The Rock and the River was written by Kekla Magoon and published in 2009. This title won the CSK award in 2010. I chose to read this book because it c...moreThe Rock and the River was written by Kekla Magoon and published in 2009. This title won the CSK award in 2010. I chose to read this book because it came highly recommended by my 8th grade daughter. This story is set in Chicago, 1968, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Sam Childs is thirteen and the son of Roland childs, a well-known civil rights activist. Sam and his older brother, Stick, go along to the peaceful demonstrations and watch their father and the great Martin Luther King, Jr. speak about civil rights. Everything changes when one day, after a speech, the crowd becomes unruly and Stick and Sam are caught in the middle of a fight. Having always been taught to fight with words and not with fists, the boys feel about how they want to act. Sam watches as his brother joins the Black Panther Party and moves away from the peaceful ways of their father. The story focuses on Sam as he contemplates the way in which he will fight for civil rights: the way his father always has or the way of the Black Panther Party.
I became very involved in this book and found that I couldn't put it down. Magoon presents a story that is so layered and thoroughly develops each character. Although it is told from Sam's point of view, the reader clearly can feel the emotion the other characters feel at different points of the story. I was stunned by the violence witnessed by Sam and his friend, both 13 years old, throughout the book. It was difficult for me to accept at times while reading, and I know that my kids of the same age would not fair as well as Sam did throughout the book. I was most compelled by the title of the book as I read. I wanted to understand it, as it initially doesn't seem to connect to the plot line. When I encountered the quote the first time in the book, it still wasn't clear, but by the end the title (and the quote) caused me to pause and reflect on decisions in my own life. "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."
I think this book definitely is a middle school and older book. The subject matter allows this to relate to any History or Social Studies curriculum about the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Black Panther Party. I feel it paints a fairly accurate picture of the 1960s feel in a city setting where African-Americans were treated differently purely because of the color of their skin. I also think that this is a good book to use in a Language Arts class to look at the language used, the imagery described, and to really focus on the title and what that means to the characters in the book, as well as to the individual readers. (less)