|CALKINS CREEK BOOKS, a Highlights Company|
makes me downright jealous! For
starters, check out that cover.
Gorgeous, it is. So simple in mostly red with the ominous newspaper background. So cold with falling snow and maybe a touch of fear.
But it's also the sort of book that I would love to have written, a Cold War story with the kind of research behind it that would feel like one grand treasure hunt.
Best of all is the narrator's voice. Marjorie Campbell is funny and sassy and so believably middle grade. But she's serious too. She has to be because it's 1954 and Senator Joseph McCarthy is agitating - seeking out communist sympathizers. The Red Scare reaches into Detroit, where citizens are forced to sign loyalty oaths and where classic books, suddenly labeled subversive, are withdrawn from the library. Marjorie watches as the Red Scare threatens her family and neighborhood.
The enemy theme seems to inhabit every relationship in the story. Her parents, normally close, argue about whether Mother's social activities will be perceived as communist. Frank, the orphaned teen who moved into the basement after his father took his own life, spews his emotional pain onto Marjorie on a regular basis. And her neighbor, Bernadette, may or may not be her best friend, depending on what slight transgression Marjorie unwittingly commits. Like wearing a red scarf, for instance.
Marjorie is keen on remaining in Bernadette's good graces but that becomes an even greater challenge when Inga, a DP (displaced person) comes to school. Inga is all wrong. Her clothes smack of the "old country", her English is limited, and as if those things aren't bad enough, she's German. Possibly even a Nazi.
The class holds Inga at arm's length and when Mrs. Kirk assigns Marjorie to sit with her, the internal war begins. Part of her feels Inga's pain but peer pressure causes her to vacillate between kindness and rejection. When Bernadette, who has been out sick, returns to class she forces Marjorie to declare her loyalty to their friendship or face social ostracization by siding with Inga.
Holbrook skillfully gathers the various threads of this story and ties them together to create a satisfying conclusion. An author note reveals that much of the story was inspired by people and events in Holbrook's life.
I am ever-so-reluctantly giving this gorgeous book away. (I promised the publisher I would. But what was I thinking?😯) To enter, follow this link to TALKING STORY newsletter and follow instructions in the sidebar.