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The Rock and the River

The Rock and the River

Автором Kekla Magoon

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The Rock and the River

Автором Kekla Magoon

4/5 (22 оценки)
236 pages
4 hours
Jan 6, 2009


Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe Award winner

In this “taut, eloquent first novel” (Booklist, starred review), a young Black boy wrestles with conflicting notions of revolution and family loyalty as he becomes involved with the Black Panthers in 1968 Chicago.

The Time: 1968
The Place: Chicago

For thirteen-year-old Sam, it’s not easy being the son of known civil rights activist Roland Childs. Especially when his older (and best friend), Stick, begins to drift away from him for no apparent reason. And then it happens: Sam finds something that changes everything forever.

Sam has always had faith in his father, but when he finds literature about the Black Panthers under Stick’s bed, he’s not sure who to believe: his father or his best friend. Suddenly, nothing feels certain anymore.

Sam wants to believe that his father is right: You can effect change without using violence. But as time goes on, Sam grows weary of standing by and watching as his friends and family suffer at the hands of racism in their own community. Sam beings to explore the Panthers with Stick, but soon he’s involved in something far more serious—and more dangerous—than he could have ever predicted. Sam is faced with a difficult decision. Will he follow his father or his brother? His mind or his heart? The rock or the river?
Jan 6, 2009

Об авторе

Kekla Magoon is the author of Shadows of Sherwood and Rebellion of Thieves, as well as several young adult novels, including the Coretta Scott King Honor Book How It Went Down and The Rock and the River, for which she received the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award and an NAACP Image Award nomination. She also coauthored X: A Novel (with Ilyasah Shabazz), which was longlisted for the National Book Award and received an NAACP Image Award and a Coretta Scott King Honor. In addition to writing fiction, Kekla visits schools and libraries nationwide and teaches writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts. www.keklamagoon.com @KeklaMagoon

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  • The apartment was on the third floor, and we climbed the stairs quickly. Two guys I didn’t recognize stood on the landing by the door, holding guns. I moved close behind Stick as he greeted them. One of them opened the door, and Stick motioned me through.

  • A couple of cops walked ahead of me, so I slowed down. They turned onto Maxie’s street. I slowed down more. If I didn’t see another cop as long as I lived, it would be all right with me.

  • Standing in this room, I knew there were no promises ahead, no road map. I couldn’t follow anymore. I was the river. I was the one who would turn the corner and see what tomorrow held in store.

  • Stick was getting crazy intense. His eyes shone. I tried to tap into his passion, but my head only filled with questions.

  • Do you even understand what we’re doing in there?” Stick demanded. His tone caught me totally off guard.

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The Rock and the River - Kekla Magoon



I TRIED TO PRETEND I WAS SOMEWHERE ELSE. The long morning of marching was stretching into an even longer afternoon of standing still. It was a peaceful protest; orderly and insistent, like the ticking of a clock. Just the way Father always wanted. He stood up at the front of the throng, feeding the crowd with his words. The podium shook under the pounding of his fist. Mama stood behind him, where she always stood, hands folded, lashes low, her stillness a mirror for his fervor. On either side of them, Ty and Jerry, Father’s security team, looked like twin linebacker mountains.

The crowd spread away from the courthouse steps and filled two city blocks—but that was nothing. I’d been to marches that filled ten. The crowd was heated as always, but the warmth didn’t reach inside me. The February air had me shivering. I pulled my coat tighter and leaned into my brother.

Above us, the Chicago skyline loomed against gray clouds. Rough concrete pillars stood proud above the courthouse steps, looking weathered and bored, like they were tired of carrying the weight of the law on their shoulders. Just staring at the pillars made me want to rest. With my fingertip in the air and one eye closed, I traced the line of the rooftops. I closed my ears to whatever Father was saying. Chances were, I’d heard it before.

News cameramen pushed past us to the front of the barricades, shouting, Coming through, as they tromped on toes and threw elbows. All their cameras pointed at Father. I was glad to be away from the glaring lenses.

