Written by Kathryn Erskine
After his father dies, Red, a twelve-year-old boy is tries to find a way to get his mother to let the family stay in Stony Gap and run his father’s auto shop. Of course, his motivation goes beyond the business itself. This is the only place Red has ever known and all of his friends are here, as is his great grandfather’s desk with his very own name carved on it.
Woven throughout this coming-of-age story is the story of America’s coming of age through civil rights. Red becomes embroiled with the wrong gang and finds himself stuck gagged and bound watching his friend of a different race beaten and nearly lynched. Red cannot believe that the separation between the races is still a problem in the 70’s.
He learns a lot about himself, his family and his country while learning to become his own man. Book clubs, fifth grade reading classes and older classes studying the Civil Right movements will find this a spellbinding read.
Teachers and librarians, as well as parents, can use this as an excellent read aloud to lead to discussions about tracing family trees and maybe not liking everything found in that past. Ideas like courage, truthfulness, honor and knowledge will be topics of conversation involving this story, individual families and contemporary life. Readers might give thought to what they would be willing to do in standing up for friends and/or strangers of other races.
Literacy skills strengthened throughout this text include, but are not limited to: inferential details, comprehension, main idea, supporting details, plot development, character development, dialogue and setting.
This book could also be used successfully for a readers’ theater by appointing a different reader for each speaking part within a chapter.