One cannot be the rock and the river.
In 1968 America, civil rights activists are working against a growing tide of youngsters who are not seeing a changed society as fast as they would like. Sam’s mother and father are staunchly committed to non-violence and the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sam’s father is famous as a civil rights activist and speaker, in his own right, in their home city of Chicago. Dr. King is a family friend and comes to dinner for his mother’s chicken pot pie.
However, Sam’s elder brother, Steven a.k.a. “Stick” has just joined the Black Panther Party and Sam is witness to his friend Bucky’s unjustified brutalization and incarceration by the police. Tensions in Chicago spill over into violence as news of Dr. King’s assassination spreads. How can Sam be the son his parents raised him to be, Stick’s younger brother and Bucky’s friend? Sam’s world suddenly fills with impossible choices.
The Rock and the River is a page turner, an intense and crucial story—I’d put it in a “must read” category for young people. The book would work especially well with Virginia 8th grade history and civics curriculum. I have never read a better fictional story to illustrate the emotions and stresses of living in 1968. Even though the main character in the story is in early high school, I will be talking up this 2012 Virginia Readers Choice nominee with as many middle school students as I can. They will “get” this book.
The Rock and The River author, Kekla Magoon, has a wonderful website friendly to teen readers. I love that the site is geared for her readers and not literary critics or influential adults. YA readers that enjoy this book should check out her website and books.
The Rock and the River has won many distinguished awards and recognitions. This is an author to know and keep up with.
The Rock and the River has earned:
- Winner of the 2010 Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe Award by the American Library Association
- 2010 NAACP Image Awards nominee, for "Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens"
- 2010 ALA/YALSA Best Books for Young Adults
- 2010 ALA Notable Books for Children
- A 2009 Junior Library Guild Selection
- 2009 Booklist Top Ten Historical Fiction for Teens
- 2009 Booklist Top Ten Debut Novels
Magoon, K. The Rock and the River. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009. Print.