Reviews for Rock and the River

Booklist Reviews 2009 February #1
*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 politicaleducation 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. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 December #2
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) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2009 February

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

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VOYA Reviews 2009 October
Thirteen-year old Sam narrates his bird's eye view of the civil rights movement in this moving historical novel set in 1968 Chicago. Although the characters are fictional, the surrounding events, most notably the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., set the stage for Sam's tumultuous coming-of-age. The son of Roland Childs, a well-known civil rights activist, Sam is a quiet and pensive young man, more comfortable observing the world around him than actively participating in it. Sam's older brother, Stick, on the other hand, openly flouts his father's principles by joining the Black Panthers and leaving home, causing Sam to feel alone and confused about what his own role in the movement should be. When the police unjustly beat and imprison one of the boys' friends, Sam feels forced to make a choice between adhering to his father's pacifist ideals and following Stick's more aggressive approach to achieving equal rights. In an effort to make that choice, Sam attends both his father's peaceful rallies and meetings with Stick. Sam realizes that he has to pave his own way, however, when the story comes to a violent and startling conclusion with Stick's death. Teens may not gravitate to this one on their own; but with a little pushing, Sam's compelling, realistic voice and the author's expert control of the tension leading to the story's climax are sure to hold their attention. Fans of historical fiction will also appreciate this very personal take on such an important part of our country's past.--Valerie Ott. 5Q 3P M J S Copyright 2009 Voya Reviews.