In spite of the weighty subject matter the characters are well drawn and fully human. Moses is a normal boy, wanting a bike, a dog, and a best friend. He admires his father and tries to live up to his example. He doesn't understand most of what is brewing in the adult world around him, but offers us his observations and wonder. The story is presented from a young person's point of view and so is appealing to youth who may not have heard of this chapter of our history before. There are moments of joy and playfulness as well as struggle. After the traumatic events surrounding the riots, Moses manages to find a way to go on and seek healing and solice in family, friendship, and the natural world. He has a budding friendship with one of the white boys in town. At the end of the book they begin to forge a partnership in fishing. I particularly like the beauty of this passage:
"I wasn't worried. With the blue sky above and the breeze on my face - warm but not too hot - it was a perfect day. The red shoulders of the blackbirds dotted the marsh grass like cherries. A blue heron took flight, stretching its stilt-like legs awkwardly behind, then tucking them underneath. Above, a circling hawk dove straight down, landing with a splash and coming up with breakfast. All this would change next week, when school ended and I had to find a job. But for this one day, I took in the dizzying joy of complete freedom."The other thing I really like about this book is the relationship Moses has with his father. Mr. Thomas is a well educated, respected member of the community. He is a man of dignity, integrity and strength of honor that inspires and ignites his son. This is one for my list of Fabulous Fathers in New Middle Grade Fiction for sure!
To find out more on this historic period, see actual photos of historic Wilmington at Wright's website. Read an excerpt from the book. Interviews with Barbara Wright are at School Library Journal, and Read North Carolina Novels blog and more linked at her website.
Shannon Messenger is doing a round up of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts. Go check it out!