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Book club: Street artist draws attention to shady community projects

Maurice Broaddus’s ‘Unfadeable’ tells the story of a girl who learns to speak truth to power.

(Allison Colpoys for The Washington Post)
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Unfadeable

By Maurice Broaddus

Ages 8 to 12

Thirteen-year-old Bella Fades is not afraid to speak up. She’s a street artist whose tag, or special signature, is “Unfadeable,” and she’d like a summer arts program for teens. She makes her request at a neighborhood planning meeting, which is open to the public — only to be dismissed. Funding is already going to other projects, she’s told.

What projects, Bella wants to know. After doing research, she realizes that these so-called projects are neither needed nor wanted by the community. In fact, the only people benefiting seem to be the city officials who shut down her idea. Something is very shady.

When she shares her suspicions, though, Bella is ignored. Grown-ups think she’s just a loud, nosy kid. And she knows she must proceed with caution. As a homeless teen, she’s living in the empty house of an artist who recently died. She doesn’t want the city’s child services agency to discover her whereabouts.

Click here to join the Summer Book Club

Fortunately, Bella’s neighborhood harbors unexpected allies: M, a retired detective; Aaries, his tough, 15-year-old assistant; and a friendly pit bull. M’s curiosity and concern for the community mirrors Bella’s. He shows her how to ask questions, dig for information and quietly gather evidence. Slowly, this unusual team begins to separate truth from lies. But Bella makes mistakes. She acts rashly and messes up their plans.

Then Bella is threatened. Thugs follow her, and her makeshift quarters are searched. Someone important wants her out of the way. And they are closing in.

In this lively, fast-paced mystery, Bella becomes a savvy activist. She learns how to speak truth to power — and ensure that all will listen. Though set in Indianapolis, Indiana, the issues explored in this book are common to every city. Affordable housing, transparency in government spending, adequate programing for young people — these may be needs in your community, too. Bella offers a model of how young people can get involved and help create positive change.

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In Kelly Yang’s “Front Desk” (ages 8 to 12), 10-year-old Mia Tang helps her hard-working parents run an old motel. When the owner cheats her family and other long-term residents, Mia uses her voice in surprising ways to fight this and other injustices. KidsPost reader Esmé Haggard of McLean, Virginia, recommends the entire series, especially Book 3, “Room to Dream.

In “Manatee Summer” (ages 8 to 12), by Evan Griffith, Peter and Tommy find an injured manatee and learn about the many threats to these gentle marine creatures. As young environmental activists, though, can they hope to combat wealthy, uncaring boat owners?

Young readers should look for Cynthia Lord’s “Jelly Bean” (ages 7 to 10), the first book in the Shelter Pet Squad series. Suzannah and her friends bring treats and toys to the animals at their local rescue shelter, but she wants to do more. She makes it her mission to find a good home for an abandoned guinea pig, but no one seems to want it.

Next time in book club

The Secret Battle of Evan Pao

By Wendy Wan-Long Shang

Ages 8 to 12

Evan Pao has a sense for when people are lying. He has just moved from California to Virginia with his mother and older sister, and he can tell who is being friendly and who is faking it. While he adjusts to being the only Asian student in his new school, can he also figure out other things, such as how to live without his dad (who has disappeared) and how to navigate the difficult past of his new hometown?

Join the club

The Summer Book Club is open to kids ages 6 to 14. They may read some or all of the books on our list. (Find a blurb for each book at wapo.st/kidspostbookclub launch2022.) The first 600 kids registered will receive a notebook and pen. To join the club, children must be registered by a parent or guardian by August 8. To register, that adult must fill out our form at wapo.st/kidspost bookclub2022. If you have questions, contact kidspost@washpost.com.

Do you have a suggestion?

Send KidsPost your ideas for other books to go with this year’s “Speaking Truth” theme. Kids ages 6 to 14 are eligible to participate; one entry per person. Have a parent or guardian fill out the top part of the form at wapo.st/kidspostYMAL and then share your suggestions by July 28. We may include your favorites in KidsPost. We will send several books to three randomly selected kids who sent in suggestions. Winners will be notified by August 30.

To our commenters

A reminder from the KidsPost team: Our stories are geared to 7- to 13-year-olds. We welcome discussion from readers of all ages, but please follow our community rules and make comments appropriate for that age group.