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The Rock and the River (The Rock and the River #1)

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  2,272 Ratings  ·  348 Reviews
The Time: 1968

The Place: Chicago

For thirteen-year-old Sam it's not easy being the son of known civil rights activist Roland Childs. Especially when his older (and best friend), Stick, begins to drift away from him for no apparent reason. And then it happens: Sam finds something that changes everything forever.

Sam has always had faith in his father, but when he finds
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 6th 2009 by Aladdin
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2009 MUST READS: Children's and YA
59th out of 253 books — 783 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Feb 10, 2009 Betsy rated it really liked it
I have a variety of different bugaboos that I'll periodically remove from my bag of standard complaints and shout about for long periods of time. They're comforting. They bring me peace. One such complaint concerns The Black Panthers and children's literature. Mainly the fact that the two never meet up. Ever. Once in a while a stray bit of YA literature will come along and mention the Panthers, but it's exceedingly rare. The last time it happened (America Dreaming: How Youth Changed America in t ...more
Sep 10, 2015 Skip rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
It's the 'hood in Chicago during one of the most tumultuous years in race relations, 1968. Roland Childs is a disciple and friend of Martin Luther King, while his two boys struggle with the slow progress of non-violence. Older brother Stick joins the Black Panther Party, while younger brother Sam struggles with which group he wants to join. Peaceful protests turn violent, and a close friend of the boys is jailed because of his skin color. While Magoon did reasonably well with the family strife a ...more
So far this is my favorite book I've had to read for my Young Adult Lit class - it's infinitely better written and organized, all the characters are well done, and even though the point of the book is to educate kids about the civil rights movement, it never feels preachy or condescending.

The story takes place in Chicago in the 1960's, and begins right before Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Fourteen-year-old Sam's father is an important civil rights leader who advocates nonviolent prote
May 19, 2010 Jean rated it really liked it
I was in Chicago the summer of 1968 and I remember what it was like from a wholly different perspective than this book. I was twelve and the angry black young men I encountered during that vacation were frightening to me. All these years later I am ashamed to say that I finally begin to see a glimmer of what that anger represented. 1968 was a critical period in the Civil Rights Movement. This book takes us inside the lives of people who struggled with fighting for the rights they deserved from t ...more
May 29, 2011 ellen rated it it was amazing
I was a little unsure of a young adult novel talking about a boy's struggle around whether to join the Black Panther Party or stay with his father's nonviolent ideals, but my worries were quickly laid to rest by Magoon's fluid prose and her ability to frame analysis and criticism in a way that seems appropriate for the 13-year-old narrator.

The Rock and the River is not your typical young adult novel taking place during the Civil Rights Movement. It doesn't present things as being black and white
Mar 09, 2016 Kelly rated it really liked it
A powerful story told through the perspective of 13-year-old Sam Childs, set towards the end of the Civil Rights Movement in 1968. Growing up with well-known civil rights activist Roland Childs as his father, Sam was raised to believe that non-violent protests are the only reasonable answer in fighting social injustice. At the same time, the Black Panther Party was just gaining popularity, offering a sharp contrast to the peaceful non-violent protests favored by Sam's father and Dr. Martin Luthe ...more
Oct 25, 2015 MaryannP rated it really liked it
Shelves: mc-literature
The Rock and the River received reviews from The School Library Journal and Book List as well as the Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe Award for New Talent. This book takes place during the Civil Rights Movement where the main characters father is friends with Martin Luther King Jr. The father is a civil rights leader and speaker, just like Martin Luther King Jr. was.

The two main characters who are the sons are Stick and Sam. Stick is the older brother who is secretly part of the Black Panthers,
Aug 04, 2016 Lovekitty rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those into historical fiction.
The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon. Happily and undoubtedly, I say that this was the first book I really enjoyed reading in a while.

