An unusual setting adds interest to this energetic account.


From the Plantations and Pirates series , Vol. 7

This fictional diary, seventh in a series of children’s books, explores the life of black Seminoles as the Indian Removal Act begins to take effect.

Ebony Noel Carter, about 12, lives in Florida Big Swamp with her family, who belong to Seminole Indian Chief Jimmy Otter and his wife, Smiling Tiger (although tigers are not native to the Americas). Ebony’s father was a runaway slave from Georgia; in Florida, he met Ebony’s mother, a black Seminole (called slaves but similar to tenant farmers). Ebony’s siblings include Little John, about 16; a pesky younger brother, Pompey; and twin ever bickering sisters, Willie May and Jethro May, about 14. Ebony records scenes from everyday life—farmwork, meal preparation, fighting with siblings, storytelling—together with notable events like a birth, a death, visiting a trading post, and the Green Corn Dance, a dayslong Native American celebration. She describes the festival’s special games, dances, foods, and ceremonies, like Court Day, during which engagements are announced and punishments given to rule-breakers. This year, that includes Ebony, who has taken a forbidden look inside the men’s sweat house. The Corn Dance brings some wonderful news but also dreadful: War and forced Indian removals are coming. The Seminole community, both native and black, must flee from Florida toward a new chapter in their lives. An author’s note supplies some historical background. McWilliams (The Journal of Leroy Jeremiah Jones a Fugitive Slave (Alabama 1855), 2015, etc.) supplies a little-seen and intriguing setting for her African-American characters as black Seminoles in Florida. As in other series entries, the voice is exuberant—many capitals and exclamation points—and written in lively dialect: “And we gals hee haw and hee haw and HEE HAW ’cause not one of we can never say that white man’s name!” It’s hard to say how authentic Ebony’s dialect is, but it’s consistent and animated. Readers will likely enjoy the book’s cultural details, so different from a plantation setting. Barring a short epilogue, the book ends as the characters leave Florida, something of a lost opportunity.

An unusual setting adds interest to this energetic account.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2016


Page Count: 263

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2019

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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