COLOR ME DARK

THE DIARY OF NELLIE LEE LOVE, THE GREAT MIGRATION NORTH

In this new addition to the Dear America series, life in 1919 is peaceful and happy for Nellie Lee Love and her family in the little town of Bradford Corners, Tennessee. Not much happens; about the only excitement is the occasional letter from Nellie’s Uncle Pace, still a soldier in France. The arrival each month of the NAACP magazine, The Crisis, is the only communication southern blacks have with the larger black community, and Daddy Love faithfully picks it up at his barbershop, reading it cover to cover. Then one day, the town’s sheriff confiscates the shop’s copies of The Crisis, and warns the men there that anyone belonging to the NAACP is asking for trouble from the Ku Klux Klan. A wire comes announcing that Uncle Pace is coming home. But when he does, he’s been badly injured. As the sheriff tells it, he got drunk and fell asleep on the railroad tracks, where he was hit by a train. Everyone knows that Pace did not drink at all. He dies, and Daddy, realizing that this suspicious death has probably been the work of the Klan, decides to protect his family by moving them to Chicago. Here he hopes to set up a new undertaking business. Life in the city is far different for the Love girls from what they thought it would be. They must adapt to crowded apartment living, new neighbors, a tough new school, and making new friends, none of which is easy. But these discomforts are nothing to compare with the race riot that occurs that summer. The Loves get through it unscathed, but with the realization that they did not leave the problems of racism behind when they left Tennessee. It is this knowledge that gives Nellie and the rest of the Loves the impetus to become actively involved in the fight against prejudice and to begin the long march to full equality as Americans. It’s an inspiring story, and one that brings to life the great black migration of that era from the south to the cities of the north. This part of American history is too often glossed over in textbooks, but must be understood in the context of modern race relations. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-590-56733-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS

Moose’s world is turned upside down when his family moves to Alcatraz Island where his Dad has taken a job as a prison guard. Super-responsible Moose, big for 12, finds himself caught in the social interactions of this odd cut-off world. He cares for his sister who is older, yet acts much younger due to her autism and he finds his life alternating between frustration and growth. His mother focuses all of her attention on ways to cure the sister; his dad works two jobs and meekly accepts the mother’s choices; his fellow island-dwellers are a funny mix of oddball characters and good friends. Basing her story on the actual experience of those who supported the prison in the ’30s—when Al Capone was an inmate—Choldenko’s pacing is exquisite, balancing the tense family dynamics alongside the often-humorous and riveting school story of peer pressure and friendship. Fascinating setting as a metaphor for Moose’s own imprisonment and enabling some hysterically funny scenes, but a great read no matter where it takes place. (lengthy author’s note with footnotes to sources) (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-399-23861-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2004

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THE JOURNAL OF SEAN SULLIVAN

A TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD WORKER

In the My Name Is America series, Durbin (Wintering, 1999, etc.) offers the story of Sean Sullivan, whose first day in Omaha, Nebraska, brings him face to face with a victim of an Indian attack; the man survived, but carries his bloody scalp in a bucket. It’s August 1897, and Sean has just arrived from Chicago, planning to work with his father on the Intercontinental Railroad. Pa, who carries terrible memories of his stint in the Civil War and of the death three years ago of Sean’s mother, is already a foreman for the railroad, but Sean must start at the bottom, as a water carrier, toting barrels of it to the thirsty men who are doing the back-breaking work on the line. At night, everyone is usually too tired to do anything but sleep, but Sundays are free, and Sean discovers the rough and rowdy world of the towns that seem to sprout up from nowhere along the railroad’s path over the prairie. Through Sean’s eyes, the history of this era and the magnitude of his and his fellow workers’ achievements come alive; Durbin has no trouble making Sean’s world palpable, and readers will slog along with Sean every step of the way on his long and arduous journey to building a railroad and becoming a man. (b&w maps, photos, reproductions) (Fiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-439-04994-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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