Usborne Publishing Ltd
Life will never be the same for Red Porter. He's a kid growing up around black car grease, white fence paint, and the backward attitudes of the folks who live in his hometown: Stony Gap, Virginia. And when Red's daddy dies, he's left with his younger brother, his mama, and some hard decisions. With their money dwindling, Red does everything he can to keep the family business - a gas station, repair shop and convenience store - afloat. But when he uncovers some of the racial injustices that have been happening in Stony Gap since before he was born, Red is faced with unsettling questions about the legacy behind his family's shop, and everything he's fighting for...And through his friendships with some unlikely characters, Red starts to see there's a whole lot more than car motors and rusty fenders that need fixing in his world. This is a new title from American National Book Award-winning author, Kathy Erskine (Mockingbird). This is a thought-provoking historical fiction tackling the important themes of race and responsibility in 70s America, but with elements that resonate on a wider scale. It has strong appeal for book clubs.Librarian's Book choice
That the author's National Book Award-winning first book is called Mockingbird now strikes me as amazingly coincidental, since this powerful new novel would make such a wonderful classroom companion with To Kill a Mockingbird. But equally it can certainly stand on its own merits as a stunning piece of writing.
Similarly set in a small town in the Deep South of America but this time during the 1970's, with Red the 12 year old narrator having to grow up very quickly in the aftermath of his beloved Father's sudden death and facing uncomfortable truths about himself, his family history and the society he lives in. It teaches a salutary lesson that even in relatively recent history, racism was still so endemic and institutionalised, as was the oppression of women and the blind eye that was turned to familial abuse and bullying.
But this is no didactic treatise, every issue is woven into a completely authentic and beautifully described small community, populated by distinctive and memorable characters who interact and grow and change and there are moments of great humour as well as drama. Red's struggle to 'fix it right' in the spirit of his father's motto, as the plot unravels, will really grip the reader and will leave an indelible impression.
Historical fiction when it is as well done as this fulfils an incredibly valuable purpose in building empathy and understanding. The author's own notes and discussion questions at the end of the book are an added bonus for teachers.