The Rock and the River
The Rock and the River
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Annotation: In 1968 Chicago, fourteen-year-old Sam Childs is caught in a conflict between his father's nonviolent approach to seeking civil rights for African Americans and his older brother, who has joined the Black Panther Party.
Catalog Number: #4308500
Format: Paperback
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition Date: 2010
Pages: 290 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-416-97803-8
ISBN 13: 978-1-416-97803-9
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2008029170
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
Chicago, 1968: Sam's father is a well-known nonviolent civil rights activist, while Sam's brother has joined the Black Panthers. When a friend is beaten and arrested by white police officers, Sam struggles to choose a side. Compelling characters aptly convey the frustrations and uncertainties dividing the civil rights movement at the time of Dr. King's death. Author's note.
Kirkus Reviews
This compelling debut novel set in 1968 Chicago vividly depicts how one African-American family is torn between two opposiing approaches to the Civil Rights Movement. Fourteen-year-old Sam is the son of minister and civil-rights leader Roland Childs, a revered community figure and movement heavyweight whose counsel is sought by Martin Luther King Jr. Sam finds his faith in and respect for his father's stalwart commitment to nonviolence shaken when he discovers that Stick, his older brother and best friend, is involved with the Black Panthers. Sam is torn between the two people he looks up to most. As he poignantly wrestles over which direction to take, Sam both observes and experiences firsthand the injustice of racism. It takes a terrible tragedy for Sam to choose between "the rock and the river." Magoon is unflinching in her depictions of police brutality and racism. She offers readers a perspective that is rarely explored, showing that racial prejudices were not confined to the South and that the Civil Rights Movement was a truly national struggle. (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up Sam Childs, 13, is growing up in Chicago in 1968. His father is a civil rights activist, and the boy has been involved in peaceful demonstrations with his family. When he and his girlfriend, Maxie, witness the brutal beating of a friend at the hands of the police, his world begins to change dramatically. His 17-year-old brother brings a gun home and hides it in their shared room. Next thing Sam knows, Stick has run away from home and is involved with the Black Panther Party, whose philosophy his dad does not share. The brutality of the beating has wrought a change in Sam as well, and the good works he sees the Panthers doing in his neighborhood make him question his dad's opinion. The characters are well drawn and the complexities of the relationships between Roland Childs and his two sons are moving. The episodes of violence are graphic, but necessary to move the plot forward, and Magoon portrays well the tension between the Panthers and the Civil Rights Movement. An author's note provides further historical context. While the image of the Black Panther Party is somewhat idealized, this is an important book about a historical reality that has not been dealt with in juvenile fiction. Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* In Chicago in 1968, Sam, 14, obeys his father, an eloquent civil-rights leader who is close with Dr. King and is passionately committed to nonviolent protest. But after King is assassinated and Sam witnesses police brutality toward a friend, Sam follows his rebellious older brother, Stephen ("Stick"), and joins the Black Panthers, whose revolutionary platform is the opposite of the nonviolent philosophy that Sam has been taught at home. Then Sam's father is stabbed. Will the brothers retaliate with violence? True to the young teen's viewpoint, this taut, eloquent first novel will make readers feel what it was like to be young, black, and militant 40 years ago, including the seething fury and desperation over the daily discrimination that drove the oppressed to fight back. Sam's middle-class family is loving and loyal, even when their quarrels are intense; and Magoon draws the characters without sentimentality. Along with the family drama, the politics will grab readers, especially the Panthers' political education classes and their call for "land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, and peace." A long author's note fills in background in this important title for YA American history classes.
Word Count: 59,211
Reading Level: 3.9
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 3.9 / points: 8.0 / quiz: 128762 / grade: Middle Grades+
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.2 / points:15.0 / quiz:Q46178
Lexile: HL550L

Winner of the ALA Coretta Scott King–John Steptoe New Talent Award, The Rock and the River was described in a Booklist starred review as a “taut, eloquent first novel [that] will make readers feel what it was like to be young, black, and militant.”

The Time: 1968
The Place: Chicago

For thirteen-year-old Sam it’s not easy being the son of known civil rights activist Roland Childs. Especially when his older (and best friend), Stick, begins to drift away from him for no apparent reason. And then it happens: Sam finds something that changes everything forever.

Sam has always had faith in his father, but when he finds literature about the Black Panthers under Stick’s bed, he’s not sure who to believe: his father or his best friend. Suddenly, nothing feels certain anymore.

Sam wants to believe that his father is right: You can effect change without using violence. But as time goes on, Sam grows weary of standing by and watching as his friends and family suffer at the hands of racism in their own community. Sam beings to explore the Panthers with Stick, but soon he’s involved in something far more serious—and more dangerous—than he could have ever predicted. Sam is faced with a difficult decision. Will he follow his father or his brother? His mind or his heart? The rock or the river?

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