When Augusta Scattergood's debut novel came out at the beginning of this year, I blogged about the story behind the story. Now it's time for a review of the book itself.
Glory Be (Scholastic, 2012) spans two weeks in the summer of 1964 when Gloriana Hemphill turns twelve. In these eye-opening weeks, Glory becomes aware of the racial prejudice that permeates her Mississippi town. When the local pool ostensibly closes for repairs, Glory takes it upon herself to figure out the real reason behind the closing. In an act of bravery, she writes a scathing letter to the editor of the local newspaper decrying the prejudice which drove the Town Council's decision. Although the pool doesn't re-open that summer, the book closes with a triumphant July Fourth party at the library which both white and black patrons attend--despite the protests of a formidable citizen.
Since I am also writing historical fiction that deals with race relations in the South, it is interesting to see what events Scattergood drew upon to write her novel. The story takes place in the middle of Freedom Summer and the author folded in real events that happened in towns near her on in Mississippi. The librarian and civil rights workers in Glory Be are based on individuals who Scattergood met. I enjoyed the description of Elvis Presley's house before it became a shrine, and how she included Robert Kennedy's visits to a black church in the area.
I was mostly drawn to Emma, the black woman who took care of Glory and her sister Jesslyn after their mother's death; she appears to be the wisest individual in the story. When Glory tries to figure out if the pool really has cracks or not, Emma answers, "What's broken is that some folks don't seem to like anything changing. Everybody's got to stay the same in this part of town." (p. 34) In this simple statement, Emma sums up the main theme of the book.
Glory changes during these two weeks. She goes from being a self-centered child who is only worried about the pool being open for her birthday party, to someone who fights for the rights of others. Her letter to the editor was eloquent; I wished I had seen more of the maturation that led her to writing it.
I also missed seeing Mr. Hemphill's influence in this story; for the most part he seems detached from his family. I wondered how both Glory and Jesslyn developed their tolerant attitudes in the deep South. There is also little attention paid to their mother's death which left me wondering about the girls' grief and the input her death had on them.
Glory Be is a good introduction for both girl and boy 4th-7th grade readers into civil rights issues in the Deep South. This would be a great book to read for African American History month and one of my fortunate readers will receive an autographed copy of the ARC. Enter my giveaway contest either by mentioning it on Facebook or Twitter, or sign up to follow my blog. I will draw the winner's name on February 7, so leave me a comment (and your e-mail address) and I'll enter your name!
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