CIRCLE OF FIRE by William H. Hooks


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Like Crossing the Line (1979), but occurring about a year earlier, this deals with Harrison Hawkins, a white boy in 1930s North Carolina, whose best friends are black Kitty Fisher (a boy) and Kitty's sister Scrap. The terror of their lives is mean Bud Highsmith, who owns the land next to the Hawkins' and hates both ""niggers"" and ""nigger-lovers."" (Harrison's dotty old black friend Little Hattie tells Harrison that Bud's violent feelings stem from his discovery that a local black woman is his half-sister.) When a band of Irish tinkers camps on Hawkins property, Harrison and the Fisher kids hear Bud plotting with Ku Klux Klans-men from South Carolina (the klan is banned in North Carolina) to invade the camp on Christmas night--and go after the local ""niggers"" while they're about it. All three children are sworn to silence by their parents, but Harrison decides to warn the gypsies on the night before Christmas. (Harrison has made a wary friendship with the gypsy boy Liam, and he has also heard his own father on the phone with lawmakers and mistakenly concluded that Pa was plotting with the Klan.) When the Klan attack comes early, in the midst of the gypsys' Christmas-Eve mummers' play, Harrison, Kitty, and Little Hattie alert the law and the local citizenry (including Harrison's Pa) by setting the local broom sage on fire. With cryptic foretellings from Little Hattie, an old gypsy woman, and Liam's Tarot cards, and with a gypsy babe born in the Harrison's barn on Christmas day, it's all a bit hokey and very much of a pattern. But as an unambitious example of righteous, local-color adventure, it's adeptly managed.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1982
Publisher: Atheneum