Review: Whistling Past the Graveyard

16058610Title: Whistling Past the Graveyard

Author: Susan Crandall

Setting: Mississippi & Tennessee 1963

Themes: family, race, justice, religion, secrets

Starla Claudelle is not looking forward to a summer spend with her strict grandmother, but with her mother up in Nashville trying to be star and her dad working on an oil rig, she’s got no choice. Starla can’t take it anymore and decides to run away and she meets Eula and everything changes.

We read this for book club, and once again, I was the only person who didn’t love the book. Starla is 9 years old, but the author makes her sound like she’s at least 14 years old. Only occasionally does she sound like the child she is. She’s too independent and too smart for her age, but at the same time, she gets into situations that could just be so dangerous – and then they are dangerous!

Then there’s Eula, who takes risks that I just can’t believe a woman in her position would take. I can’t say more without giving away everything in the book, but I just didn’t find it believable. I liked Eula and I liked Starla, but it wasn’t enough for me to really accept the events in the book and that they would happen this way.

The book is really interesting in contrast to Revolution by Deborah Wiles, which I reviewed here. The Wiles book was so much better, maybe because it was told from more than one POV and because the characters were older. This one just touched the surface of the civil rights issues and only seemed less plausible because of it. 3/5 stars, but I will admit that for younger kids I’d rate it higher.

Book Review: Revolution

You say you want a revolution, well you know

We all want to change the world.

 

Title: Revolution (The Sixties Trilogy, #2)

Author: Deborah Wiles

Challenge: Women’s History Month, Read Diverse Books

Setting: Mississippi, 1964 – Freedom Summer

Themes: Civil Rights, racial equality, social change, blended families, coming of age

It’s the year when everything changes for three young kids, Sunny, Gillette, and Raymond. It’s a year of revolution, of violence, of triumph, of fear and of hope.

Sunny can’t wait for summer to begin. Swimming at the pool with her friends, going to the movies, listening to The Beatles, visiting her grandma, and going to see A Hard Day’s Night. It’s going to be the best summer of her life.

Until a group of “invaders” come to town and suddenly, her perfect summer becomes something else. People Sunny has known her whole life start acting in new and unpredictable ways. Tempers flare. And the colored folks at the edge of town start showing up in places they’ve never been.

Gillette has a new family, a new father, and a new sister who he just can’t figure out. She doesn’t have any idea how good she’s had it. Meanwhile, he just want wants to play baseball.

Raymond lives in the colored part of town. His parents work at one of the cotton farms, and he helps out by picking cotton in the summer. Now a group of Northerners have come to town and are trying to get everyone riled up. His parents are worried about it, but Raymond figures it’s time for a change. He might be too young to register to vote, but he’s sure like to go to that nice air conditioned movie theater.

I moved around a lot as a kid, mostly living in the Midwest, but also in the South. Never in Mississippi. And as a white woman, I’ve directly experienced racism. But I’ve grown up with it around me, in my schools, in my communities, even in my home. My parents were not overtly racist, but they weren’t perfect either. But I’ve definitely never experienced anything like this.

I loved this book. Her previous book, Countdown, introduced me to the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s the same style, combining news stories, photography, and storytelling. Don’t be intimidated by the size of these books. The extra content makes them look bigger than they really are, and both books are pretty fast reads. I would definitely recommend this for kids junior high age and up. I’m anxious to read the next one, which I think will be about the Vietnam War.

 

Year in Review: Audiobooks

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My last post gave you some of the low points of my reading year. This time, I’ll hit some of the high points. But I’m going to focus this time on books I listened to.

I have a friend in my book club who still hasn’t fallen in love with the audiobook. For those of you out there waiting to be convinced, here are a few that I think will do the trick.

Michael J. Sullivan’s Ryria

We all love a good buddy movie, and a good buddy book, or even better, a whole series, is a definite crowd pleaser. This fantasy series features a former soldier turned swordsman and a rogue/thief. But both of them have some secrets and they are more than they appear at first glance. In the first book, Theft of Swords, they’re hired to steal a sword, but they almost immediately wind up in the dungeon accused of regicide. There are three novels in this series plus a couple of short stories, and I went slightly crazy over them. The audio version is totally amazing – Hadrian and Royce both seem like real people. You’ve got to check this one out.

Terry Pratchett

I don’t think I’ll ever have a year when I don’t read something by this guy. He was a genius, and the world is much poorer without him. At least he left an amazing and varied body of work. This year my favorite book I listened to was Eric, but I also loved Wintersmith. If you’re feeling down or stressed out, Discworld is the perfect antidote. No matter how bad you’ve got it, someone over there has it worse.

Non-Fiction

One of my few 5 star reads this year was The Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America. For some of you old enough to remember the Civil Rights Era and Jim Crow South, this case may already be familiar. But I missed all that, and I’d never heard of this case. It was all too timely, with the Black Lives Matter movement this year and the rise of a new and nasty racial hatred. This book won the Pulitzer Prize and should be required reading for all politicians and journalists. And it’s all true, which makes it even more shocking.

Grimdark

I am not a fan of the new gritty fantasy, which makes it surprising that I was completely won over by Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. There’s not a hero among the characters here, and yet I can’t help rooting for them to come out on top. It’s not a pretty story, not a bit of sweetness or light, but it feels real and it’s definitely compelling. The narration was fantastic. I got the second book as soon as it came out but I’m saving it for the new year.

Right, I hope I’ve inspired you to listen to one of these great books. The links take you to Audible, but you can also check with your library. Mine has ebook and digital audiobooks you can check out online for free. Happy reading!