Magoon, Kekla. Fire in the Streets.
28 August 2012, Aladdin
Nominated for the Cybils by T.S.Davis
This sequel to The Rock and the River (2009) follows Maxie after the death of her friend Sam's brother Steve. Maxie and Raheem live with their mother in the projects, and are struggling to pay the rent and get food. Sam's family is well off, but reeling from Steve's death. Maxie has two very good friends, Patrice and Emmalee, but neither of them are as interested in working with the Black Panthers as Maxie is. Not content to stuff envelopes and babysit at the office, Maxie wants to be a fully trained (and armed) member who is allowed to go on patrols wearing the Black Panther Jacket. Despite the rough spots in her life (her mother loses her job and starts bringing home a variety of men, her relationship with Sam is rocky, Raheem is about to get drafted), she believes in the work of the Black Panthers and tries to get others in her neighborhood interested. Things get harder for the organization when someone inside starts giving the police information, and Maxie finds out that the person doing this is closer to her than she thought.
Strengths: Really well researched and compelling, this is a topic not covered much in middle grade or young adult fiction. (Even One Crazy Summer doesn't have much detail about the Black Panthers' work, other than with children.). I do have the first book in my library, and it circulates steadily. What I would LOVE to see now is a nonfiction companion about the Black Panthers by Ms. Magoon, who did such an excellent job on Today the World is Watching You. (Which she's working on!!! So excited!!!!)
Weaknesses: There is some tiptoeing around sexual topics that might make this less appropriate for younger middle grade readers. The mother has men over, and Sam and Maxie consider doing more than kissing, but it's all delicately handled.
Now I am really interested in the history of the Black Panther Party. The platform of the party, which is mentioned in part in the book, is available at: