Teenage brothers Sam and Stick live in Chicago in 1968. Their dad, Rev. Roland Childs, is a respected minister and close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King. Sam’s dad believes passionately in non-violent protest and tirelessly organizes and participates in peaceful protest marches.
Older brother Stick has begun to question Dr. King’s nonviolent philosophy and has been secretly attending meetings of the Black Panthers, an organization whose philosophies are more aggressive than Dr. King’s and are different from what Rev. Child’s preaches and teaches his boys at home. Sam is torn between the ideas of has father and the ideas of his older brother, both of whom he respects and admires.
Everybody can relate to being torn between two choices and being torn between the opinions of two people you respect. When it comes down to figuring out what you think for your own self – that’s when things get hard.
After Dr. King is assassinated and Sam witnesses the brutal beating of a friend by police officers, he becomes more interested in the ideas Stick is learning about at the Black Panther meetings. He begins to attend the meetings also. The conversation the teens have at home, at school, and at these meetings are some of the best parts of the book. They are living the civil rights struggle as they face discrimination every day. Listening to these conversations you get a real sense of each philosophy and why it was chosen by the people committed to it.
This book has a pretty explosive, surprising ending. It isn’t a book for the faint hearted. These are really hard issues and there is violence in the book. It isn’t a happy story with a happy ending because it’s not that kind of story. It wasn’t a happy time. The book is true to the historical period so the violence is part of the story being told.
It is hard for Sam and Stick to stand by watching people suffer the injustices of racism. When Sam finds out Leroy, the leader of the student Black Panthers, sneaks away to talk to Rev. Childs, the same way Sam is sneaking off to the Black Panther meetings, he realizes that these issues are hard for everyone. Sam discovers that standing quiet and firm is different than doing nothing and that you can be agressive, without being violent. A really powerful, emotional book. Don’t miss the author’s note at the end – it is a great discussion of the true events, people and groups that appear in this book. Author: Kekla Magoon Award: Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent 2010
Hand in Hand tells the stories of 10 African-American men from different periods in American history. Each story is written like the author really knew the person. She didn’t, of course, she wasn’t even alive for most of them. What she did, though, was write about each person’s whole life, not just their accomplishments. It helps you understand how and why they accomplished what they did. This makes them much more real and their stories interesting. Author: Andrea Pinkney Illustrator: Brian Pinkney 2013
Krisitin Levine’s sensitive and engaging novel The Lions of Little Rock takes place during the struggle to integrate public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958. The narrator is 12 year old Marlee , who seldom speaks to anyone except family members. Math whiz Marlee prefers numbers to words, “ In math, you always get the same answer, no matter how you do the problem. But with words, blue can be a thousand different shades!” That changes when she becomes friends with Liz, a new girl at school. Their friendship is disrupted when Liz suddenly disappears from school after it is discovered that she is black and not welcome at the still segregated school. The story that follows is not only about Marlee finding her voice in many ways, but also about the courage it took for individuals in the Little Rock community to find their voices, come together, and stand up for what is right. The author successfully combines themes of friendship, family, and profound issues in our society with a light enough touch that makes the book a pleasure to read, and encourages the reader to reflect on all the issues the story presents.
Recommended by: Amy Friedman, The Learning Curve@Central Library
In eighteenth-century West Africa, a boy raised by his blacksmith father and the Mother Elements–Wind, Fire, Water, and Earth–is captured and taken to America as a slave.
“Loved ones are never forgotten
When we continue to tell their stories.” (from back cover of the book)
Before reading this story/poem, learn a new word “griot” – meaning a West African storyteller, praise singer, poet, and musician. The griot relates the story of Dinga, the blacksmith, and his son Musafa, who becomes one of “the Taken”. Dinga calls to the four elements – earth, fire, water, wind – to find his son. Each element tells about its search, and wind, becoming a hurricane to cross the ocean, finds Musafa – a slave apprenticed to a blacksmith. The drawing by Leo and Diane Dillon enliven the story, making it a work of art.
Recommended by Cindy Childers, Garfield Park Branch Library
Eliza is a slave on a tobacco plantation in Alexandria, Virginia in the 1850s. Eliza is unusual because she has been taught to read and write. Eliza keeps a diary of her life on the plantation and she is a good storyteller.
Eliza tells about how it felt when her mother was sold away. She tells about how scared she is when she hears Sir’s boots walking toward her. Her words make her experiences feel real while you reading her diary. I felt scared when Eliza felt scared. Just thinking about the sound of the boots, “thump, thump, thump” gives me shivers.
Eliza overhears a conversation about herself before an upcoming slave auction:
“Late in the day, a man came to see Sir. When I passed through the parlor I heard him say something to Sir about the price I would fetch. I pretended I did not hear the talk. But I am in so much fear.” page 29
Eliza decides it is time to run. She has a quilt her mother made that has pictures in it. The pictures, a mysterious women called the Conductor and a series of friends help Eliza find her way to freedom on the Underground Railroad. This is a great book if you want to feel like you are right there, hearing and seeing and feeling the same things that Eliza heard and saw and felt. Author: Jerdine Nolen