The Rock and the River

by Kekla Magoon

In 1968, thirteen-year-old Sam’s dad is a Chicago Civil Rights activist who... read more

In 1968, thirteen-year-old Sam’s dad is a Chicago Civil Rights activist who believes in nonviolence and has high expectations for his sons. When Sam’s brother, Stick, gets involved with the Black Panthers and their call for change “by any means necessary,” it creates incredible tension in their family. His father’s anger fills their house, and Sam is hurt by the growing distance between himself and Stick. Sam also knows Stick hates violence, so he is puzzled by his brother’s choice to join the Panthers. But he’s soon attending the Black Panther discussions, drawn in by his interest in a girl from school and also his brother’s encouragement to learn more this group that serves breakfast to kids in their community every morning. Sam discovers the Panthers, his brother, and his dad share a common dream for equality and justice, even if their methods don’t always agree. Some of the details aren’t quite true to 1968, but Kekla Magoon’s debut novel does a remarkable job presenting the conflict and commonalities between the peaceful nonviolence movement and the Black Panthers, capturing the racial tensions and other complexities of that time through the experiences of Sam and his family. (Ages 11–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2010

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