cover image Freedom Train

Freedom Train

Evelyn Coleman, . . S&S/McElderry, $15.99 (140pp) ISBN 978-0-689-84716-5

Set in Atlanta in 1947, Coleman's (Born in Sin ) novel looks at charged emotions in the segregated South. Twelve-year-old Clyde lives in the “mill village,” where his mother works long hours to support their family. Clyde looks forward to letters from his older brother Joseph, a WWII marine who is a guard on the Freedom Train, which is carrying the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and other significant documents on a nationwide tour. William, an African-American boy who's adept with a slingshot, rescues Clyde from a pummeling by the class bully; initially conflicted about befriending William, Clyde realizes that he doesn't want to be someone “who don't want to speak up when something ain't right.” Coleman convincingly depicts Clyde's gradual awakening to the racism that surrounds him, as well as the prejudice his impoverished family faces (“People kept staring at us like we was the monkeys at a show,” Clyde thinks when his father treats them to tea at a fancy department store restaurant). Despite the book's somewhat sluggish pace, historically minded readers should enjoy this snapshot of America's past. Ages 8-12. (Jan.)