Ola Shakes It Up

Joanne Hyppolite, Author, Warren Chang, Illustrator
Joanne Hyppolite, Author, Warren Chang, Illustrator Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers $14.95 (176p) ISBN 978-0-385-32235-5
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
Hyppolite (Seth and Samona) offers reassuring yet markedly simplistic solutions to racism and forced assimilation with this upbeat story about an African American girl's adjustment to an all-white community. Ola's parents think their children will have better opportunities if the family moves from Roxbury to a ""cooperative community"" in the historic, more affluent town of Walcott, but the nine-year-old has serious reservations. Her new home, which is almost identical to every other house on the block, is too large and quiet, and there are endless neighborhood rules about curfews, lawn care and even laundry (clotheslines are banned). At school, Ola, her older sister and her older brother are met with preconceptions and prejudice. After Ola's attempts to fit in fail, she decides that instead of changing herself, she must change what she does not like about Walcott. With the help of the mayor's daughter, she prevents a second ""cookie-cutter"" development like her own from being built in the town, and simultaneously wages a campaign to curb restrictions in her own neighborhood. Meanwhile, her sister and brother win a few of their own individual battles. At one gigantic block party, all the thorny conflicts in Ola's life are neatly pruned: she reunites with old friends, finds several new ones, helps her neighbors and makes her parents proud. Unfortunately, what promises to be a novel that grapples with complex issues wraps up too easily. Ages 9-up. (Feb.)
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