The story centers around Sam Childs, a young teen living in Chicago at the end of the civil rights era and the beginning of The Black Panther Party movement. He and his older brother, whom he calls Stick, are the sons of civil rights activist Roland Childs, and have been taught and exposed to his ideals of nonviolence and "passive resistance."
Both Sam and Stick
Jun 16, 2016 LibranSki rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-lit
A really strong book about the Civil Right Movement with strong elements of historical references that make for a vivid picture of the accounts at that time. Sam is the younger son of a Civil Rights Activist whose older brother gets in caught up in a couple questionable and unfortunate situations. Sam's life is turned upside down by the decisions of his bother and those around him that lead to ultimate changes in his life. While fighting for something bigger, sometimes we lose some along the way ...more
Michelle  Simpson
This is an amazing book. I listened to the audio version and felt as though it was really Sam telling his story. It provides the reader with a look into Sam's life as he struggles with decisions about resistance in the Civil Rights movement. He desperately wants to please both his dad and his brother who believe in difference ways to achieve true freedom. I learned a great deal about that time period, but particularly about the Black Panthers.
Mar 30, 2015 Toni rated it liked it
I've been reading up on the civil rights era, and historical fiction is a great way to immerse myself in it. This book is set in Chicago, 1968. The friction between the non-violence movement and the black panthers is one of the main forces of the book and that carries into one family in particular.
Jul 29, 2009 Susan rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Stellar writing. A compelling read that is both an education and opportunity to appreciate a different perspective. Anyone who says YA fiction is not real literature should read Kekla Magoon.
Kekla Magoon
Jun 23, 2009 Kekla Magoon rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I just joined Goodreads....and yes, I am rating my own book. Why? Because I can! Hehe.
James (JD) Dittes
Magoon reaches back into one of America's most painful summers, 1968, to bring light to issues roiling our country today--#ferguson and #blacklivesmatter

It's a fascinating juxtaposition. Sam is the son of a Chicago civil rights leader. His father's ardent advocacy of nonviolence is put to the test in the book's opening scene, when Sam and his brother, Stick, are attacked at a civil right rally by a bottle-wielding counter-protester.

Soon, Stick abandons the ideal of nonviolence, even as Dr. King
Jill Bennin
Apr 25, 2016 Jill Bennin rated it it was amazing
In this historical fiction novel, the fictional Roland Childs is a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, and lives in Chicago with his wife, and sons Steven (Stick) and Sam. Sam is the narrator of the book, and from the very beginning we see his unease and discontent with the current situation of protests. He tries to leave a protest early, and he and Stick get caught up in a scuffle. We see the thick hate and racism prevalent from the earliest interactions, culminating in several acts of police ...more
Apr 10, 2016 Libby rated it it was amazing
The Rock and the River is a great historical fiction book that takes place during the Civil Rights Movement. The book is told from the point of view of thirteen year old Sam. Sam's father preaches non-violence. When someone close to Sam gets hurt for no reason he begins to question his father's methods. He discovers his older brother has been a part of a different group who have very different views than his father. I think young people will be able to relate to the struggle between following yo ...more
Apr 27, 2016 Mp rated it it was amazing
“The river is motion, turmoil, rage. As the river flows, it wonders what it would be like to be so still, to take a breath, to rest. But the rock will always wonder what lies around the bend in the stream.”

This is a story set in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement, a time of inequality, unrest and the desperate search for the right way to make it better. Sam and Stick's father is both a follower of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. His family has stood by
Mar 03, 2016 Sofia rated it really liked it
This was such a wonderful and powerful book! Although it is fiction, it's pretty obvious that many people lived through something like this. I think the author does a great job of portraying the feelings of the characters. I totally understand the conflicted feelings Sam has throughout the book. It is hard to stick to a way of thinking, an ideology when you see it doesn't always yield results. What's more, when other means seem to have better results, why wouldn't you lean that way instead? Such ...more
Jade Nguyen
Feb 05, 2016 Jade Nguyen is currently reading it
I love this book because it is a perfect example of a book that bases on history, but is honestly an entertaining read. This book is about an African American boy that lives through the time of Martin Luther Kings speech and death. He receives an inner choice of whether to live like his father and fight with his words or his brother using physical power to receive the justice and freedom African Americans should have. The book being told in this boy's perspective can appeal to the teenage audien ...more
Magoon, Kekla. The Rock and the River. New York: Aladdin, 2009. Print.

Review: Sam Roland, the narrator of this novel, is the 13 year old son of Roland and Marjorie Childs. His father, an attorney and organizer for Martin Luther King 19s movement involving civil disobedience, has taken an oath of non-violence. Sam and his brother become physically involved in a riot during a non-violent protest and a speech by his father. His brother is hurt and is taken to the hospital where they are treated lik
Nov 28, 2015 Doris rated it did not like it
I was very disappointed in The Rock and The River......the author of this book has obviously never even been to Chicago in the winter.....the concept of serving breakfast outside on a playground on folding tables under basketball nets at 6:30 AM is outrageously unbelievable.....Chicago is at its coldest in February, probably around 10 degrees at the most at that time of way would people be standing around serving oatmeal out in the open every morning?????????????????????She make ...more
Jul 24, 2015 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
He blinked a lot, which meant he was lying. Stick usually told me most everything I wanted to know. When he got secretive like this, it meant something bad. I shivered. Stick could keep his secret. I didn't want it.

