Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Review: Yankee Girl - Mary Ann Rodman

This is a gem of a civil rights story! Mary Ann Rodman draws deeply on her own personal experience as she tells the story of Alice Ann Moxley, a sixth-grader who moved to Mississippi from Chicago when her FBI agent father was stationed there to help with integration. Veronica is the older daughter of Dr. Taylor, good friend of Martin Luther King Jr.

When the two of them end up in the same class, they both need a friend, but both are afraid of the consequences of reaching out to each other. Alice is shunned because she's a Yankee, a breed that is always "interferin'". She makes friends with the neighbor boy, Jeb, but he refuses to admit that they are friends when they are at school and all his buddies can see them. There are the popular and powerful cheerleaders--but does Alice really want to be friends with the group that shunned her and is constantly plotting to play mean tricks on poor Veronica?

This book is full of danger and tension as Alice and Veronica both encounter threats and dangers from the KKK along with milder forms of discrimination from their own classmates. Even the teachers of their newly integrated school are not altogether trustworthy.

After a series of hard choices, let downs, and false steps, Alice finally stands up and does "the right thing" when Dr. Taylor is killed and she decides to reach out in public friendship.

This is a compelling story, full of real life and hard decisions. This would be an excellent read for many grade-schoolers and junior highers, who need to start considering what sort of friends they want to have and what it means to do "the right thing" in the face of peer pressure and popularity contests. I got this at the library, but I look forward to added it to my permanent collection on my shelf at home. I hope you do too!

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