Scholastic Press, October 2013
This book begs to be read, the story must be heard. Red’s tumultuous summer of ’72 deals with an imperative, yet oft untold part of our history. Discovering these deplorable truths is painful. Many acts of our ancestors are unfathomably cruel and hateful; particularly when one expects that his great-great-greats shared the same sense of kindness, generosity and justness that his own parents instilled and nurtured in him.
My history books told of progress in 1972. Nearly 20 years prior, the Supreme Court ruled against segregation in schools, but it wasn’t until early ’72 that the president signed the law stating that women and minorities must be treated just the same as white males. Regrettably, this was not enough to change the thinking or the actions of many ignorant, bigoted white males in Virginia. What my history books didn’t say, Ms. Erskine does. This is historical fiction, in that the characters are fictional; but the history is gruesomely real, including the gut-wrenching story of Emmett Till.
In the tiny town of Stony Gap, Virginia, twelve-year-old Red, a remarkably good boy, was forced to become an admirable, courageous young man. Fantastically crafted, he is a captivating character that with a determined sense of always doing what is right, resulting in loyalty, honesty, and the willingness to defend the weak, almost to the point of ferocity. Easily imagined as a puffy-chested, tiny, scrappy rooster that will become vicious to protect; Red quickly captured this reader’s heart.
The sudden death of his father combined with his mom’s desire to leave the only home he has ever known create a panic that causes Red to make a very big mistake. In his efforts to right his wrong, he discovers a shocking secret about his very own ancestors. With wide open eyes, Red begins to see a bigger picture of discrimination, racism and cruelty. The lengths that he is willing to go to in order to right more wrongs than he could have imagined are nothing short of amazing.
This is one of the most touching, heart-wrenching, yet hopeful books that I have read. I hope that it can be found in school libraries all over my home state of Virginia. I fantasize that history teachers everywhere have this book to refer to and to share with their students. While Seeing Red is intended for, and perfectly suited for a Middle Grade audience; I cannot imagine any adult reading this book without shedding a tear.
Reviewed by jv poore, February 2014.