People shifted around me. Everyone’s space invaded everyone else’s, and the ripple effect separated me from my brother.

Stick, I called, grabbing for his arm. My fingers brushed his sleeve.

Stick turned. What?

A couple of people pushed between us. Suddenly I hated the crowds, hated the way everyone pressed up against one another. My heart beat in rhythm with the swaying of shoulders in front of me; out of control.

Stick pushed through to stand beside me. What is it, Sam? he asked.

Nothing, never mind. I couldn’t explain it. And I couldn’t say I’d gotten scared for no reason. That might have been okay when I was little, but not at thirteen. I’d just rather have been anywhere else than the middle of this street on a cold, wet Saturday afternoon.

Stick stared at me. After a moment, he grinned. What, you wanna bail?

Yeah, I said, rolling my eyes. Right. Not even Stick had ever dared leave in the middle of one of Father’s demonstrations.

The crowd pressed in, driving us even farther from the podium.

Just say the word, my man. They’ll never miss us.

I shook my head. Tempting, but impossible.

The crowd lurched forward. That’s right! they yelled, in answer to something Father said. I tuned in for a second. He was up to the part about how it was 1968, we’d come so far but had so much further to go…and on and on.

So here we all were.

Here we’d all been for as long as I could remember.

I was tired of marching, of protesting. Of leaning my back against a wall and expecting the wall to move. I wanted to rest.

Stick, I said. I want to go home.

I know, he said. I know. I shivered and glanced around. Stick smiled and slung his arm across my shoulders. The thick wall of his coat sleeve warmed my ears. I can take the heat if you can, he said.

Father would see us leave. He had this uncanny sixth sense—he always knew when we disobeyed him. There’d be hell to pay. But, right then, I didn’t care. Just once, I wanted to do something unexpected.

Let’s get out of here, I said.

Stick grinned. That’s my boy, he said, thumping my shoulder. Stick liked to shake things up. I always followed the rules and did what I was supposed to. Still, I was so cold, and tired of leaning against this wall. Father would say, you get enough people to lean, and the wall will move. I used to believe it, but I just wasn’t sure anymore.

C’mon, Stick said. He plowed through the crowd. I followed, grabbing the back of his coat and stumbling in his wake. The cheers rose above us as we moved farther and farther from Father’s stage.

Then, different sounds surfaced amid the crowd’s claps and cheering. Grunting. The thumping of fist to flesh. Fight sounds. Stick slowed.

What the hell? he shouted. He tore out of my grip and rushed forward. A group of white men armed with bats, bottles, and sticks were beating on people at the edge of the crowd. The protesters cried out and shielded themselves with their arms.

Stick burst forward and grabbed one of the white men, pulling him off a gray-haired woman who dropped, crying, to the ground. The man slammed an elbow into Stick’s bony chest. Stick groaned, then grabbed the man by the hair and punched him in the face.

People bumped me from all sides, but I couldn’t move. Several protesters had fallen to the ground, and two came crawling toward me, scrambling to get out of the way.

We will walk hand in hand, Father’s voice intoned above the fray. We will push forward step by step until they see the truth: that all men are created equal, and should be equal under the law. I turned to look toward Father, but three helmeted cops were pushing their way through the crowd to get to the fight.

Stick! The cops! I shouted. His head snapped up. In that split second, the man fighting with him bent down and seized the neck of a broken bottle from the ground. No! I cried. The man swung and the bottle connected with Stick’s temple. Stick fell to the ground, and the man stumbled away.

I grabbed Stick’s shoulders. His forehead was bleeding, but he sat up and took my hand.

We’ve got to get out of here, I said as the cops drew closer. The mass of people parted to let them through.

Stick and I glanced at each other, then I pulled him up and we bolted the other way. When the cops came, it wouldn’t matter who had started it. It would always be us up against the bricks.

We ran several blocks, ducking around corners until the sounds of the crowd faded behind us. I was ready to run all the way home, if I had to.

