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Count Me In by Varsha Bajaj

Sometimes you come across a book that you feel honored to have the privilege to read, to hold, and to share with others. I live for these books, and my heart always seems to burst with joy whenever I find one that forever finds its place in my heart.

Count Me In, by Varsha Bajaj, is a book that I am privileged to share with you today.

It is a modern-hero story where kids stand up to the persecutions and moments of racism we all too commonly see today. Through this story, students will have the opportunity to see am an example of the bravery and courage that even children can show when they face the moments of hate within their own lives.

The book, Count Me In, tells the story of a growing friendship between neighbors. Karina is a kind girl who lives with her parents. Recently, her grandfather has moved in with them. Karina and her family are Indian Americans, and their culture remains the center of their family life.

To everyone but Karina, Chris is the boy next door. He is likable and seems to be everyone's friend. Sports are his life, but school has always been a struggle for him. To stay in sports, Chris needs a tutor, and the perfect match happens to live next door… Karina's grandfather.

As the friendship between Chris and Karina's grandfather blossoms, Karina opens her heart to giving Chris a true chance. She is amazed by his kindness to her grandfather, and the three quickly become a trio. It is after a tutoring session one day that trouble finds the three of them.

While walking home from tutoring, Karina, Chris, and Karina's grandfather become targets of a hate crime. A cruel man pulls up and starts assaulting Karina's grandfather. Through his hateful words and physical blows, Karina and Chris are faced with the harsh fears and realities of racism.

It is during Papa's recovery from his injuries that change happens. Through the posting of Karina's images of the assault on social media, word gets around. Karina leads a charge, and she tells everyone to "count me in" for the charge to stand up against racism and violence.

Standing right beside her the whole time is her new friend, Chris. Together, the two of them do everything they can to stand up to hatred and make a change to the world for good.

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