The summer before fifth grade brings changes for a Bronx girl.
Susan and her parents are leaving the Bronx for Clayton, Mo. It’s the middle of World War II, and Susan’s father, not in the armed forces, has changed jobs. She worries about being a Yankees fan in St. Louis Cardinals territory and leaving close friends and family behind, but she hasn’t counted on the troubling difference in accents and relations with adults from North to South. She makes two new friends very quickly; one has an annoying little sister, and one is a “Negro kid.” Playing with the two of them leads to bigger thoughts. Perhaps they should integrate the pool. No, Jim Crow laws are too strong, she is told. Well then, thinks Susan, they “could ride on the bus together, and we would not be breaking any law.” Although public transportation here is integrated, they raise plenty of eyebrows and turn many heads. Part of this civil disobedience involves eating in a Chinese restaurant that has been vandalized with anti-Japanese slogans. Cutler writes her story with her focus squarely on issues. There is insufficient motivation for Susan to have this level of social conscience, and actions take precedence over character development. In addition, her family is nominally Jewish, so there are some requisite but gratuitous-feeling anti-Semitic remarks.
World War II, segregation and prejudice in a book that feels decades old in its approach. (Historical fiction. 8-12)