cover image My Name Is Not Friday

My Name Is Not Friday

Jon Walter. Scholastic/Fickling, $18.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-545-85522-8

Middle-grade author Walter (Close to the Wind), writing his first book for teens, pulls readers into life on a Mississippi cotton plantation in the final years of the Civil War. Twelve-year-old Samuel is a free-born, orphaned, and literate black boy who is sold into slavery. He's renamed Friday by a slave trader and bought by a relatively progressive slave owner whose young stepson befriends him. Samuel quickly realizes that he cannot escape the plantation and becomes a dutiful, hardworking member of the slave community. Sustained by his religious faith, Samuel is thoughtful, intelligent, and compassionate, and he soon gains the respect of both the white owners and his fellow slaves. When he decides to teach the slaves to read and write, in spite of his conflicts about "lying and cheating to do God's work"%E2%80%94as well as breaking the law%E2%80%94the story's movement and suspense escalate. Walter masterfully constructs the world of the plantation and presents a large population of complex and distinctive characters, resulting in a rich, thought-provoking, and deeply satisfying book. Ages 12%E2%80%93up. (Jan.)