Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Review - The Rock and The River by Kekla Magoon

The Rock and The River
Kekla Magoon
283 p. (HC, author notes)

13 year-old Sam is caught between his father, a nonviolent Martin Luther King, Jr. supporter and his brother Stick, and 18 year-old member of the Black Panthers.

Sam relays events that lead up to and follow the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the beating of Stick's friend, Bucky. He tells how these events affected someone who was connected to diametric factions that ultimately really wanted the same things.

My Thoughts
In the beginning, I had a little trouble getting into The Rock and The River. The voice was uneven, wavering between an adolescent and an adult sound. But as I continued reading, I realized that a 13 year-old IS wavering between those worlds. Just like Sam. As Sam learns more about the Civil Rights Movement, the voice starts settling and I "hear" more of him. The pace of the story moves quickly. We are instantly into the action and then pulled back and then back into the action. Sam wants a girlfriend and he wants his dad and his brother to stop fighting. He wants to stop having to choose between them.

Sam's brother Stick's voice was harder to get into. Of course, we only know of him through Sam. We know what Sam knows about Stick. And that's the part of Stick's life that affects him. Stick wants change, he wants his dad to take him seriously, he wants to make his own choices.

"It's the rock and the river, you know? They serve each other, but they're not the same thing." (233)

The Rock and The River was all about choices: how they affect everything - whether you choose to do something or do nothing. Choose to demonstrate, ride the bus, drink from that fountain, go down that particular street, sit at that store's counter, say yes sir or yes ma'am, answer to girl or boy - no matter your age, fight, resist, sing, cry...these are just a few of the choices that had to be made. Some are still being made.

The Rock and The River will grab you. I liked how Magoon showed the nonviolent movement as well as the Black Panther movement without too much romanticizing of either. I thought the emotions were true and the characters, especially Sam, believable. I look forward to sharing this one. 4 copies.

Other Reviews
Fuse 8s rvw of The Rock and The River
Color Online's rvw of The Rock and The River
TheHappyNappyBookseller's rvw of The Rock and The River


  1. I was intrigued by this book on several fronts but really appreciated learning about an aspect of the Black Panthers I had not known previously. And having taught sixth graders years ago, I appreciated the whole portrayal of "choices" you note in your review at this "back and forth age." I'd give it 4 Copies as well!

  2. I read Rock and the River, earlier in the year and I still have a clear picture of Sam.

    KB - Glad you enjoyed the book. Did Rock and the River make the mock-newbery cut?

  3. Wow, that sounds like it sets the stage for a fascinating conflict. Now that I'm back in the book saddle, I need to add that to my TBR list.


  4. I loved this book. There is so much right and beautiful with the writing. Add that the book is informative, bringing something to the light most don't know about the Black Panthers is a huge plus. I, too, appreciate you pointing out how it's about choices.

  5. I LOVED this book so much I read it twice. I never do that!


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