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
Eight-year-old Sadie is a slave on the plantation of Master Francis Giltner. When Master Giltner whips January, a young man dear to Sadie and her family for trying to run away, Sadie wishes she would have tried to stop him. Just the other day January had handed her a little bird, a sparrow, carved from wood. He’d handed it to her and said, “It’s fixin’ to fly And so is I.” Maybe Sadie should have told her mom and dad what January was planning to do.
That same night Sadie is shaken awake. Her dad says, “We is gonna cross water tonight!” Her mom says “They was comin’ to fetch the boys in the mornin’. We heard it ourselves. They was gonna be auctioned off.” To keep their family together, Sadie’s mom and dad have made the decision to make a run for it, even though they have seen what their punishment will be if they get caught. This night begins their harrowing journey to Indiana and then on to Michigan and finally to Canada on the Underground Railroad. Pursued by slave catchers and dogs the family relies on the help of others to survive. And even when they finally get to a free state, slave catchers still chase them, hoping to drag them back to the planation. Author: Patricia Polacco
This video is a dramatization of people escaping with the help of Abolitionists. It really shows you the emotional toll fleeing took on people and the importance of having help along the way. Fugitive slaves running through Indiana may have passed through the homes of Alexander Rankin in Fort Wayne or Levi Coffin in Fountain City.
Alexander Rankin was a well-known abolitonist. Rankin came to Fort Wayne in 1838 to become a minister. He built a house at 818 Lafayette Street in Fort Wayne and lived there for two years. The Rankin house is the only surviving structure in Fort Wayne that is known to be connected to the Abolition movement or the Underground Railroad.
Dit Sims lives in tiny Moundville, Alabama in 1917. He’s got nine brothers and sisters and his Dad routinely forgets his name. It’s summer, it’s hot and Dit’s best friend is away for the summer. When he finds out that a new postmaster is coming to town, Dit hopes the new postmaster, Mr. Walker, has a son close to his age that will want to go fishing and play baseball.
The postmaster comes, and Dit is disappointed to learn that he doesn’t bring a son, he brings prissy, brainiac Emma who always has her nose in a book and doesn’t know one thing about baseball. Dit’s town is disappointed to learn that the Walkers are African-American.
Dit’s family welcomes the Walkers and the two families slowly build a relationaship sharing chores and helping out when family members are sick. Dit and Emma start building a friendship too. Dit teaches Emma how to throw and hit a baseball. Emma helps Dit with math and introduces him to exciting adventure books like Treasure Island. Slowly, over the summer, the two kids become best friends.
Some people in Dit’s town don’t welcome the Walkers, especially the town sheriff. Some people object to Dit and Emma’s friendship, even object to the Walkers living in Moundville at all. When the two kids witness a racially motivated shooting and realize their friend, the town’s black barber, is unjustly blamed and sentenced to hang, they secretly come up with a daring plan to save him.
This story brings the injustice and horrors of racial bigotry to life. It’s a story about friendship between people and how that friendship is stronger than the forces around it that try to tear it apart. Two thumbs up historical fiction. Author: Kristin Levine
In 1975, toward the end of the Vietnam war, many children were airlifted away from the fighting in Vietnam and sent to The United States. Many of the children were orphans, but some of the children were put on the helicopters by their own parents, parents who hoped to keep their children from being hurt in the war.
Can you imagine how sad it would be to have to send your child to strangers in a strange land? And what if you were one of the children? Would you understand if your mom or dad sent you away, even it it was for a good reason?
all the broken pieces is the story of one of these children, Matt Pin, who still has nightmares about the war and carries in his heart a secret he is afraid to tell. It’s a secret he’s even afraid to think about too much.
Matt is 12 now and has loving adoptive parents here in The United States. He goes to school and he plays baseball. He is living the American dream his mother hoped for him when she put him on the helicopter to escape the war. But underneath the dream are Matt’s memories and the memories of what he left behind in Vietnam. These memories are too strong to ignore and too important to keep hidden.
I loved reading this story and watching Matt begin to reveal the pieces of his life he has kept secret. Matt’s story is the kind that makes you cry. Imagining yourself in his shoes, or in his Vietnamese mother’s shoes – that’s really hard. But Matt’s story also makes you feel good because you see the hope and goodness that grew out of a bad thing. That doesn’t mean the War didn’t cause a lot of pain, it just means that people survived the pain and made good things happen as they moved forward. That’s a really hopeful message. Author: Ann E. Burg
13 year-old Lyza lives in New Jersey in 1968 with her Dad and her hippie sister. Lyza’s mother has abandoned the family and they are trying to keep it together with just the three of them. As Lyza says about the time since her mom left, ”our family began to unravel/like a tightly wound ball of string.” This book is written as a series of poems that make Lyza’s experiences seem even more real. It’s kind of like reading her diary or listening in on her thoughts.
Lyza’s grandfather’s death is another emotional blow for a family already on the edge. While cleaning out his house, Lyza discovers something curious, an envelope labeled, “for Lyza only.” In the envelope are old maps and clues that may lead to the pirate treasure of Capt. Kidd – a treasure that might be buried somewhere in Lyza’s hometown.
Lyza recruits her best friends Malcolm and Carolann to help her understand the clues and old maps. The kids operate in secret, doing their research by day and sneaking out at night to do their digging.
For Lyza, there are some mysteries she can’t solve by herself, like the reason her mother left. Other mysteries, like the whereabouts of Captain Kidd’s treasure, she just might be able to unravel with the help of a few good friends.
This story is set during the Vietnam war. Lyza has a lot of loss around her. Her mom has left, her Grandpa dies and boys from her town are dying in the war. All of this could make a person sink into despair, but instead, Lyza chooses to be alive. She chooses to grab the adventure that is handed to her. I really liked that about her. Life is unpredictable and sometimes very hard. But it IS life and life has all kinds of wonderful things and good surprises in it too. You can’t really have one without the other. I liked reading about a girl who is learning how to handle both. Author: Jen Bryant