The Rock and the River, by Kekla Magoon

2012 Book 32: The Rock and the River, by Kekla Magoon (2/17/2012)

Reason for Reading: It was there

My Review: 4.5/5 stars
Sam is an African American boy who comes of age in 1960’s Chicago. He is torn between the peaceful civil rights protests of his father and the Black Panther action of his older brother. This book is heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. Well written books about racism generally piss me off, and this book had my emotions thoroughly engaged. The performance on the audiobook was also fantastic—the reader emotionally charged his voice at just the right levels at just the right times. I would recommend this book for older teens, but it should be screened before given to younger people. There is some realistic violence.

Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli


2012 Book 20: Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli (1/30/2012)

When homeless runaway Jeffrey “Maniac” Magee arrives in the highly segregated town of Two Mills he meets Amanda Bealle, an African American girl who shares his love of reading. Soon, Maniac Magee moves in with the Bealles, enraging racial tensions among their African American neighbors. He ends up sleeping on the streets, or sometimes with other down-and-outs, all the while amazing everyone with his friendly nature, athletic feats, and complete color-blindness. Maniac Magee’s story is engaging not only because of the positive social theme, but also because of the delightful prose and wonderful characters. A wonderful book for kids around the age of 9-12, I’d say. 5/5 stars

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

2012 Book 14: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot (1/27/2012)

Wow, this was an awesome book! It discusses the life of Henrietta Lacks, the donor of the tumor that was used to develop the immortalized cell line HeLa. The narrative alternates between the story of Henrietta’s family and a scientific discussion of the HeLa’s huge contribution to modern medicine. This is by far the most human story of science/medicine I’ve ever read. Everyone should read it! Additionally, the audiobook won the Audie Award because of its excellent performance. 5/5 stars.

The Help, Kathryn Stockett

2012 Book 8: The Help, by Kathryn Stockett (1/14/2012)

The Help was a well-written novel with an engaging (and endearing) story. Skeeter, a young Southern belle just returned home from college decides to cross racial boundaries and write a controversial book about how difficult it is being an African American maid in a white household in Mississippi. She doesn’t realize when she starts just how dangerous such a book could be. I think this book has an excellent theme (anti-racism and the pettiness of Southern White women in the 1960’s). However, it is very difficult to write a book about racism without making the defining feature of every character his or her race. This problem leads to excessive racial stereotyping—which is a pretty serious issue in this book. (The racial stereotyping applies to both whites and African Americans in this situation). Despite this problem, however, I think the book is worth reading for the sake of the story. 4/5 stars

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, by Gary D. Schmidt

2012 Book 2:Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, by Gary D. Schmidt (1/3/2012)

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy is a children’s historical novel about a minister’s son who must confront narrow-mindedness in the townspeople and even his own father when his family moves to a small town in Maine. This book gives a “realistic” look at how blinded people can be by their own prejudices. I listened to it as an audiobook, and found myself in the awkward position of tearing up in public while I was listening to it on a walk. Luckily I pretended it was the sharp winter air that was giving me the sniffles. This book’s reading level is appropriate for perhaps 5th graders, but the content is a bit mature. I hated depressing books when I was that age! I gave this book 3.5/5 stars (it lost half a star for making me cry!)