Wait. Stick stopped and leaned his arm against the side of a building. He bent over, breathing hard. I circled around. Far enough, he huffed. But Stick could run farther and faster than anyone I knew, certainly than me.

The gash on Stick’s forehead dripped blood over his brow and along his cheek. He swiped the thick red stream away from his eye with the back of his wrist.

I think we have to go to the hospital, I said, looking closer at his head. There might be glass in there, or gravel. One of Chicago’s main hospitals was four or five blocks away, down toward the lakefront.

It’s fine, he said, but he swayed and leaned back against the building.

It’s not fine. I took his arm and put it over my shoulders. Come on.

I walked Stick in through the emergency entrance. The doors slid open for us, and the steady bustle of the city streets gave way to the squeak of gurney wheels and the impatient chattering of waiting people.

People stared as we passed. There was a lot of blood now. On Stick, and on me, where he had leaned his head against me while we walked. Our shirts were stained red at the shoulders.

We approached the main desk. Two blond nurses stood behind the long, curved counter, talking. They looked up at us.

What happened? the younger nurse asked.

He—had an accident, I said. A few blocks from here.

The older nurse studied Stick’s forehead, then looked back at me. Her eyes seemed to hover over the rim of her glasses.

A few blocks from here? she asked, her tone skeptical. You protesting?

Yes, ma’am. He fell and hit his head. In the crowd.

She pressed her lips together and the bun of hair atop her head appeared to tighten. Well, you’ll just have to wait, she said, crossing thin arms over her chest. We’re full right now. She bent forward and neatened a stack of papers on the desk.

The young nurse fiddled with the edge of her uniform pocket. Then she smoothed her hands over her full hips and spoke timidly. I could take him to—

Have a seat in the chairs. Someone will be with you shortly.

I started to move back toward the waiting area, but Stick shifted his weight and locked his arm tighter around me, keeping us in place. Ask how long, he murmured against my ear.

How long will it take? I asked.

She didn’t look up from her charts. We’ll call you.

Is there a waiting list? I said, addressing the young nurse this time. Her clear blue gaze reassured me somehow. How many people are ahead of us? I added. Stick grunted approval.

The young nurse came around the desk and laid her hand against Stick’s cheek. She tilted his head gently to get a better look. Well, she said. "We need to get you washed up and stop this bleeding.

I’ll find a place for you, honey, she added softly, avoiding the other nurse’s eye. She rolled a wheelchair out from behind the desk and motioned Stick to sit in it. Then she pushed him away down a long hall and into a room. I started to follow.

You wait right here, the other nurse said. I turned back. She peered at me over her glasses; her eyes sharpened on me like a bird of prey spying a mouse.

Where are your parents? You should call them. She frowned.

They’re still at the demonstration.

Why weren’t you with them? she asked, eyebrows folding low. I shrugged. No point in trying to explain.

Come with me. I followed her down the long hall to another nurses’ station. We passed the room where Stick was. The nurse was wiping the side of his face with a towel.

Sit down here. She pointed at a low stool next to the desk. Can you write?

Yes. I gritted my teeth as I sat down. The nurse pulled out a clipboard and slapped a pen on it.

Fine. Fill this out. She thrust the board at me. I took it, but my fingers trembled as I lifted the pen. I tipped it against the page and started to write the date, but it came out a squiggly mess.

I thought you said you could write.

I glared up at her. My jaw ached from holding my teeth together so hard. I tried to relax.

I can. I will. I didn’t like her breathing down my neck. Maybe I could fill out the form if she’d back off a bit.

Give me that. She snatched back the pen and clipboard. I clasped my hands together to stop their trembling.


Mine or his?

She sighed. His.

I looked toward the door of the room where the nurses had taken Stick. Steven Tyrone Childs. No one called him Stick but me.

The nurse wrote it down. Age and birthday? His.

Seventeen. October 8, 1950. Is he going to be all right?

