by Ann M. Martin
"Newbery Honor author Ann M. Martin's gripping, widely acclaimed novel of a girl confronting the perils of friendship and the conflicts of community. Belle Teal's life isn't easy, but she gets by. She lives with her mother and grandmother far out in the country. They don't have much money, but Belle Teal feels rich with their love. As school begins, Belle Teal faces unexpected challenges. Her best friends are up against some big problems. And there are two new students in Belle Teal's class: a shy boy caught in the town's furor over desegregation, and a snob who has problems of her own. As her world falls apart, Belle Teal discovers the importance of sticking together."
This is another great book for our 7th grade Civil Rights unit. The setting is a little different from the others we have used ( The Lions of Little Rock , Warriors Don't Cry , The Help ...), in that it is set in the rural South instead of in a big city. The small town of Coker Creek, in an undetermined state in the South, is experiencing it's first year of integration in the elementary school. I really enjoyed this different look at that period of time. But this book is not just about integration, it is about family, friends, standing up for what you believe in, and taking care of those you love. When I first started reading the book, I was afraid that the mother in the story was going to be kind of a dead-beat, but I was wrong. She is hard-working, loving, supportive, and teaches her daughter important things. They are a strong family unit that takes care of each other. I really appreciated that. This was a good, uplifting book about a period of time when hate and anger were widespread, but there were good people who overcame those things and stayed true to themselves.
Areas of concern:
The *n* word is used a handful of times.
Child abuse is alluded to.
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 10-14
School Library Journal - Grades 4-6