Monday, February 4, 2019

Middle Grade Monday: The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, U.S. A. by Brenda Woods

The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, U.S. A. by Brenda Woods. 208 p. Penguin Young Readers Group, January, 2019. 9781524737092. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

When Gabriel receives a brand new bicycle for his twelfth birthday, he cannot wait to ride it. Unfortunately, he runs a red light and seems headed for bone-crushing disaster when he is pushed out of the way by bystander. The bike is totaled but Gabriel is not, thanks to Meriwether, an African American man who is in town looking for a job. He fixes Gabriel's bike and Gabriel convinces his father to hire Meriwether to fix cars in his gas station. Not all are pleased with this arrangement in the Jim Crow south. Most notably, another mechanic named Lucas, who is rumored to be associated with the KKK. As a genuine friendship grows between Gabriel and Meriwether, Gabriel's awareness of the racism Meriwether deals with on a basis daily also grows.

Gabriel's voice is instantly engaging and the setting of Birdsong is vividly painted. I wrote on GR that Brenda Woods is the unsung hero of MG fiction. Seriously, most of her books clock in around 200 pages, feature interesting main characters with fascinating dilemmas and the writing is lovely. I just love her books.

This is the perfect introduction of life in the Jim Crow south for younger readers. An author's note provides context about the problems African American veterans encountered when they returned home from serving honorably during World War II. Seriously folks, a first-purchase. 

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