I’m sure he’ll be fine, she said, without looking up. Parents’ names?

I took a deep breath. Roland and Marjorie Childs.

The nurse raised her eyes to me as her pen slid through the letters. Your father is Roland Childs? I nodded. Well, she said, looking back at the clipboard.

I have to go to the bathroom, I said, standing up.

The nurse clicked the pen off. It’s down the hall. Go on, then. I walked away. Out of her sight, I stopped in the hallway beside the men’s room door and closed my eyes.

Sam! Mama’s voice called out. She rushed down the hall toward me, arms open to hug me.

I let her fold me against her. I’m fine, Mama, I’m fine. She squished me to her and kissed my head, even though I was much too old to be fussed over. How had she found me so fast? I didn’t even care—at least she was there.

All right, baby. It’s all right, she murmured. Father’s heavy footsteps approached. I turned to face him.

Father, I said, pulling away from Mama.

Father looked tall in the low-ceilinged hospital corridor. He pulled his hands out of his coat pockets and removed his gloves. Where’s your brother? he asked, looking me in the eyes.

I was in trouble.

They took him in there, I stammered, and pointed to the room where Stick was.

Father nodded. Look at me. Are you hurt? he asked.

No, sir.

His gaze was piercing. He was trying to get the truth out of me. After a moment, his eyes softened and he patted me on the shoulder. All right then. Let me see about your brother. He strode away and entered Stick’s room.

A moment later, the nurse emerged. I’ll get the doctor now, she said. Mama and I followed Father into the room.

Stick lay in the bed, propped up against pillows. He had a thick white gauze pad taped to the side of his head. I did what I had to do, he was saying. Father stood at the far side of the bed, near the window, looking out.

You let your temper go, Father said. We’ve talked about this.

Father, I—

No. Father turned from the window. When I went to work with Martin, I took an oath of nonviolence. I’ve upheld it to this day, and I expect you to do the same. No excuses. Is that understood?

Stick sat up in the bed. This wasn’t some taunts at a lunch counter! This wasn’t ketchup on their heads! Look at my face! I’m not supposed to fight back to that?

Father didn’t always need words to make his point. He could have been a preacher—his eyes were like a sermon in and of themselves. Anyway, Stick knew as well as I did that some of the college kids who’d staged sit-ins to protest segregated lunch counters in the south had been beaten in addition to having condiments poured over their heads. They’d never fought back.

Today, we had.

Father and Stick stared at each other for a long while. Neither of them spoke.

I’m going to find the doctor, Father said finally. His coattails flapped against my shins as he swept past me and out the door.

Stick flopped back against the pillows. Mama stroked his hair. Stick looked past her to me. What’d you tell him? he demanded.

I shook my head. Nothing.

We saw, Mama said, touching the edge of Stick’s bandage. From the podium, we saw.

Stick pushed her fingers away. I’m not sorry I went after them, he muttered. They were beating on innocent people. That old woman. He closed his eyes and pressed his head deeper into the pillow. How can he ask me to just stand by and watch it happen?

Turn the other cheek, Mama said softly. She ate up Father’s words like candy, without question.

I had questions, like Stick. I just didn’t know how to ask them.

Father, Mama, and I sat in the waiting room for hours. At some point, Ty and Jerry came and sat with us. I tried not to look at Father, but he was watching me. All my life he’d talked a lot about actions and consequences. I couldn’t even imagine what he thought I deserved for leaving a demonstration without permission. The very fact that he hadn’t said anything to me for several hours was a bad sign.

People came and went from the waiting room. Every once in a while, Father approached the nurses at the desk to ask about Stick. At first, they told him the doctors were busy with other patients and they’d be right with us, but eventually, it got so they saw him coming and got real busy real fast. What was so hard about stitching up someone’s head?

I got up.

Where are you going? Mama said.

Bathroom, I said, but I didn’t really have a destination in mind.

