From School Library Journal
Grade 5–9—In 1959, in Holcolm County, GA, there is a palpable tension. Times are slowly changing, causing resentment among some folks and optimism among others. The volatile mix sets the tone for this story of family, friendship, and racial discrimination. Jim Crow is the law of the South, separating the races, but it cannot dictate human emotions, creating the pivotal struggle of the novel. Twelve-year-old Polly Baxter, daughter of a poor white couple, and 14-year-old Timbre Ann, child of a black business owner, share the most improbable thing in this environment—a friendship. When suspicious fires, vandalism, and threats to successful black business owners cause fear and distrust among the townspeople, the strength of Polly and Timbre Ann's bond is tested. It is further jeopardized after a tragic incident threatens to separate them forever. The connection between the two girls and their families is beautifully described and believable, and the richness of the characters is apparent. The pacing of the story is deliberate and suspenseful with twists and turns that add to the bittersweet conclusion.—Margaret Auguste, Franklin Middle School, Somerset, NJ
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It’s the 1950s, and times are hard in 12-year-old Polly’s small southern town. Her white family is struggling to get by, especially after Daddy loses his job. Mama works as caregiver for the Judge’s ailing mother and gets a housekeeper job in the same home for her close friend, Henrietta (“Henri”), who is black. Polly’s best friend is Henri’s niece, Timbre Ann, but the girls have to keep their relationship secret as racial tension builds, black stores are torched, and even the sheriff condones the local violence. Is Polly’s dad part of the group that is setting fires? The cast is huge in this first novel; just about everyone in town plays a role, and it is hard to keep all their relationships straight. But Polly’s first-person narrative shows the heartbreaking family and friendship drama, making personal the n-word insults, the struggle and the fury of the poor whites, and the shocking persecution of blacks. The good guys are not idealized. Polly’s quarrels with Timbre Ann run deep, and healing the hurt takes more than just saying sorry. Grades 7-10. --Hazel Rochman
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