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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Crow* by Barbara Wright- young adult book review
by Barbara Wright
Ages 12-15 304 pages Random House January 2012 Hardcover    

Historical fiction, at its very best, reveals a part of the past which intrigues the reader, causing him/her to stop to consider the characters, setting and plot as something that could really have happened. Barbara Wright’s first novel for children, Crow, successfully intertwines an engaging story of a young boy, Moses, who is growing up as a part of the black middle class in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1898. His thoughts, antics, and concerns are typical—he desperately wants a bike, struggles with friendships, and grows to learn values from family members who are very different from one another. His surroundings, though, are unique, with a growing threat of violence targeting innocent people.

Moses’s father is college-educated, a newspaper writer and local alderman; his mother works cleaning other peoples’ houses. His grandmother, Boo Nanny, grew up a slave and cannot read but has a vast knowledge of folk medicine and wisdom about people.

Moses is rather naïve; he does not sense the tensions growing around him as white people begin to feel threatened by the successes and political power of blacks. Much of the book is told through his innocent point of view—the concerns of a child relatively oblivious to the issues of the adults.

In contrast, his father, a reporter for the only black daily newspaper in the state, is keenly aware of the mounting dangers and takes particular care to always present himself and his family as upright citizens, beyond reproach. His grandmother also senses coming troubles-- not based on specific events, but more on a feeling and signs she sees all around.

When the editor of the newspaper writes an inflammatory editorial, the white supremacists use it as an excuse to fight hard to frighten the black majority and keep them from voting. They make the paradoxical claim that black men are a threat to white women, forgetting that so many more white men have taken advantage of black women, including Moses’ grandmother.

The violence begins when the newspaper building is burned down. The fast-paced events of the final chapters shed light on a very dark and sad time in American history: the United State’s only successful coup d'état in which the white minority violently overthrows the black majority holding political office.

It is so hopeful to think of the success of the blacks in Wilmington, just one generation after the Civil War. Unfortunately, this time of relative prosperity was cut short by the narrow-minded whites who resorted to violence and lies when they felt economically threatened.

Readers will begin this novel with very little prior knowledge and immediately identify with Moses, whose daily life and thoughts are well-drawn, with a voice which rings true. They will finish the novel with the sad knowledge of a time when violence succeeded in defeating democracy. With a comprehensive website including historical photos, and teacher resources, Barbara Wright has written a story which reveals a terrible side of American history; one which must never must be repeated nor forgotten. Highly recommended.

Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Kristine Wildner/2012 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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