cover image Heart of the City

Heart of the City

Ron Koertge. Scholastic, $15.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-531-30078-7

Ten-year-old Joy is upset and fearful when in June her artist father moves the family from affluent, all-white Woodland Hills into a house he has renovated in a rundown, mostly black neighborhood in central Los Angeles. To her relief, she quickly makes friends with Neesha, the only other girl on the block, who shows her the ropes on Ibarra Street while tartly disabusing her of common white misconceptions about African Americans. When gang members threaten to deal crack at an empty house on the block, the girls take the initiative and by August turn the house into a work of art that unites the multi-hued neighborhood and keeps the enemy at bay. Koertge (Confess-O-Rama) presents an inspiring vision of racial harmony and community solidarity, along the way skewering prejudices liberal and reactionary, white and black. It is, however, a bit of a stretch to believe that one month of art and neighborly goodwill will keep the bad guys away forever. And observant readers may be dissatisfied that Neesha's important query, ""Are you going to go with me, or are you going to private school?"" is left hanging. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)