Cover image for Free lunch
Title:
Free lunch
ISBN:
9781324003601
Physical Description:
206 pages ; 22 cm.
Summary:
A distinctive new voice: Rex Ogle's story of starting middle school on the free lunch program is timely, heartbreaking, and true. Free Lunch is the story of Rex Ogle's first semester in sixth grade. Rex and his baby brother often went hungry, wore secondhand clothes, and were short of school supplies, and Rex was on his school's free lunch program. Grounded in the immediacy of physical hunger and the humiliation of having to announce it every day in the school lunch line, Rex's is a compelling story of a more profound hunger -- that of a child for his parents' love and care. Compulsively readable, beautifully crafted, and authentically told with the voice and point of view of a 6th-grade kid, Free Lunch is a remarkable debut by a gifted storyteller. --
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Summary

Summary

Free Lunch is the story of Rex Ogle's first semester in sixth grade. Rex and his baby brother often went hungry, wore secondhand clothes, and were short of school supplies, and Rex was on his school's free lunch program. Grounded in the immediacy of physical hunger and the humiliation of having to announce it every day in the school lunch line, Rex's is a compelling story of a more profound hunger--that of a child for his parents' love and care. Compulsively readable, beautifully crafted, and authentically told with the voice and point of view of a 6th-grade kid, Free Lunch is a remarkable debut by a gifted storyteller.


Author Notes

Rex Ogle was born and raised mostly in Texas. He says, "I was one of the poorest kids at a school for the children of the wealthy. I was on the subsidized lunch program, and mocked endlessly. This is my middle school experience, but I think it's an important story to tell." A former children's book editor in New York City, Rex and his partner now enjoy much nicer weather in the Los Angeles area.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

With candor and vivid detail, Ogle's debut, a memoir, captures the experience of chronic poverty in the United States. In addition to the usual middle school problems, Rex cringes every time he has to remind the cafeteria lady he's on the free lunch program. At home, his unemployed mother and stepfather download their stress on him and each other, verbally and physically: " definitely loves me more when she has money," Rex says. "She can think straight. She remembers she cares about me." Ogle doesn't shy away from the circumstances (he and his toddler stepbrother are sometimes left alone for days at a time), but there is no shortage of humor, human kindness, and kid hijinks. Though the story is an intense middle grade read, Ogle's emotional honesty pays off in the form of complex characterization and a bold, compassionate thesis: "Maybe being poor broke her.... and she can't get well as long as this is her life." The book ends on a hopeful if precarious note that underscores the importance of dismantling the shame surrounding poverty. In a country where 43% of children live in low-income families, Ogle's memoir is all too relatable. An author's note, q&a, and discussion guide conclude. Ages 11--14. (Sept.)


Kirkus Review

Recounting his childhood experiences in sixth grade, Ogle's memoir chronicles the punishing consequences of poverty and violence on himself and his family.The start of middle school brings about unwanted changes in young Rex's life. His old friendships devolve as his school friends join the football team and slowly edge him out. His new English teacher discriminates against him due to his dark skin (Rex is biracial, with a white absentee dad and a Mexican mom) and secondhand clothes, both too large and too small. Seemingly worse, his mom enrolls him in the school's free-lunch program, much to his embarrassment. "Now everyone knows I'm nothing but trailer trash." His painful home life proffers little sanctuary thanks to his mom, who swings from occasional caregiver to violent tyrant at the slightest provocation, and his white stepdad, an abusive racist whose aggression outrivals that of Rex's mom. Balancing the persistent flashes of brutality, Ogle magnificently includes sprouts of hope, whether it's the beginnings of a friendship with a "weird" schoolmate, joyful moments with his younger brother, or lessons of perseverance from Abuela. These slivers of relative levity counteract the toxic relationship between young Rex, a boy prone to heated outbursts and suppressed feelings, and his mother, a fully three-dimensional character who's viciously thrashing against the burden of poverty. It's a fine balance carried by the author's outstanding, gracious writing and a clear eye for the penetrating truth.A mighty portrait of poverty amid cruelty and optimism. (author's note, author QA, discussion guide, writing guide, resources) (Memoir. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Middle school can be daunting, even under ideal conditions. But if, like Rex, you are also dealing with a father who abandoned you, a mother and her boyfriend who beat you, food and housing insecurity, and the stigma of free lunch, the results can be overwhelming. Ogle's memoir details the first semester of sixth grade, where his grade-school friends desert him for football; some teachers prejudge him because he is poor and Hispanic; and the elderly, deaf lunch lady never remembers his name, forcing him to loudly announce his situation daily. Eventually, he meets fellow outsider Ethan, who introduces him to the world of comics and true friendship. Ogle's engrossing narrative is rich in lived experience, offering a window into the ways that poverty can lead to domestic violence and feelings of unworthiness. The abuse Rex and his mother suffer will disturb many; too many others will recognize Rex's circumstances as their own. Appended with an author's note, Q&A, and social services resources, this is an important and ultimately hopeful memoir.--Kay Weisman Copyright 2010 Booklist