I walked past the nurses’ desk and down the long hallway. I strolled into the hospital gift shop. The man behind the cash register glanced up from his book and eyed me as I entered. I walked by a wall of get-well cards and a bunch of little baskets with IT’S A BOY and THINKING OF YOU balloons tied to them, then squeezed the foot of a bear with a heart sewn into its chest.

I stopped in front of a basket of fuzzy knit hats and mittens. The mittens made me think of Maxie Brown, the girl I might someday ask to be my girlfriend. If I could ever get her to say more than five words to me at a time. I thought of her standing in the schoolyard, her cold, bare hands balled up in fists at the ends of her sleeves. The sign on the basket read: MITTENS $2.50. HATS $4.00.

I stuck my hand in my pocket. I had a couple dollars on me, but I wasn’t sure it would be enough.

Put it back. The voice startled me, and I turned. The old man behind the counter glared at me.

What? I said.

I said, put it back. He moved out

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22 оценки / 18 Обзоры
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  • (5/5)
    compelling, awesome, vivid, poignant, intense - best book I've read this year
    Sam is the son a non-violent civil rights activist in 1968 and wants to believe but is angered when he witnesses police brutality toward his friend. Sam discovers his brother is active in the Black Panther movement and he is torn between his beliefs and his anger. Many of the coming of age issues are just as relevant today.
  • (2/5)
    After reading One Crazy Summer, I was intrigued by there being another novel about the Black Panther Party for tweens/teens. This one though assumes that the reader is already in the know (and interested) in the civil rights struggle and some of the questions about violence/non-violence that arose in the struggle for civil rights/Black Liberation. I can see this as being an awesome book to assign in junior high to get the topic introduced and to get students thinking about these issues (much like how Roll of THunder, Hear My Cry was assigned to me in 5th or 6th grade English class and opened my eyes to sharecropping and segregation). But I"m not sure how attractive it would be to the average tween/early teen library/bookstore browser. (I would love to be wrong on this.)
  • (4/5)
    Sam Childs is the son of a famous Chicago civil rights lawyer and leader, Roland Childs.He has spent his life attending demonstrations and listening to his father's speeches about non-violence and the need for change.All begins to change when his older brother Stick seeks another path.Sam finds Black Panther literature under Stick's bed and begins to attend the breakfasts given by the Black Panthers to feed the hungry.After one breakfast, he witnesses the brutal beating of a young black man and his subsequent arrest on false charges.Soon several violent events happen.Sam is forced to choose.Will he follow his father's path or his brother's.Will he be the rock or the river.
  • (4/5)
    What an interesting look at the civil rights movement. It was beautifully written and successfully portrayed the strategies of peaceful protests with the philosophies of the black panthers. Sad, but in the same way hopeful, I enjoyed reading about the wonderful characters that Magoon created. I also finished this book with a better understanding of what life was like for Afrian-Americans living in the "ghetto" during this part of history.
  • (3/5)
    This is coming of age novel from a young thirteen year old's eyes during the Civil Rights movement. Sam sees is father die and his older brother join the Black Panthers and he himself struggles to find meaning in the events and discrimination. Although I found this in the children section of the the public library I would not recommend it to anyone under the age of 12.
  • (5/5)
    Set in the late 1960s, during the Civil Rights Movement, this riveting story accurately depicts the real-life challenges that blacks faced. The story involves historical people and groups of the time, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Black Panthers.Rolland Childs, the father of two teen boys and a follower of MLK, advocates nonviolent resistance in the fight for Civil Rights. His older son becomes very angry after viewing unfair discriminatory practices and joins the Black Panthers. Teen readers today will learn about the injustices and violence of that era and they will also learn about the ideology of the Black Panthers.
  • (5/5)
    Showed a Chicago girl a side of Chicago I missed during the 60s. I have a new appreciation for the Black Panthers.
  • (4/5)
    Sam tried to navigate a confusing time and a rift within his family in 1968 Chicago. His dad, a lawyer and leader in the nonviolent Civil Rights movement, is at odds with his brother, Stick, who joins the Black Panther party. A strongly told story of a young black teenager who is determined to help make the world more just and who is tempted to seek revenge.
