cover image When Winter Robeson Came

When Winter Robeson Came

Brenda Woods. Penguin/Paulsen, $16.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4158-7

Woods (The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA) explores the Watts riots of August 1965 through the experience of two Black cousins in a rhythmic historical novel in verse. In Los Angeles, 12-year-old narrator Eden Louise Coal aspires to become a songwriter. With her 13-year-old cousin Winter Robeson visiting, Eden anticipates two weeks of fun, but his arrival makes her long for the music of Mississippi, “the country roads and folks” she grew up with until the family’s move to California two years prior. Winter, who has only experienced life under racial segregation, relishes “being able to sit where you please” on the bus and enjoys time with his hosts while planning to search the Watts neighborhood for his “disappeared daddy,” who vanished a decade prior after promising to send for his family. But after Eden’s mother receives a phone call that the residents of Watts are fed up with police brutality and harassment, everything goes up in smoke. Interwoven with plentiful music references (“Winter and I became a duo; our ballad, a duet”) and utilizing historically accurate language, Woods’s harmonious play-by-play narrative of growing up during the Watts Riots spotlights some long-lasting effects of racial inequality and discrimination on children. Ages 10–up. (Jan.)