The summer before sixth grade, Alice Ann Moxley and her family move from Chicago to Mississippi. It is 1964, the schools are about to be integrated, and Alice Ann's father is an FBI agent who has been assigned to protect black people who are registering to vote. Alice finds herself thrust into the midst of the civil rights movement when Valerie Taylor, a black girl, joins Alice's class as only one of two black students in the entire school. Alice is forced to choose between having friends, and sticking up for Valerie, who is the brunt of horrific discrimination and cruelty for the entire year.
This is a terrific story about growing up in the south, in the midst of the Civil Rights movement. Each chapter begins with a headline from the Jackson Daily Journal. I know intermediate grade kids or middle schoolers would learn tons of history and have great discussions. They could talk not only about history, but also about life issues like integrity, and bravery, and peer pressure. The book would be a terrific read aloud, or a great literature circle. It would be a perfect companion read to WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM or WEDNESDAY WARS.
The only offsetting thing about the book is the cover art. While I definitely believe that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, I also think I would have a really tough time selling this book to boys, or even a lot of girls. The cover looks like something straight out of the 1950's, with two girls, one white and one black, standing back to back under a tree. I probably would not have picked the book up if a friend had not recommended it to me. I wonder why they didn't do something a little more modern and hip, because I definitely think this book is a winner and deserves to be far more widely read than I think it will be, with this cover. I spoke with the author at CCIRA and she agrees with me entirely.
At any rate, this is a great read, perfect for Black History Month, or a Civil Rights unit, or Coming of Age unit. Ignore the cover and dive right in for a terrific read.