cover image Dangerous Skies

Dangerous Skies

Suzanne Fisher Staples. Farrar Straus Giroux, $17 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-374-31694-5

Through down-to-earth prose, Newbery Honor author Staples (Shabanu; Haveli) sharply evokes the loss of childhood and the effects of racism in a contemporary rural town on the shore of Chesapeake Bay. Buck and Tunes, both 12 years old, have been like brother and sister even though Buck is white and Tunes is black--but on the day the two discover a corpse floating in a channel, the differences between their lives become overwhelmingly apparent. Tunes stands accused of murder, and narrator Buck's loyalty to her faces a severe test. Chased by both the authorities and the real killer, Tunes goes into hiding, but her respite proves only temporary. Like To Kill a Mockingbird, this masterfully crafted story boldly conveys uncomfortable truths about society while expressing the innocence of children. Staples contrasts all that is natural and good about the protagonists' friendship against the lies that ultimately tear apart their relationship. The ending may defy readers' wishful expectations, delivering instead a bracing and resonant statement about justice and judgment. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)