Kidd, Ronald. Night on Fire
September 1st 2015 by Albert Whitman & Company
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Billie has never really thought about some of the details of her life in 1960's Anniston, Alabama. Loyal family retainer Lavender is like part of the family, but Billie starts to realize that Lavender has her own life, including daughter Jarmaine. Billie meets Jarmaine at the local spelling bee, which has excluded all of the children from the Negro schools. Billie and her friend Grant have been watching the news of the Freedom Riders with interest, and are starting to realize how very segregated their town is. Billie takes a liking to Jarmaine, and after a Freedom Riders bus is set on fire in their town, the two decide to band together and ride to Birmingham to be part of a rally that includes Dr. Martin Luther King. Billie wonders if her father is one of the men who would stand by while the black people are being accosted, and wonders if she will be able to be someone who instead helps out the cause of the downtrodden. Grant's father worked for a newspaper in Cincinnati before moving to the small town of Anniston to run the paper, so he is more progressive than many of the people. Billie and Jarmaine learn a lot about the Civil Rights movement on their journey and discover many things about themselves as well.
Strengths: This had information about very specific incidents that occurred during the Civil Rights movement, and was not entirely from Billie's perspective, which was helpful. Having Jarmaine's perspective was very helpful, and the scenes of the two of them traveling together pointed out how difficult things were for black Americans in the south in the 1960s. The supporting characters (Grant, a local store owner, Lavender) added different facets to the book as well. I've always tried to get students to read books about the Civil Rights movement-- perhaps with the various situations going on currently, I can actually get some of these titles checked out.
Weaknesses: Billie seemed overly eager for racial equality without convincing motivation. This is not uncommon (there are lots of spunky girls embracing Women's Rights in early 1900s historical fiction as well), but I was hoping for a book that showed a growing understanding and explained it.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing. Love the cover, too. Anything with silhouettes!
Lowery, Lynda Blackmon. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March
Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley (Retelling), Pj Loughran (Illustrations)
January 8th 2015 by Dial Books
Told in a straightforward manner but with palpable emotion, this nicely illustrated memoir describes Blackmon Lowery's participation in a variety of civil rights activities in the 1960s. I enjoyed how it delineated exactly why and how she started to get involved, first as a helper for older children, and then, with the wary permission of her parents, as an active participant in marches. With unflinching detail about the brutality of the police actions against the marchers, we are shown why these activities were important to Blackmon Lowery and how they influenced the movement in general as well as her own life.
There are photographs along with illustrations. I particularly liked the illustrations, since they were reminiscent of ones I remember from school textbooks at the time-- black and white line drawings with the inclusion of one color, for the most part. Younger readers won't understand why that style was chosen, but it is both attractive and evocative. The length and complexity of this book provides just enough information about the march to Selma for my students. I will be very pleased to have a copy to give to students, especially in conjunction with fiction books such as Night on Fire.