I was told to read this book for one of my classes in school. Normally I just read ahead and then done. Because my school doesn't really pick the best books to read... The only book I ever really enjoyed was "The Outsiders" but then we were assigned "The Rock and the River.

I was qui
Kellie Doyle
May 31, 2016 Kellie Doyle rated it liked it
This book presents an interesting conversation about whether or not violence was necessary among the blacks to demonstrate their ideas and be heard during their Civil Rights Movement. It also makes you wonder if the violence was justified. Who’s right? Sam’s dad or the Black Panthers? It’s easy to sympathize with both, and the reader goes through the struggle to make a decision along with Sam. Even more interesting, Sam is not deciding between white and black, but between black and black.

This st
Mason Stewart
Mar 08, 2015 Mason Stewart rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awarded the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent in 2010, Kekla Magoon does an amazing job conveying the heartache, confusion, aggression and anger black people dealt with in 1968. Sam and Stick are teenage brothers who live in Chicago. Their father is respected Reverend Roland Childs who is an organizer and activist with Dr. Martin Luther King. Stick begins to question the non-violent protest philosophy of Dr. King and his father and begins secretly attending meetings with a mil ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Sharon rated it liked it
I wanted so to love this book. Magoon has a good premise and a good theme, "Would you rather be the rock or the river?" The family drama takes place in the 60's when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Should the brothers follow their father in non-violent protest or take the path of Black Panther Party in their Chicago neighborhood? How can a Coretta Scott King Award winner disappoint this reader so badly?

I think The Rock and the River suffers from first novel anorexia. It needs meat, det
Sep 23, 2015 Em rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Em's Review: 13 year old Sam Childs, son of a well known civil rights activist, has grown up believing that the non-violent protest methods of his father and Dr. King will lead to change. One day, Sam discovers literature about the Black Panthers under his older brother Stick’s bed. Stick brings a home a gun, and then soon after runs away to join the movement. After witnessing police brutality on the streets and learning of the assassination of Dr. King, Sam starts to question his father’s tacti ...more
Thirteen-year-old Sam Childs is the son of prominent civil rights activist, Roland Childs. Roland is an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a supporter of non-violent demonstrations. Sam's brother Steven ("Stick"), meanwhile, is a budding Black Panther. A series of events - an altercation at a demonstration, the wrongful arrest of a friend (Bucky), finding a gun which Stick has hidden in their shared room, and getting involved with his girlfriend in Panther-related activities su
This book drove me nuts because it's written as though it's a fictionalized version of actual historical events written about actual historical figures, and only at the end in an end note does the author mention that, hey, she made up everyone in the story. The main character is the son of a man who is supposedly a major figure in the civil rights movement, and the events that happen to his family receive national media attention. It seems inappropriate to me to write a completely fictional acco ...more
Dec 10, 2009 Wendy rated it liked it
Recommended to Wendy by:
This read very quickly whenever I picked up, but I never felt drawn back to the story, and after finishing I think I know why--it read to me much more like a vehicle than an organic story. The characters and incidents each felt like they were placed in a particular way to make a point, and of course this is the case in most books, but it felt obvious to me here; like the author had the message first and worked the book around it.

I thought the book was surprisingly dismissive of women. The mother
Mar 30, 2016 Jdefarno rated it really liked it
I became a fan of Kekla Magoon after reading Camo Girl. This book solidified my enjoyment of her writing. This is a book that I will recommend to students who are looking not only for historical fiction but a great coming of age story. Students will learn about racial strife in Chicago in the 1960s and find parallels to current events. A teacher could use this book to discuss past and current conflicts between the African-American community and police. In addition to the racial tensions readers ...more
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HMSA Reads: Book Review: The Rock and the River 1 4 Aug 15, 2016 12:44PM  
Great book 5 16 Feb 04, 2014 04:19AM  
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Share This Book

“You're only responsible for your own actions. You can't control how someone else reacts to what you do. You made a choice. Stand by it.” 6 likes
“The river is motion, turmoil, rage. As the river flows, it wonders what it would be like to be so still, to take a breath, to rest. But the rock will always wonder what lies around the bend in the stream.” 5 likes
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