The Book Reviews – Website

August 8, 2009


Filed under: 4 — thebookreviews @ 7:10 pm
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Author: Walter Mosley

Page Length: 232

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Historical Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: 47 is the slave number given to young boy on the Corinthian Plantation when he was determined to be off age. Branded with that number on his left shoulder, 47 must spend his days working the field picking cotton and his nights chained up in a group bunk house. The overseer is a constant threat who often tortures slaves, kills them, or even hangs them from the hanging tree. 47 has all but lost his way until Tall John arrives. Tall John inspires and is inspired by 47 – who one day he says is destined to lead the masses to break the chains of slavery and be free.

REVIEW: The story was riveting in terms of its depiction of plantation life in the south. The horrors and detrimental effects of slavery were well portrayed – for this reason alone the book is an excellent source for making connections with students and history. The idea that any one person could be the chosen one who has a destiny far greater than he or she can comprehend is a beautiful theme. This theme can reinforce for students their own potential and the need to question their “place” in society. The spiritual aspect of the book and the other worldly origins of Tall John were more difficult to grasp – as well as the idea that demon spirits were capable of taking over other people’s bodies. The truth about how dark skinned people were treated inhumanely is accurately portrayed in the book. Even if the whole class didn’t read the book certain excerpts would be excellent for classroom examination and discussion. Overall the book was interesting and unique.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, compare and contrast, character traits, timeline, cause and effect, historical connections

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: language – “niggahs” (page 155), “dragged to the wagon wheel and chained to it hand and foot” (page 154), and many more language issues

RELATED BOOKS: Devil in a Blue Dress, A Red Death, Black Betty, Little Scarlet, The Long Fall, Fortunate Son

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)


REVIEWED BY:  Dayna Taylor

January 18, 2009

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Author: Mildred Taylor

Page Length: 276

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Realistic Fiction     

PLOT SUMMARY: The story begins with Cassie Logan and her brothers walking to school. Although they are young children, they are aware of the different ways whites and blacks are treated.  Being Negroes, they must walk to school, while the white children ride a bus. Their schoolbooks are worn, discarded rejects from the white children’s school. They even become the subjects of jokes when the bus driver deliberately splashes them with mud as he drives the white children to school.

As the events of the book unfold, repeated incidents of racism are witnessed at school and in the community.  The Logan family lives in fear of the Ku Klux Klan ,but with the influence of Big Ma, Mama, and Papa they cling together to protect the 400 acres they call “their land.”

REVIEW: Many of the events and themes of the story are adult in nature, but Cassie, a fourth grader, tells the book in narrative form. The children must witness their mother being fired as a teacher, grown men being tarred and feathered, and a rebellious friend, T. J., accused of murder.  They learn the viciousness that prejudicial feelings of racism bring. Through the violence, Cassie realizes the importance of family and why “the land” is an endearment they must protect.

This is an awesome book I would recommend it for reading as a class novel.  The character development and setting are excellently described, as well as the drama in the sequence of events.  It is a great book to read in conjunction with a Civil Rights Movement theme.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Compare/Contrast, Conflict, Characters, Setting, Theme, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: The Land, Let the Circle Be Unbroken, A Time to Kill, To Kill a Mockingbird

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1978), A Time to Kill (1996), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

January 17, 2009

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

Author: Camilla Wilson

Page Length: 74

Reading Level: 4

Genre: Biography   

PLOT SUMMARY: Rosa Parks was always concerned with black Americans being treated equally.  As a young girl, Rosa was disciplined by her mother for threatening a white boy.  After receiving a scholarship to Miss White’s School for Girls in Montgomery, Rosa learned there was more segregation in the large city than her small hometown.  Rosa married Raymond Parks in 1932.  She was attracted to Raymond, partly, because of his involvement with the famous Scottsboro case.  While she worked as a seamstress, Rosa spent her lunches and evenings working actively in several black organizations.  She wrote letters and advocated the right to vote for both African Americans and women.

One day after long hours at her job, she boarded a bus that was full of both whites and blacks.  She sat towards the middle of the bus with three other black women.  When a white man got on the bus, the driver told the black women to move to the back.  Rosa refused to move, which caused her arrest.  She went to trial and was found guilty.  She had to pay $23.  However, the bus companies of Montgomery were the actual ones who had to pay.  Rosa’s arrest and subsequent trial caused the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which lasted 380 days and started the beginning of the Civil Rights movement.

