by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
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A hilarious and moving coming-of-age tale that explores the intersection between self and community and the complexity of Black identity as a boy wonders: if he’s not who he’s always thought he was, who exactly can he be?
“An exceptional novel with broad appeal.” – Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
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.
“When everyone’s a star, it’s hard to stand out. African American E―who’s not named after Emmett Till, thank you very much―is used to being the cheerful sidekick to big brother Luke, but Luke has different ideas. He’s gotten a scholarship to a boarding school in Maine, and this summer he’ll be a junior counselor at DuBois, a historically Black summer camp that is a little bougie. Thirteen-year-old E has been trying to dissuade Luke by reminding him how many horror movies are set at boarding schools and summer camps, but Luke is clearly ready to step out on his own and dive into his visual art. E takes matters into his own hands by secretly applying for and getting into DuBois. He soon learns that while he may be a debate team star and talented break dancer at home, everyone at DuBois is exceptional―and they all seem to be better versed in Black excellence than he is. He quickly learns to keep his mouth shut and Google later when it comes to names he doesn’t recognize, like Toni Morrison and Marcus Garvey. E feels hopelessly shy and uncool, shining only when it comes to dance. His relationship with Luke becomes strained, with Luke wanting to break free of his little brother while E is desperate to maintain their connection. The cast of characters is fully realized, distinct, and absolutely lovable, and E’s journey will resonate. An exceptional novel with broad appeal.” – Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
“Defining Black identity is central to Rhuday-Perkovich’s endearing coming-of-age story, and a rosy ending wraps up this account of Black boy joy nicely. Readers seeking books with BIPOC protagonists like Pablo Cartaya’s The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora will enjoy this selection as well.” – Booklist
“This is a great book to add to lists of titles that showcase Black joy!….Summer camp books are always possible, and I loved all of the information about Black culture and history….this is primarily a humorous, fun book.” – Ms. Yingling Reads