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A Summer of Kings Paperback – February 8, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-9-Infused with rhetoric that is as meaningful today as it was two generations ago, this young teen's account of a life-changing summer not only opens a window to history, but also displays Nolan's brilliant gift for crafting profoundly appealing protagonists. Increasingly resentful of her forced role as the dim, responsible one in her gifted, well-to-do New York family, Esther acts out with increasing bitterness in a struggle to earn some respect and elbow room. Her rebellion begins to gain traction after King-Roy, the 18-year-old African-American son of her mother's childhood friend, travels up from Alabama to escape accusations that he murdered a white man. As he becomes a radicalized, tough-talking supporter of Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, Esther counters by studying the words of James Baldwin, Dr. King, and Mahatma Gandhi-and finds an epiphany in Gandhi's challenge to be the change we want to see in the world. In the end, Esther's family is persuaded by her passion to join her in the famous 1963 march in Washington, DC, and King-Roy heads back home in the wake of uglier events. What sets Esther apart from everyone else in the story-and most readers for that matter-is her ability to see the differences between her own expectations and those that are imposed from outside. Her genuineness is not only wholly admirable, but it also drives King-Roy and her parents crazy, adding a leavening of humor to her narrative's powerful mix of triumph and tragedy.-John Peters, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gr. 6-9. Overshadowed by perfect siblings and saddled with a reputation as a slow, stubborn, late bloomer, 14-year-old Esther expects the summer of 1963 to be life-changing. Her hopes are fulfilled when her parents offer a room in their Westchester, New York, mansion to an African American refugee from southern racial violence, whom some call a murderer, others a "victim of prejudice and circumstance." Recently introduced to the militant teachings of Malcolm X, 18-year-old King-Ray Johnson chafes at fraternizing with "white devils," but Esther's dogged overtures eventually result in a tentative, turbulent bond. Throughout, Nolan sharply evokes the questioning of a white teen suddenly shaken "awake to the world," whose romantic notions are challenged by perspectives forged from generations of persecution: "They're smiling out their faces," King-Ray says of northern whites, "but they're still nailing you to the wall every which way they can." Despite several overplayed plot elements, idealistic readers will relate to fierce Esther's determination to join the March on Washington and realize positive change, even as the powerful, troubling conclusion resists sentimental solutions. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (February 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547577303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547577302
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #553,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I was born in Birmingham, Alabama. When I was 9 months old my family moved to New York where I spent most of my childhood and teen years. When I was a toddler, I had white blond hair that stood straight up on my head. My family called me "Hoot" back then because that and my big eyes made me look like an owl. I couldn't pronounce my first and middle names, which were Helen Harris, so I said "Hannah Hollis". My family shortened this to a variety of nicknames: Hahn, Han Holl, Han, Hannie, and Hannie Bucket, which my husband later shortened to Hannie B. The neighborhood kids also called me Hahn. It is now pronounced, Han, and it rhymes with man.

I was very active as a child--I loved to jump on beds, do somersaults, handstands and flips on and off of sofas, climb trees and do different tricks on the monkey bars at the playground. I also liked my own thoughts best. In kindergarten, I paid no attention to my teacher. She told my mother that she thought I had a hearing problem. My parents had my hearing tested. My ears were fine. When my mother told me what the teacher had said I replied that I heard my teacher all right, it's just that she kept interrupting all my good thoughts!

I've loved stories for as long as I can remember. One of my favorite memories is of my father telling me bedtime stories, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, B'rer Rabbit, and stories from the Bible such as my favorite, Joseph and his Coat of Many Colors. I loved to make up my own stories too. I didn't write them down until I was a little older, but I sure loved to make them up.

One of my favorites books as a child was "Harriet the Spy". I wanted to be a spy, so I started spying on my family, especially my older sister. It turned out I was a terrible spy because I kept getting caught, but I kept a spy notebook, just like Harriet. I quickly gave up on the spying, but writing thoughts and stories in a notebook has been a habit for me ever since.

When I was ten, I saw the movie "The Sound of Music" and I fell in love with it. Back then if you wanted to see a movie more than once you had to go to the theater. We didn't have videos. I only saw it once but I had the record album with all the music on it and I learned every word of it. I made up dances to go with it and gave a performance for my family. My brothers and sisters laughed at me. My parents and grandmother applauded and told me I was wonderful. For years after seeing that movie I would lie awake nights remembering the story of the Sound Of Music and making up my own stories to go with it. Lying awake nights making up stories instead of sleeping is a habit I still have, as my husband can tell you.

My elementary school years were tough--I hated school. I wanted to be at home with my mother. I used to feel sick to my stomach every morning and my mother would let me stay home sometimes. We moved to Kentucky when I was in the fifth grade. I stayed home a lot that year and I missed so much school I had to repeat the grade to make up all the work I had missed. After that I didn't get sick to my stomach anymore.

I didn't do well in school until the sixth grade. That's the year I was given my first creative writing assignment. I had been writing stories at home for years and of course keeping a journal filled with more stories and poems and all those important thoughts I had. My homeroom/English teacher was very impressed by my writing and this made me feel smart. I decided to do well in school after that, and I did. But what if that teacher hadn't encouraged me?

