficult topic, but it is done in a way that both sides of the conversation are seen. I highly recommend this read.

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