Jonathon Scott Fuqua, Author . Candlewick $15.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7636-1417-1

In Fuqua's (The Reappearance of Sam Webber) thoughtful debut novel for young readers, a white girl living in South Carolina in the '20s sparks a controversy with her article supporting racial equality. Darby wants to be a "newspaper girl" after her best friend, Evette, the daughter of an African-American tenant farmer on her father's land, says that's what she plans to do. The publisher of the town newspaper agrees to print Darby's article about toads, and another about her blind great-uncle before her obligation to "tell the truth" leads Darby to tackle the issue of race (her consciousness is heightened after a black boy is beaten to death by a neighboring white landowner). She notices other inequalities, such as how her friends treat Evette at her ninth birthday party. Her article prompts the KKK to burn a cross on her property, but Darby finds allies, too, especially in her father. Some of Darby's discussions seem too mature for her age, but Fuqua's careful details fill in this complicated period in history and culture—from descriptions of the games she plays with her friends to realistic interactions with her family. Darby's parents are kind, but their tenant farmers and servants live in poverty, and her mother reprimands Darby when she asks, "For setting slaves free, was the Civil War kinda a good thing?" These subtle conflicts add depth and realism: Darby and her family's small acts of kindness take on heroic proportions. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/25/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Prebound-Glued - 292 pages - 978-0-7569-7272-1
Paperback - 242 pages - 978-0-7636-2290-9
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