The Rock an the River by Kekle Magoon
No disrespect to middle-grade and young adult novels, but I can usually power through most of a book. I have a fond memory of being so impatient to finish off Magic Under Glass. It’s the best book honestly aimed at middle-grade to young adult readers I have read so far. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is my favorite, but that’s a horse of an entirely different color; it’s a dark fable for all ages.
The Rock and the River follows Sam Childs during 1968, a thirteen-year-old growing up in Chicago and the younger son of the civil rights activist Roland Childs. Sam can’t remember a time when his family wasn’t involved in peaceful protests, but Sam’s older brother and best friend, Stick, begins to chafe at the inability of the Civil Rights Movement to fight back and becomes involved in the Black Panther Party, which their father despises. As the struggle for racial equality is brought home in violent ways, Sam is torn between the two arguments presented by his father and his brother.
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 begins 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?
The Black Panther Party was a nationwide organization that existed in black communities in the United States from 1966 until about 1982. The Panthers played several roles in these communities: they were civil...