When I was 13, my mother enrolled me in dance class. At first I felt like a big oaf--all the other kids were younger, or had been taking dance lessons for years, so I was behind. But I loved it, and I began to work at it all the time: stretching so I could do splits and high kicks and dancing around the house to music. Two years later I was invited to join the special master classes for the best students. All that hard work had paid off.

I loved dance--I continued lessons into high school, and then went to college and graduate school as a dance major. I went to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro as an undergraduate, and went to Ohio State for my Masters degree.

So how did I end up as a writer?

I got married after Grad school and I soon realized that my dancing took up too much of the wrong time. When my husband was at work I was at home, and when he was home I was dancing. I didn't like that at all, even though my husband took a beginning ballet class just so he could spend time with me. I left dance and I decided to return to my first love, writing. Soon after that we adopted three children and I knew for sure that staying home and writing instead of dancing was the best decision for me.

As an adult I still love to spend time with my family and friends, and I love to read, run, hike, bike, swim, go to plays and concerts, travel, and of course, write.


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 0 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on April 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"I decided that this would be the summer of a new me, a more mature me, a more mysterious and exotic me, and I determined that are new houseguest, the murderer, was to play a starring role in my new life." This is a quote from the amazing historical fiction novel, A Summer of Kings, by Han Nolen.

Esther is 14 years old, and she is always getting "left behind". Everyone is always telling her to grow up and her family is mean to her. She wants this summer of 1963 to be different, and it will be.

Esther plans on falling in love with King-Roy, who is an 18 year old African American sent to live with Esther's family after being accused of killing someone. King-Roy feels that the only way to get his rights is by being violent. He hates whites and is upset by the segregation going on in the world. Esther tries to help and understand while learning about what is happening in the world and "being the change she wants to see in the world'.

This is an amazing story, telling people to stand up for what is right and reminding people what life was like in the 1960's and the importance of freedom. Ester's feelings come right out of the book and I feel as if everything happening to Esther is happening to me.

I would recommend this book to anyone in 6th to 8th grade. I would also recommend this book to people who enjoy learning about the past and the life and problems of people who lived during that time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on May 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The year is 1963. Fourteen-year-old Esther Young is used to being considered the dunce of her family. All she wants is something new, something exciting to come along and give her an opportunity to show her family how special she is. She sees her chance when King-Roy Johnson, a black man accused of killing a white man in Alabama, comes to stay with her family for the summer.

Esther's parents believe that he is innocent; Esther doesn't know what to believe. But she determines to get to know the mysterious stranger living down the hall, and, in the process, learn a little bit more about herself.

A Summer of Kings mixes one girl's coming-of-age story with a powerful message about human nature. Full of well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to, Kings engages both the heart and the mind. It deals with the issue of racial discrimination--from the two sides. Both white brutality against blacks and black resentment against whites are dealt with in equal measure. The author uses Esther's story to show readers how the two sides justify their hatred by dehumanizing each other.

Esther and King-Roy want an end to segregation and racial prejudice in their country. But while King-Roy is drawn by the fiery messages of angry black leaders such as Malcolm X, who calls for violent uprising, Esther discovers the "peaceful resistance" teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi--and begins to long for an end to the violence.

Together, Esther and King-Roy find a way to face use these teachings to change their own lives and show the world that love is greater than hatred, and brotherhood stronger than bitterness.

Armchair Interviews says: A Summer of Kings is a not-to-be-missed books for young adults.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sze Min on April 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I've read this novel and I'd like to say that it is really one of the best that Han Nolan had written. The whole story regarding civil rights is gripping, page-turning and very realistic. A very thoughtful novel and I truly recommend this to anyone who just wants to know more about human rights and freedom. Some parts were really touching and I was actually crying half-way through this book...lol! All Han Nolan fans out there, go get a copy right now! I guarantee that you would not regret it:-)
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on July 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A Summer of Kings is a great book. Part Historical Fiction, part a story about finding out who you are and what your place in the world is. It is very well written, thought provoking, has wonderfully developed characters, humor, and romance.

The plot:

Esther young is 14 years old, and is the black sheep of the family. She is viewed as untalented, stupid, and ugly. She is actually quite the opposite, and she is looking for a change. The perfect chance comes when she learns that a black man named King-Roy Johnson is coming to live with them, after being accused of murdering a white man. She is determined to fall in love with him, and have him return her feelings, an idea that receives much scorn from her best friend 'Pip'. When King-Roy arrives, Esther immediatly likes him, and he immediatly feels comfortable with her. They would be fast friends, except for King-Roy's internal struggle with what he believes is right. After a terrible tragedy results from the peaceful teaching of Martin Luther King Jr., King Roy is more enclined to believe in the teachings of Malcom X, A man who is against whites and believes that the only way to freedom is through violence. King-Roy and Esther will both go through a tough time in there life, in which they search for what is right, and what the true meaning of freedom is.

This book is wonderful! Han Nolan fans will thouroughly enjoy it, and so will first time readers of her work! ENJOY!!
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