Written by Deborah Wiles
Revolution continues the Sixties Trilogy and the unique “documentary novel” format that Deborah Wiles created in 2010 with Countdown. This time the setting is Greenwood, Mississippi in June, 1964, the beginning of what is known as Freedom Summer. Sunny and her stepbrother Gillette sneak into the city pool at night and encounter a “colored boy” who is also trespassing in the pool. Sunny and Gillette are caught by a police officer and given a slap on the wrist, and they reveal nothing about the other boy who was there. Sunny, now grounded and filled with internal turmoil over her father’s recent remarriage and having to share her house with a stepmother and stepsiblings, is increasingly drawn into the external racial and social turmoil in Greenwood, as civil rights volunteers have come to town to help African-Americans register to vote and the Civil Rights Act has just gone into law, promising desegregation of all public places. We follow her as she becomes increasingly aware of the segregation, hatred, and violence that permeates the town but has so long been hidden beneath a peaceful veneer. Switching perspectives between Sunny, Ray (the boy from the pool, who bravely and dangerously begins to exercise his rights under the Civil Rights Act), and primary source images, song lyrics and biographical/historical narratives give an enveloping picture of this pivotal moment in American History and how the people living in that place and time acted in ways both courageous and cowardly.
Countdown was an excellent book but this novel moves beyond it with a more engaging narrative and much higher stakes for the characters involved. I could not put this book down once I had started it, and the characters and situations and the hope and anger I felt at those situations have haunted me since having finished it. By focusing on regular people in a small town rather than the larger-than-life leaders of the movement, this book tells a different and compelling kind of civil rights story that may only get a sentence or two in history books. It really displays the courage and action that were required on the part of many regular individuals, black and white, to make civil rights a reality in the United States, and underscores the very real dangers associated with getting involved in the movement in any way. As with Countdown, I love the inclusion of the period source materials right in with the narrative; they provide such incredible context, meaning, and at times irony. Wiles is setting a new standard for the middle grade historical novel.
Review by Josh Whiting, Library Specialist, Educational Technology Dept.
Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 4-9
Author Website: http://deborahwiles.com/site/
Sixties Trilogy, Book 2
Written by Deborah Wiles
Release Date: August 27, 2014
ISBN: 9780545106078 (hardcover)