Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Fantasy Tuesday- Black Was the Ink

Coles, Michelle. Black Was the Ink
September 21st 2021 by Lee & Low Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In 2015, Malcolm Williams is being raised in Washington, D.C. after the violent death of his father when he was a baby. After he is involved in a racially charged incident with the police himself, his mother sends him to spend the summer with family in Missippi. His grandmother has passed, but he is able to help his elderly great aunt and uncle with the farm, although farm work does NOT appeal to him, and the lack of WiFi doesn't make him happy, either. He is intrigued when his Uncle Corey is released from jail after serving a sixteen year sentence for marijuana possession, since his uncle is his only connection with his father. When his aunt tells the family at a reunion that they are going to lose the rest of the farm to more highway construction (they had lost much of it in the 1960s), Malcolm isn't too concerned at first, and doesn't think there is much he can do. He meets a neighbor girl, Jasmine, and goes to a fair with her, where he gets in trouble after local white hoodlums push HIM around. Luckily, Jasmine's father is a lawyer who is well versed in the treatment that Black men recieve from the police and get him released. When Malcolm finds the diary of an ancestor, Cedric Johnson, from the 1870s, he becomes more interested in Civil Rights-- especially when Cedric himself appears and sends him back in time! Malcolm finds himself walking in Cedrics shoes as a congressional aide to Pastor Hiram Revels, the first Black congressman who served during Reconstruction. Malcolm keeps traveling back in time, moving a few years into the future with each trip, and meets an amazing array of Black historical figures. As he is witnessing the mostly hidden history of the 1800s, he is dealing with racial issues in the present, especially the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting in Charleston. This, along with all of the things that Cedric witnesses, spurs him to try to save the family farm by declaring it a historical site, which the journal helps him to do. The book includes brief biographies of many of the figures mentioned, and an excellent timeline.
Strengths: Wow. For as much information as was in this book, I was able to write most of the review without looking at my notes, which means that the story was easy to follow and well put together. Malcolm is an engaging character whose life has been difficult even though his family is very supportive. I'm always glad to see characters who spend summers with family in the south, because it is interesting to see them compare the treatment of Blacks there to their own experiences. The inclusion of family history was fascinating, and adding a little romance didn't hurt. The time travel is done convincingly, with Malcolm struggling a bit to adjust to being Cedric, but doing a great job. There is a devastating twist with Cedric's life that propels Malcolm to work harder on saving the family farm. Seeing the uncle struggle with adjusting to life outside prison adds an interesting layer. The biographies and time line will be helpful to students who are really interested in history and are looking for people to investigate further. I'd love to see a nonfiction book about this time period! Definitely purchasing!
Weaknesses: This is a Young Adult book, but still accessible to middle grade readers. Since it is more YA, it is a bit long, and for middle grade, I would have shortened it up a bit to make it more appealing to readers who struggle, but that's not a problem with the book, just my wish to get it into the hands of more readers! I loved both stories so much that I hated to leave one to go to the other. 
What I really think: I am going to buy this because it was so well done and covers a period of history about which I am sure few of my students know. There are lots of books where Black children travel back to the time of slavery, and it was such a joy to read one where the time travel lead to a discovery of a time when Black people where making a lot of sociopolitical progress. This strikes me as the kind of book that the characters in Rhuday-Perkovich's It Doesn't Take a Genius summer camp would be reading! Very interesting. 

King, Bart. Time Travel Inn.
October 1st 2021 by Chooseco
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

I still have students who ask for Choose Your Own Adventure books, but the ones that were here twenty years ago have fallen apart, and I haven't replaced them. This might be the first one I've ever bought, because I struggle with reading Choose Your Own Adventure books. I feel like I need to try to follow every possible combination of plots, which just isn't possible.

King does great work, and this ended up being a great mix of fun characters, intriguing plot points, and lots of giant insects. The time travel has a reasonable mechanism and is believable. The writing is clever, and there are lots of funny turns of phrase. Definitely one of the better Choose Your Own Adventure books I've read, and including a motel always makes for a lot of unusual adventures.

This is written in the second person, so a bit jarring because there are not that many books from that perspective, and I did just read the pages in order. The illustrations are a nice touch, and will help appeal to readers who like notebook novels as well.

Moses, Rucker and Gangi, Theo. Kingston and Echoes of Magic
(Kingston #2)
October 12th 2021 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Kingston and his friends are back after Kingston and the Magician's Lost and Found, trying to retrieve his father. 

Unfortunately, I read this on a day after I had ten classes, so I remember very little. Definitely purchasing a copy, since I ended up with two of the first books and they've circulated very well. 

From Goodreads:
"Kingston might have saved Echo City but the victory is bittersweet without his pops by his side. The holidays are approaching and if Kingston could have one wish, it would be to have his father, who is trapped in the Realm, come home. But as new problems arise and blackouts blanket the city, Kingston begins to have a persistent feeling of deja vu, as if he's lived this same day before--and he has. Echo City living up to its name, is caught in a repeating time loop.

Maestro, his father's old rival, has found a way to overwrite reality with an alternate timeline where he rules over all. It will be up to Kingston, Too Tall, and V to find a way to enter the Realm and travel back through time to stop Maestro and save Brooklyn before it's erased for good."

1 comment:

  1. I will definitely look for Black Was the Ink, as I have a particular interest in Mississippi now that I go to library school there (can you believe so few are vaccinated, USM is giving away a free semester to some student chosen from those who submit their proof - although I entered, I hope someone wins who really needs the money).

    It's an interesting thought whether the protagonist is more at risk in DC or in Mississippi. These days, who knows?