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JERICHO WALLS by Kristi Collier

JERICHO WALLS

By Kristi Collier

Age Range: 10 - 12

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-8050-6521-0
Publisher: Henry Holt

Another memorable preacher’s child steps on to the stage in this promising debut. The time: the second half of 1957. The place: a small town in rural South Carolina. Josephine Clawson is dreading yet another first Sunday in a new parish. She is not by any definition a model child, but one who—thoughtful, loving, and honest—would be quite comfortable in the company of Suzanne Newton’s Neal Sloan (I Will Call It Georgie’s Blues, 1983) or Kate DiCamillo’s Opal (Because of Winn-Dixie, 2000). The Clawson family has moved from Illinois to Jericho, Josephine’s father’s hometown, where he’s accepted a call to the ministry. For Josephine, the adjustment is very difficult. In addition to the normal problems faced by any girl of her age, like trying to fit in and make friends in a new town, she must face her own personal demons. She lies in an attempt to become popular and struggles with internal and external pressures to conform. She also faces the confusion and conflicts posed by the times and culture, including Jim Crow laws and strict constraints imposed on females. And she senses, but doesn’t fully understand, newly arisen tensions between her parents. Plot elements are framed by the turmoil caused by the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock. Josephine sees and is outraged by the injustices of segregation and finally begins to base her behavior on her sense of justice and moral standards. The story’s climax is realistic, providing neither pat answers nor simplistic resolutions, but making it clear that actions based on moral choices may have unpredictable outcomes. As with the best historical fiction, this breathes life into an important era in US history. It will give youthful readers information on a level deeper than that offered by mere dates and facts and will lend itself to discussion. (Fiction. 10-12)