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Street artist draws attention to shady community projects

Mary Quattlebaum

THE WASHINGTON POST – 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 programme for teens.

She makes her request at a neighbourhood 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 realises that these so-called projects are neither needed nor wanted by the community.

In fact, the only people benefitting 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.

Fortunately, Bella’s neighbourhood harbours 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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