The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade

Eleven-year-old Maverick Falconer wants to be like Spider-Man or Captain America. Instead, he's more like Don Rickles: funny and short--"but not short enough for the shortness to qualify as a superpower." Maverick's circumstances support the theory that every comedian's humor masks heartache: when he was three, Maverick's military firefighter dad died a hero in Afghanistan. His erratically employed, hard-drinking mother has an abusive boyfriend, and being woefully small for his age means Maverick can't protect her, plus he's ripe for ribbing from his peers.

On the verge of starting sixth grade, Maverick hatches a spirits-buoying plan: "I was going to do good deeds, right wrongs, stand up against evil, and protect anybody who was smaller or weaker than I was.... Assuming I could find anybody smaller or weaker than I was." He gets off to a lousy start: one of his "good deeds" is hanging an air freshener in his homeroom that gives his teacher hives, and he lands in the assistant principal's office more often than a hero should.

The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade is a comic novel that lets the reader look past the jokes and at Maverick's tattered sneakers, and into his empty cupboards. Jordan Sonnenblick (Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip) has created a memorably endearing and unlikely hero whose biggest challenge is fighting not bad guys but the embarrassment of being poor and the compulsion to see one's parents as virtuous. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

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