This is the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, and we’ve already discussed one book depicts that time, REVOLUTION by Deborah Wiles. Like its predecessor, COUNTDOWN, it’s a work of fiction that borrows heavily from the conventions of nonfiction, namely the incorporation of numerous primary source materials, both textual and visual.
There also happen to be two nonfiction treatments, FREEDOM SUMMER by Susan Goldman Rubin and THE FREEDOM SUMMER MURDERS by Don Mitchell. Now the latter book is still on my nightstand, but I’m already on record as being a big fan of Scholastic’s line of nonfiction thrillers: CHASING LINCOLN’S KILLER, TITANIC: VOICES FROM THE DISASTER, LINCOLN’S GRAVE ROBBER, THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN SHOT, and THE NAZI HUNTERS, so I’m sure I’ll like this one, too. If REVOLUTION borrows from the conventions of nonfiction then this work of narrative nonfiction returns the favor.
Although it’s more of a traditional nonfiction book in terms style and design, I read and enjoyed Rubin’s book very much. While she did a stellar job of depicting the period, I felt the focus was a bit diffuse, waffling between the schools, the voting drives, and the murder subplot, but I think that’s just the function of the civil rights movement being a spontaneous grass roots movement rather than being a tightly orchestrated effort.
We often talk about comparing apples to oranges here, but these three books offer slightly divergent takes on the same brief historical period. It’s interesting to note that the nonfiction books split the journals: Booklist and School Library Journal starred the Rubin book, while Kirkus and Publishers Weekly starred the Mitchell book. Do you find that one is more successful than the other?
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About Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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