This historical fiction set in 1898 in Wilmington, NC, was a fascinating read and taught me a whole lot about a horrible historical event I'd never even heard of: The Wilmington Massacre. This book is on Newbery contender lists and ballots all over the country. I, however, am thinking it's more likely to win a Scott O'Dell historical fiction award and/or a Coretta Scott King. It's definitely award worthy, but I'm not so sure, as I have seen other reviewers mention, that this book meets this guideline for the Newbery:
b.Committee members must consider excellence of presentation for a child audience.
The story is told in the 1st person by 11 year old Moses Thomas, an African American boy born to a black father and a mixed race mother who can pass for white. Moses' grandmother, Boo Nanny, plays a large part in the story as well. Aside from the clear "white people against black people" issues, there are many race issues in this story that would not be clear to child audiences who were not reading this without guidance from an adult, particularly child audiences in the younger age range. Even the title Crow, which refers t Jim Crow laws that were not yet in place, is likely to be a reference lost on many child readers. Again, I am no judge of the judging, as it were - my choice never wins - but it seems to me that this book will be held back from the Newbery for this reason IF the judges seriously take that into account. There have been other winners that I felt didn't meet this criteria either, though, so we'll just have to wait and see.
However, like I said, it should win a Scott O'Dell award for historical fiction. It's an excellent presentation of an event that should be told. The storyline of the coup staged by white residents to overthrow their town government is exciting and suspenseful, at times even terrifying. The characters are well developed, particularly Moses, his father, and Boo Nanny, but even some of the minor characters who have few appearances in the story are skillfully created to shine.
I keep catching myself thinking how imposible this situation seems, and then realize once again that it's based on a true story and that while there are now laws in place to prevent coups, and while the majority of people of every color do live in harmony in our country, it's not entirely the case, and that's why books like this are so important. We need to have some radical stories highlighted t illustrate what racism can lead to and why we need to fight it at every opportunity. This story definitely highlights bullying in addition to racism.
I'll be looking for at least one shiny sticker on this book come January. Have you read it? What do you think?