This book deserves awards and I hope it wins for YALSA’s “Best Books for Young Adults” this year or next year. Actually, I hope it wins most of the awards out there for teen/ya books. Yes, it is THAT good!
“You can’t be the rock and the river” Stick says to Sam. Sam Childs is a son of Civil Rights leader, Roland Child, and younger brother, to Stick, who at 17 decides to join the emerging Black Panther party in Chicago, Illinois. Roland Childs represents the “old way” of thinking (pacifism) and protesting for civil rights, while Stick is the new way. Sam is caught in-between wanting to be both “the rock and the river.”
The novel starts off with Sam at another rally. You can feel his apathy. He is young, he has always gone to these things but does he really understand why? At one point, Sam thinks, “I was tired of marking, of protesting. Of leaning my back against a wall and expecting the wall to move. I wanted to rest.” He knows it is important but as you go along further in the story, you can see that he does not fully grasp the importance of what his father is doing and later, what his older brother is doing.
Kekla Magoon vivid writing brings out the tension between a son struggling to find his own way in a time of intense transition at home and the world at large. She does not sugar-coat anything and there is some graphic violence. It is very powerful and ties how both movements goals were the same but the approaches were different and how a kid can figure out the right thing to do and come to his own no matter how angry, frustrated, sad and torn he feels.
This is for middle schoolers and high schoolers. You could use it in a history class. Also use it with Christopher Paul Curtis’ “The Watsons Go to Burmingham.” I cannot rave enough about this book. Excellent. Fantastic. Worthy of any school and public library collection. I seriously better see some of those award stickers on this book!