Xemilyx's Reviews > The Rock and the River

The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon
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U 50x66
's review
Apr 25, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: ya-goodness
Read in April, 2010

I only have one complaint about this book, and other than that I recommend it highly. But here's the thing: why is Maxie so easily won over by Sam? Their relationship is definitely a subplot, but it bothered me. I loved Maxie the second I learned that all she did was glare at Sam, and I thought Sam's trepidation and attraction to her were completely believable. But all he had to do was give her the mittens and she became all lovely-dovey. How is that militant?

Still, this novel is a great tool for helping kids understand why--really why--people might support the Black Panthers rather than the MLK-led Civil Rights movement. I think kids get the impression in school that people supported the Black Panthers out of rage and frustration. This novel shows the emphasis on education and social change that characterized the Panthers. It also shows the relationships between leaders of both movements.

Of course, the question is, is this novel just a tool? Or is it more than serviceable? Does it transcend its educational content? I think it does. But it's heavy. I think what it does well and what will endear it to young readers is the way it depicts the inarticulate rage you feel when your parents are unreasonable and overbearing because they love you.

That is some hard stuff to deal with, and Sam has to deal with it, because he's caught between his father's commitment to nonviolence and his brother's involvement with the Panthers. Sam's role is "the good son," and when his brother gets militant, it only makes it harder for Sam to resist his parents. Happily, this is not a book where the message is, just tell an adult you trust and everything will be OK. This is a book about deciding what's OK for yourself.

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