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Rose is out picking cotton when she hears the news that Levi was shot and killed for registering to vote. She is grief stricken and can’t understand why her grandmother seems to think Levi deserved to die for trying to vote. There are a lot of things Rose doesn’t understand about Ma Pearl. Like why she lets Queen lie in bed all day while Rose and Fred Lee work in the field. Is it really just because Queen’s skin is lighter than Rose’s? When Rose’s Aunt Belle comes to visit from St. Louis and tells Rose about her work with the NAACP, Rose is torn between worry for her aunt and the others who are “stirring things up” and her dream of leaving Mississippi and starting a new life up North. But when a boy from Chicago is lynched in her town for whistling at a white woman, Rose must figure out for herself where she stands and how she can change her world.
This novel does not shy away from the brutal reality of Emmett Till’s murder. Rose’s authentic point of view invites readers to share in the fear, anger, and grief of living through that summer in Jim Crow Mississippi. But the courage and sense of self-worth that Rose develops on the wake of the tragedy is inspiring. I highly recommend this novel to middle grade and teen historical fiction fans who are mature enough to process the violence of the subject matter or who are reading with adult guidance.