LOOKING OUT by Victoria Boutis


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At the height of the McCarthy era in 1953, Ellen Gerson's parents are secretly communists. Mr. Gerson, a labor organizer, moves from factory to factory; Mrs. Gerson is so involved with campaigning to save the Rosenbergs from death that she has scant time for Ellen, 12, and little Mikey. Still, it's a loving family, its camaraderie made more intense by shared secrets and aided fugitives--though Ellen, overhearing her parents arrange for their children's future ""in case anything happens to us,"" mis interprets their concern as putting the cause first. Newly arrived in a mill town in eastern Pennsylvania, Ellen tries to blend in, but the response of her new ""friends"" to the Rosenbergs' execution makes her reconsider her family's values, and her own. New to children's literature, this is a topic worthy of exploration. But, unfortunately, while far from doctrinaire, Boutis' picture is one-sided: there is no hint that the Rosenbergs might have been guilty, even though their trial was not conducted fairly; and the one time Mr. Gerson is shown in action he is trying to correct unsafe practices that have led to an injury. Ironically, the blue-collar characters are portrayed as insensitive and not very bright--an elitist view. The McCarthy paranoia and its effect on innocent humanitarian impulses are on target, but a less simplistic story would have been stronger.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
Page count: 139pp
Publisher: Four Winds/Macmillan