BREAKING FREE

Richard has been raised by his aunt and her husband, a gentle Vermont storekeeper who values his musical and academic gifts. But when Aunt Ruth dies, Uncle Ambrose doesn't try to contest her brother Lyman's right to the 12-year-old, whom he claims as blood kin but covets as a laborer for his farm across the New York border. Lyman and his sons farm with the help of two slaves, ``Boy'' and his little daughter ``Gee Gee.'' Richard has known free blacks; slavery is illegal in Vermont in 1800—and not much countenanced in New York. But Lyman is a hard man, without imagination; he has sold Boy's wife Dina, uses him as a draft animal, and treats Richard with a similar lack of compassion. Still, despite Lyman's rigid proscriptions, the grueling labor, and a cousin who's ``a sneak with a nasty streak,'' the other cousin is kind, Richard's reading aloud is enjoyed by the household (including Gee Gee, whom he secretly teaches to read), and he's eventually given permission to attend school. In a taut conclusion, a sympathetic schoolmaster serves as deus ex machina: He locates Dina, now free in Canada, engineers the means for her family to join her, drives the escape wagon, and finds a place where Richard can earn his keep and continue his education. Possible, if neat; but also a satisfying outcome to a fast- moving, vividly authentic depiction of rural life and injustice in the country's early days. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-689-31883-9

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1994

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Ultimately adds little to conversations about race.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK BOY

A popular YouTube series on race, “Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man,” turns how-to manual and history lesson for young readers.

Acho is a former NFL player and second-generation Nigerian American who cites his upbringing in predominantly White spaces as well as his tenure on largely Black football teams as qualifications for facilitating the titular conversations about anti-Black racism. The broad range of subjects covered here includes implicit bias, cultural appropriation, and systemic racism. Each chapter features brief overviews of American history, personal anecdotes of Acho’s struggles with his own anti-Black biases, and sections titled “Let’s Get Uncomfortable.” The book’s centering of Whiteness and White readers seems to show up, to the detriment of its subject matter, both in Acho’s accounts of his upbringing and his thought processes regarding race. The overall tone unfortunately conveys a sense of expecting little from a younger generation who may have a greater awareness than he did at the same age and who, therefore, may already be uncomfortable with racial injustice itself. The attempt at an avuncular tone disappointingly reads as condescending, revealing that, despite his online success with adults, the author is ill-equipped to be writing for middle-grade readers. Chapters dedicated to explaining to White readers why they shouldn’t use the N-word and how valuable White allyship is may make readers of color (and many White readers) bristle with indignation and discomfort despite Acho’s positive intentions.

Ultimately adds little to conversations about race. (glossary, FAQ, recommended reading, references) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-80106-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

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A fantastic, heartbreaking crescendo that echoes beyond the final page.

WILLA OF DARK HOLLOW

From the Willa of the Wood series , Vol. 2

A young Faeran girl puts everything on the line to save her home and the family she loves.

Emerging from the charred ruins of the Faeran forest lair, 13-year-old green-skinned, brown-haired Willa has formed a new family with humans who care about the Great Smoky Mountain as much as she does. Unfortunately, the Sutton Lumber Company has plans to clear the forest for railroad tracks. Her White adoptive father, Nathaniel, has become a leading voice against the destruction, making him a target. After he is arrested on suspicion of murdering loggers, Willa asks for help from her Faeran clan, but they blame her for the death of their leader and subsequent loss of their old home. Even the forest itself has grown hostile as strange, deathly cold creatures attack. Adelaide, a new blond, blue-eyed friend, and Hialeah, Nathaniel’s White and Cherokee daughter, join Willa in protecting the forest, clearing Nathaniel’s name, saving the Faeran, and unraveling the mystery of the malicious beasts. This duology closer is a captivating, stirring tale of family, friendship, the environment, and our place in the world. At every turn, Willa is faced with higher stakes and decisions that are even harder to make; the consequences of each choice weigh on her heart. The gorgeous prose and imagery of the mountains will inspire in readers a deep admiration for nature and support for Willa’s fight.

A fantastic, heartbreaking crescendo that echoes beyond the final page. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-00760-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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