Night on Fire
By Ronald Kidd
288 pages – ages 9+
Published by Albert Whitman & Company on September 1st, 2015
Synopsis- It is 1961 in Anniston, Alabama, and the Freedom Riders-black and white people riding Greyhound Buses crossing state borders to fight segregation-are stopping on Mother’s Day. When Billie hears about it from her African-American nanny, she decides to go and see them. After all, that’s a good thing, right? But when her neighborhood friends burn the bus and beat the riders, she is shocked. She thought she knew them! After meeting her nanny’s daughter, and realizing the extent of segregation and the limitations set upon the African-Americans, they decide to ride a bus together to Montgomery, Alabama to attend a church meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
What I Thought- Mr. Kidd has masterfully written a book about racism in the early 1960’s. Billie realizes that even though she doesn’t bear bad wishes against the African-Americans, she still held prejudice against them because of the way she lives. It never occurred to her it was wrong. When the Freedom Riders’ bus drives through her hometown of Anniston and her neighbors end up burning the bus and beating the riders, she just watches. Reflecting on the event, she hates that she just stood by and starts changing inside, becoming more tolerant of others and breaking down the “wall” between the two peoples. Jarmaine, the African-American who befriends Billie, is a more constant character. I found her to be the character I was drawn to. She helps Billie realize more about the segregation. The main characters as well as the minor ones are nicely developed so that you get a real feel for the fabric of the community the story takes place in. The description of the Southern USA in the 1960’s rings true. Besides being a well executed historical fiction novel, the story engages the reader and keeps them interested during the entire story. I really enjoyed this historical fiction story.
I give this book five out of five bookworms!