Monday, December 28, 2015

MMGM- Yard War

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

I definitely agree with Travis Jonker's assertion that all middle grade novels should hover around 200 pages (the book below is 216), but I think we should also make the following rule: all historical novels should inclue FOOTBALL. 

Okay. I know that's a little bit much. But think about it. It's hard to find enough novels about football. It's hard to get my students to read historical fiction. Historical fiction about football? Slam dunk. Or touchdown. Some sports term. It would work!

19542816Kitching, Taylor. Yard War.
August 18th 2015 by Wendy Lamb Books

Trip is a typical, self-centered junior high student in 1964-- he doesn't think about ripping his new jeans and asking the family maid, Willie Jean, to fix them. He also is okay with sleeping in and then demanding she stop her other work to make him pancakes, and when he needs another boy to play football, why shouldn't Willie Jean's son, Dee, stop working in the yard and play with him? Trip soon starts to see that the way his world works isn't the way that Dee's works. Neighbors complain about a black boy playing in the front yard with white boys, and Trip starts to notice things like the fact that Dee only has a few clothes, and is always hungry. Mississippi is a hot bed of Civil Rights problems at this time, and even Trip's father is finding that he can't just suddenly let "colored people" sit in the "white" waiting room of his medical office without repercussions. Things get so bad for Trip's family after they try to support the Negroes in their town that they consider moving, but eventually decide that they need to stay and see if they can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. 

Strengths: I definitely appreciated that it took Trip a while before he saw how Dee was treated in the community. He had some inkling that things were not on the same level for everyone, but it took him a while to feel the full scope. It was also believable that he because friends with Trip and then didn't see why HIS friend should live by a separate set of rules. There were also some good moments when Trip's learned prejudice came out, even though he did truly like Dee. The family's reactions also seemed to ring true. 

Weaknesses: Could have used a few more historical references, especially concerning football. That would have been fun. There was only one anachronism that irked me, and I doubt it will irk others-- when a bomb goes off, Trip claims he looked at the clock and knows the exact time: 1:37. I don't think that people thought in digital time in 1964. Niggling, I know. 

What I really think: Excellent book, and I will be very pleased to recommend it to my football readers and will rejoice in sneaking some Civil Rights history into their day!


  1. This does sound like a book that could draw in a crowd that doesn't normally read historical fiction. Here is what I read last week. Happy reading!

  2. I'm looking forward to reading this one. I spent a summer in Mississippi visiting cousins in the early 70's so this new book should hit home. Thanks as always for the advanced review.

  3. I would have to agree. Throw football in there and the appeal goes waaaaay up.

  4. Anonymous12:18 PM EST

    Thanks for sharing that 100 Scope Notes article. That was a hoot to read and I agree with it.

  5. Glad to know about this one, Karen. Thanks for the review.

  6. This sounds really good. I personally think all historical fiction should include baseball, but that's just me. Thanks for this review.

  7. This book sounds wonderful and important - thanks for reviewing it.

  8. Wow, this looks really interesting - able to tackle important themes without sounding too heavy-handed. :) Happy New Year!

  9. I like what you said about appreciating Trip's gradual awareness - it's all too easy to project current sensibilities and understandings on to characters in the past. Of course, to us racism is abhorrent, but to a young person who has grown up immersed in a racist culture, coming to that realization can be a life-altering experience, as you realize that everything you've been raised to believe in is wrong. Powerful stuff, thanks for sharing.