Unstoppable Octobia May

by Sharon G. Flake

Octobia May has lived with her independent, unmarried aunt for two years. Once sickly... read more

Octobia May has lived with her independent, unmarried aunt for two years. Once sickly and overprotected, Octobia has thrived at Aunt Shuma’s boarding house, where’s she’s had the freedom to be herself. She is doted on by the boarders, most of whom are older African Americans, but even Aunt Shuma agrees it might be time to reign in Octobia’s overactive imagination when her niece starts spying on Mr. Davenport. Octobia, a lover of mystery stories, is convinced the younger man is a vampire, because he only goes out at night (she eats garlic for protection). The truth, surprisingly, turns out to be something more sinister. Octobia, precocious and irrepressible, uncovers a real mystery and then must convince adults — and even her best friend — to believe her. Octobia is a character in the spirit of the young detectives of the mid-twentieth- century literature, when this story is set. And like the mysteries Octobia herself loves to read, the plot of this novel stretches credibility at times, ending with an improbable escape from gun-wielding danger. But it also skillfully weaves in social history, especially about racism but also gender and economics before, during, and after World War II, all of which inform the mystery itself, and the lives of the characters. Mr. Davenport, it turns out, is a complicated scoundrel. And Octobia is his worthy foil. (Ages 9–13)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2015

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