Erskine, Kathryn. Seeing Red.
24 September 2013, Scholastic Press
EARC from Netgalley.com
Nominated for the Cybils by Madelyn Rosenberg
Red Porter lives in small Stoney Gap, Virgina town in 1972. His father has passed away, and his family is barely surviving. They have an auto repair shop and convenience store, and Red tries to work there with Beau, a very loyal but somewhat simple minded family friend, but his mother is bound and determined to move Red and his brother J to Ohio to be with her family. There is something to be said for this plan-- Red hates school, he is always at odds with the Dunlops next door (except for daughter Rosie), and things are difficult between Red and Thomas, his former best friend, especially after Thomas is threatened with racial violence and Red does nothing to stop it. Still, the family's history is deeply entwined with Stony Gap's, and Red discovers that his family might have had a lot to do with a local African American church's property, as well as the death of the great grandfather of Miss Georgia, Thomas' grandmother and a good friend of Red's. When a new teacher, Miss Miller, comes to town and encourages the students to think about problems larger than themselves, Red starts to realize that even though his ancestors might have been prejudiced, he doesn't have to be. Struggling to keep his father's memory alive but also to do the right thing, Red overcomes difficult circumstances and eventually enables his family to weather the variety of storms that they are facing.
Strengths: This was a very intricate and complex portrayal of a pivotal time in Civil Rights history. By 1972, things were supposed to be better, but in small Southern towns, apparently they weren't. Students will be surprised at the small, daily inequalities that are portrayed here-- Miss Georgia not being allowed to go to a white church, Red being distanced from his friend, a minister using the pulpit to further racial hatred, and Rosie being abused by her father. This starts rather slowly, but definitely ends powerfully.
Weaknesses: It's hard to tell right away when this is set. I caught the small cues, but students won't. There is one mention of calling 911, which struck me as odd, so the historical setting of this one sometimes slipped for me. There was quite the conversation in my house about the repeated use of Rock Em Sock Em Robots as a symbol for lost childhood. While I ended up liking this one, the widespread appeal of this for students might not be great.
One note on the E ARC-- the page decorations at the beginnings of chapters really slowed down the loading time, and as with all e books, I had more trouble going back and checking details of the story. Why is this so much easier with paper books, even with the capability of taking notes? I guess I don't know what information I need to look up until I'm done with the story!