My Mother the Cheerleader

by Robert Sharenow

Louise Collins is the thirteen-year-old daughter of a cheerleader: her mother is... read more

Louise Collins is the thirteen-year-old daughter of a cheerleader: her mother is one of the women who jeers at six-year-old Ruby Bridges each morning when she walks into William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. Like most white children, Louise is taking part in a boycott of the school to protest desegregation. Most days, while her mother is at the school making a scene, Louise is at home working in her mother’s boarding house, where she cleans, does dishes, and waits to welcome the few guests who come to stay. She’s intrigued by a cultured, intellectual guest from New York, Morgan Miller, who always treats her with respect and who seems genuinely interested in her opinions of the books she’s read. Louise’s mother, who regularly throws herself at the single male guests, is intrigued by Morgan Miller, too. But Mr. Miller is different from the others: he doesn’t take advantage of her flirtations as other men do. On a snooping expedition to find out more about this gentle man, Louise learns that Mr. Miller is both Jewish and a Communist, facts that challenge everything she has learned about the social order. Characterizations of Louise, her mother, and Morgan Miller are particularly strong in a story told in Louise’s sardonic voice. This engaging, unusual novel set in 1960 offers a point of view not often seen in literature for youth about the Civil Rights Movement. (Ages 11–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2008

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