Monday, January 17, 2011

The Liberation of Gabriel King

     It is the biggest summer of Gabe and Frita's lives.  Not only is it 1976, the bicentennial, it is also the summer they will overcome their fears so they can move on to 5th grade in the fall.  Gabe is afraid of everything, from spiders to cows.  Frita isn't araid of anything, at least nothing she will admit to Gabe.  She even punches bullies in the nose.  There is only one fear Frita can't help Gabe overcome - 5th grade.  If Gabe moves up to 5th grade, he will be in a new part of the school with the 6th graders.  Gabe has enjoyed his 4th grade year without the bullies in the 5th and 6th grade part of the school.  Frita is determined to help Gabe overcome his fears so they can move to 5th grade together.
     I really enjoyed this book.  A younger reader can appreciate the story of friendship and overcoming your fears.  A more mature reader can read it and understand the deeper fears of the kids, their families, and the town. 
     Gabe is a white boy in a racist town.  He is an only child of poor parents living in a trailer park.  Frita is a black girl in a racist town.  She has an older brother involved in The Black Panthers and parents who fight for civil rights.  Their school is integrated, but many people hate the fact a black girl is going to school there.  Frita is afraid of Mr. Evans because he is mean.  We know she should be afraid of him because he is in the KKK.  This is one example of the many layers in the book.
     I loved Frita and Gabe's friendship without prejudice, their innocence, and the life lessons they learn that summer.   
     I recommend this book for girls who enjoy reading or like books about friendship.  I also recommend it for anyone interested in the Civil Rights Movement and how it affected children.  It's too slow for reluctant readers and doesn't have enough action to make it a page turner.  It wouldn't be a good match for that type of reader.

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