From School Library Journal
Grade 6-8–From an author well known for her nonfiction on social and political issues comes a historical novel that explores a frightening yet important event in U.S. history: McCarthyism and the Red Scare. Jamie Morse, 13, lives in the Bronx in 1953. She loves Hollywood movie stars, the Dodgers, and practicing her yo-yo moves. But unlike most kids, she has a big secret. Her father is a member of the Communist Party. She never invites her friends to her apartment, and she lies to the FBI when asked what newspapers her parents read. Jamie's parents are portrayed as political leftists who want economic and social justice. Her father, a high school math teacher, is called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and refuses to reveal the names of other Communists. He is sent to jail. Her mother also loses her job, bullies at school chase her brother, and Jamie is thrown off the school newspaper with no explanation. Levine portrays well Jamie's confusion, fear, anxiety, shame, and anger at her parents, yet her love for them. The times are captured perfectly, from Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in the movies to the Rosenbergs' execution and the politics of fear. Jamie is a likable and believable heroine who grows into her own beliefs. Kids may well relate to the pervasive fear of the early 1950s as it resonates in our post-9/11 world.–Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
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*Starred Review* Gr. 5-8. Levine's excellent nonfiction works--among them, Freedom's Children
(1992)--tell social and political history through the experiences of young people. In her first novel, which is set in the early 1950s at the height of the McCarthy witch hunts, she brings the politics up close through the voice of 13-year-old Jamie Morse, whose Dad is fired from his job and tried as a Communist. Jamie is sick of politics. She's furious with her parents, and she hates all the family secrets. She just wants to have fun with her best friend. Yet, she knows that politics is more than rhetoric, especially when it comes to civil rights issues and the hurt caused by the n
-word. Some of the plot is purposive (a classroom discussion on freedom of expression), but the characters are drawn without reverence, and the scary history and the crucial debate will grab readers, especially given the sharp dialogue. Tension mounts to the very end: Will Dad name names? What is worse, dissent or betrayal? The warmth, sadness, and anger humanize the issues, which are sure to spark discussion about the meaning of patriotism--then and now. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved