Saturday, January 29, 2011

Yankee Girl by Mary Ann Rodman

Eleven year old Alice is good at making new friends and starting new schools. Her father works for the FBI and is often transferred around the country. She knows that all she needs to introduce herself and she will make all the friends she needs.

In 1964, Alice's family moves from Chicago to Jackson, Mississippi and she suddenly finds herself in the middle of the Civil Rights movement. Her tried and true techniques for making friends don't seem to work. Kids at her new school have a different way of talking, dressing and rules about people that don't make any sense to Alice.

Her one friend Jeb- who she is only allowed to be friends with at home because boys don't talk to girls- tries to teach her these rules. Alice begins to realize that there are different rules for different races. This doesn't seem to make any sense to Alice, and she makes many mistakes along the way which continues to hurt her chances to make friends.

When she learns that her school will be integrated and that there will be a new black girl in her class on Monday, Alice is sure that she will finally have a friend. Listening to the other students reaction to Valerie's arrival confuses Alice. She sees Valerie as just another 11 year old girl, but the other students are filled with hatred and fear. Alice is even more confused when Valerie pushes her away. Alice has a very strong sense of the what is right and how to treat people, but she also longs for friends. This battle between what is right and fitting in and having friends is at the heart of this book. Alice must make some big decisions and decide where she stands on many issues- but mostly how she wants to treat people.

I found this book to be very moving. It's a great way for the reader to learn some of the issues and events of life in the South during the 1950's and 1960's. I know the kids in my class are going to like this one.

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