  • (5/5)
    Steven and Sam Childs are brothers growing up in Chicago in 1968. Their father, Roland Childs, is a prominent Civil Rights leader. As police violence grows increasingly worse against blacks, these young brothers are wondering whether their father's peaceful demonstrations are really making a difference. All of a sudden there is another presence in the neighborhood that consists of leather jackets and black berets: The Black Panther Party. Roland Childs was dedicated to maintaining a non-violent approach to the Civil Rights cause. During a demonstration headed by Child's, his sons are faced with a life changing decision. When their lives seem to be getting back on track a close friend of the family is murdered, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Steven "Stick" is the eldest of the Child's boys. Stick is the center of Sam's world. The incident at the demonstration pushed Stick into the world of the Black Panthers much against his father's will. Sam was lost and confused not knowing who to lean on. The world was changing. Sam is a thirteen year old teenager who is about to encounter some adult events.Sam and his girlfriend Maxie witnessed the police brutally beat their good friend, Bucky, and haul him off to jail. Stick has gone with the Panthers. Sam remained at home. Sam was torn between remaining loyal to his father or committing himself to a new cause with Stick. Sam began to see his life as he knew it start falling apart. On the heels of a great victory a life shattering tragedy happened. Sam had to make a decision. Over the years the brothers built a large wall consisting of various blocks in their room. They have maintained it for some time. As different events begin to take place, the wall is partially torn apart and by the end of the book it has completely collapsed. I likened this wall to a metaphor for this family. At one point the wall hid a secret that was the catalyst for the tragic blow that ripped this family apart. The Rock and the River was serious and steady. Magoon does a great job presenting the father/son relationship in the midst of many challenges. Throughout the story we read how people from different class but the same race handle the same situation. The book is of the Young Adult genre but it easily crosses that line. I highly recommend this book to the young men in and around our lives.
  • (3/5)
    In 1968 Chicago, Sam's father is a well-known supporter and speaker on the civil rights movement as well as a colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King. He has always emphasized to his boys the importance of non-violent protest. But Sam's older brother Stick finds this method ineffective for the change that needs to be made and he is drawn to the ideals of the Black Panthers. Sam finds himself caught in the middle and unsure of his own path during this historic time. The prose can be melodramatic at times, but it is an intensely convincing and realistic story about a black teen's familial and personal turmoil during an unsettling era.
  • (5/5)
    This book is a great story about a teens take on the civil rights movement in Chicago in the 1960's. The characters are real and believable in their struggles and successes of life. I have found this book totally captivating and one that it was hard to put down. I recommend this to anyone interested in learning more about a volatile time in our nation's history.
  • (3/5)
    It wasn't my favorite book I've read about the Black Panther Party but it was pretty good. Maybe I wasn't in the right mood for it.
  • (3/5)
    What I liked the most about the book was the characters. I didn't like the police brutality and beating an stuff.
  • (5/5)
    this book is awesome i recommend it to every one
  • (4/5)
    In this absorbing coming of age story, you will learn along the way something about why this country has had a vested interest in deifying the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. and in vilifying the reputation of his activist rivals for power in the black community.In the late 1960’s, Dr. King was battling the more militant elements among the black leadership over the direction that the fight for civil liberties would take. (This was not a new conflict; Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois also went head-to-head on this issue.) Groups like The Black Panthers saw the non-violent, “gradualism” approach of Dr. King as too slow and too tolerant of abuses against black citizens. As Paul Robeson observed years before: “[I]n no other area of our society are lawbreakers granted an indefinite time to comply with the provisions of the law.” Magoon explains the philosophy of The Panthers, on whom this book focuses, in her afterword:"The Panthers rejected ‘passive resistance’ in favor of self-defense and self-determination. The believed it was up to black communities to demand equality, defend their rights, and look out for their own needs. [To this end they] initiated landmark community organizing efforts to bring much-needed services into black neighborhoods. Their programs included free neighborhood health clinics, drug-awareness education, GED classes, clothing supply, tutoring, legal aid and referrals, free dental care, free ambulances, bussing families to visit loved ones in prison, and free breakfast programs for school-age children.”In Magoon’s story set in Chicago in 1968, thirteen-year-old Sam and his seventeen-year old brother “Stick” are compelled to confront the difference between these two philosophies of the black civil rights movement, and to make a choice. Their father, Roland Childs, is a well-known (fictional) colleague of Dr. King’s and an important figure in his own right in the non-violence movement. But the impatience and optimism of youth are powerful catalysts. Stick begins to sneak out of the house to attend meetings of the Black Panthers, in direct violation of their father’s wishes.Sam, younger and more trapped by the tug between parental worship and rebellion, not to mention the pull between love for his father and love for his brother, can’t decide what to do. He is also influenced by his sweet and smart girlfriend, Maxie, who is drawn to the Black Panthers. Faced with Sam's vacillation, Stick tells him:"'Well, you can’t be the rock and the river, Sam. ‘The rock is high ground,’ Stick explained to Sam. ‘Solid. Immovable.’ ‘The river is motion, turmoil, rage. As the river flows, it wonders what it would be like to be so still, to take a breath, to rest. But the rock will always wonder what lies around the bend in the stream.’‘I want to be both,’ [Sam] whispered.”In the midst of the boys own political growth and turmoil, Dr. King’s assassination takes place, and Chicago erupts in riots. His death makes a profound impression on Sam:"Dr. King’s speeches and his life were all about peace and brotherhood, about finding justice. And we listened. Yet, all we had learned was that when you stand up, you get shot down.”The Panthers carried guns to protect themselves, but their purpose was deterrence, and in fact, in those years, blacks needed deterrence from the violence of the police. Ultimately their goal was changing hearts and minds, not killing. As Sam’s father (who, inexplicably to Sam, cooperated sub rosa with the Panthers) pointed out, “People are more afraid of ideas than of guns.”Nevertheless, the story ends with guns and ends tragically, as it unfortunately did with dismaying frequency back in those years. And because I am part of a family with educators, I hear - also with dismaying frequency - “why teach that history to today’s blacks? It will only stir them up and make them angry.” And so it is not often taught. And the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s call for nonviolence is hyped and praised and honored with a special holiday. The author states in an interview she gave to Zetta Elliott that she wanted to write this book because in school she only learned about the champions of non-violent protest. She never heard about all the social programs of the Black Panthers, nor about the effect that the threat of more direct action had on the government's desire to appease Dr. King and elevate his reputation to the detriment of his rivals. With this book, she aims to contribute to a more balanced presentation of the history of the movement.Evaluation: This book won the American Library Association's Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent, was nominated for an NAACP Image Award, and has been named a 2010 ALA Notable Book for Children and a YALSA 2010 Best Books for Young Adults. It is an excellent way to find out more about relatively recent American history in a gripping format that provides a fair look at both sides of the question of civil rights strategy. I believe it is a must-read for those born after the events described in this book.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (3/5)
    Magoon has written a novel around MLK Jr.’s death, but through the eyes of a son of a friend of King’s. This friend lives in Chicago, and has the same nonviolent beliefs. However, his sons Steven and Sam are beginning to move towards the Black Panthers and their more violent approach. Magoon has created this novel around the facts, but it still feels fairly contemporary for historical fiction. However, the sons don’t have a lot of personality other than their beliefs – it’s hard to see what Sam’s girlfriend sees in him. The parents have more personality than the sons although that may be the natural reaction to having a father with a strong personality and public persona. While I think it may get some attention in awards season, that’s due to the lack of African American writers of chapter books and not the fact that this is a great book.
  • (3/5)
    I wish I could have sympathized with Sam much more. I know he is very young, but he came off very whiny from beginning to end. Honestly, would rather have focused on Stick and the father.