Hope Defined (Dinah Dynamo)

Written by Shannon Humphrey

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This book is a tale of two heroines; Hope, a thirteen year old wannabe astrophysicist, struggling to make a difference in the “hood” on Earth, and Dinah, one of the scions who travel space creating planets and chasing the stars. Hope must overcome bullies and racism; Dinah must figure out how to control the forces struggling to tear her being apart.

Humphrey succeeds in writing a book that addresses problems many middle grade students face, bullying and racism, while at the same time facing how to “come of age.” The parallel science fiction story of Dinah, who is being tested in her world, lends an appealing element to the middle grade reader. Hope is truly a creative genius, but she is faced with opposition from her black friends who want her to give up her “nerdiness” and just fit in, while at the same time fighting to compete with the white kids who are jealous of her and scheme to get her in trouble. Her mother does not understand her devotion to her studies, but a neighbor named Mr. Lewis is willing to help. Hope has strange dreams about a girl who looks like her and gives her confidence; Dinah struggles with a strange feeling that she is needed to help someone, but does not understand how or where this impulse originates.

The plot details the kind of experiences middle school students face everyday and portrays situations with which they can empathize. I highly recommend this book to parents and teachers as a starting point of discussions on bullying and racism. It raises many situations that should be raised before these issues arise. Children age nine and up will find this a compelling read and a useful resource for answering may of their questions in a nonjudgmental fashion. This story teaches and does not preach; a most effective way to reach the minds of tweens and young teens.

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