REVIEW: This is a brief story of Rosa Park’s adult life.  It tells of her involvement in gaining equality for African Americans that she worked for her entire life.  The book would be a good supplement to a study of the Civil Rights movement or in conjunction with the realistic fiction book, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

AREAS OF TEACHING: Sequence of Events and Historical Context

RELATED BOOKS: Bus Ride to Justice, Rosa Parks: My Story, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It,

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Rosa Parks Story (2002), Heroes of Freedom: Harriett Tubman and Rosa Parks (2008)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 23, 2008

Promises to Keep

Promises to Keep

Author: Sharon Robinson          

Page Length: 64

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Biography 

PLOT SUMMARY:  Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson, writes a narrative biography of her father’s life.  She begins with a brief history of the beginning of America and how it was a black and white world. 

She goes on to tell of how the view of the people of the United States changed over the next 200 years towards African Americans.  She includes in the text, the changes her dad experienced during his life as the first African American to play major league baseball. She tells of the struggles he went through to break the “ Jim Crow Barrier”. Also, she includes descriptions of her parent’s relationship, their family life, and life after Jackie’s career as a baseball player.

She tells of the fight for equal rights that her father was very active in during the l960’s and how he promised to help change life for the African American people of the United States.

REVIEW: This is the third and best biography I have read about Jackie Robinson.  I enjoyed the narrative form of writing that Sharon Robinson used.  Also, included, were excellent photographs, which chronicled Jackie’s life and events that have occurred after his death which celebrate the great man he was.

I think this is an excellent book for boys and girls who like baseball to read.  Also, it is a good book for those who are interested in the Civil Rights movement to read because Jackie Robinson was an advocate for Civil Rights in his years after baseball.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Character, Compare/Contrast, and Cause and Effect

RELATED BOOKS: Stealing Home: The Story of Jackie Robinson, Jackie’s Nine

MOVIE, MUSIC, ART CONNECTIONS: The Jackie Robinson Story, Brain Pops: A Social Studies Movie about Jackie Robinson, Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown


 REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

June 23, 2008

Black Diamond

Filed under: B — thebookreviews @ 12:41 pm
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Black Diamond

Author: P. McKissack & F. McKissack

Page Length: 184

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Non-fiction

REVIEW: This is an interesting story about the origin of the Negro Baseball Leagues. There are few accurate historical records to give a clear picture of creation of this league. However the authors have attempted to assemble several sources together in order that the reader may have a glimpse of how the “American Sport” of baseball segregated it’s African American players from white players during the turbulent time of the Civil War and slavery.

Slave owners did not favor their slaves participating in baseball because it was not as profitable as other sports such as boxing and wrestling. However, as time went by, African-Americans who desired to play baseball found ways to participate as their own teams.

The white players in baseball were more concerned about “skin color” than the managers and owners of the teams. However, because the number of players exceeded that of management, segregation remained strong in the early days of the sport. There were some African-Americans who gained access to the “white” baseball teams by passing off as Cubans. Cubans were allowed to play with whites. Elements of segregation, discrimination, and contradictions flow throughout this book in an attempt to show the true environment in which African-Americans lived and played.

Ironically, once the Great Depression occurred and many white men left the country to fight in the World War, blacks were able to “slide in” and play vacated baseball positions in which they normally were banned.

In the Negro Base Leagues, the players participated in multiple positions on the field. Balls were caught bare-handed. They also did not have access to the resources and money that their “white teams” had. However, the Negro Leagues played not for fame or fortune, but for the love of the game. In their travels across the country, they were able to spread a sense of feeling that equality could be achieved through a common bond called sport.

In 1945, Jackie Robinson signed a contract to be the first African-American to play for a major league baseball team. He would later move on to become the first African-American to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. What is ironic about Jackie Robinson is that he had been participating in sports alongside whites before he came to major league baseball because college sports and the Olympics were integrated before Major League Baseball.

This book includes great photographs, captions, player profiles, timelines, and a bibliography for further reference.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: compare/contrast (page 98), Logical Arguments (Chapter 11), Hero Theme (Chapter 11), vocabulary (pirating, RBI, barnstorm – pg 26)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: derogatory words (pages 18, 20, 139), elements of racial prejudice and beatings

RELATED BOOKS: When Willard Met Babe Ruth, Jackie’s Nine, Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “The Jackie Robinson Story” (1950), “Negro Baseball Leagues” (1946)

RELATED WEBSITES: (vocabulary & biographies) (extension on book to include women) (resource to use with the movie “The Jackie Robinson Story”) (activities, glossary, timelines)

REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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