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The Library building is temporarily closed to the public, but will reopen with "browse and borrow" services on Monday, March 1. Visit our reopening web page for new, temporary, in-person service hours and other important details. We will also continue to offer a wide variety of online story times, Take And Make Kits, and other surprises - watch the Events Calendar!  

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Middle Grade Novels That Bring the Civil Rights Movement to Life

Honor Black History Month by reading one of these powerful historical fiction books, many that center young African American perspectives, to turn back time and experience the Civil Rights Movement. These books are good choices for readers 9-13.

  The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis An unforgettable family on a road-trip during one of the most important times in the civil rights movement. When the Watson family - ten-year-old Kenny, Momma, Dad, little sister Joetta, and brother Byron - sets out on a trip south to visit Grandma in Birmingham, Alabama, they don't realize that they're heading toward one of the darkest moments in America's history. The Watsons' journey reminds us that even in the hardest times, laughter and family can help us get through anything.
   
  Night on Fire by Ronald Kidd Thirteen-year-old Billie Sims doesn't think her hometown of Anniston, Alabama, should be segregated, but few of the town's residents share her opinion. When Billie learns that the Freedom Riders, a group of peace activists riding interstate buses to protest segregation, will be traveling through Anniston on their way to Montgomery, she thinks that maybe change is finally coming and her quiet little town will shed itself of its antiquated views. But what starts as a series of angry grumbles soon turns to brutality as Anniston residents show just how deep their racism runs. The Freedom Riders will resume their ride to Montgomery, and Billie is now faced with a choice: stand idly by in silence or take a stand for what she believes in. Through her own decisions and actions and a few unlikely friendships, Billie is about to come to grips with the deep-seated prejudice of those she once thought she knew, and with her own inherent racism that she didn't even know she had.
   
  The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon The Time: 1968. The Place: Chicago. For thirteen-year-old Sam it's not easy being the son of known civil rights activist Roland Childs. Especially when his older (and best friend), Stick, begins to drift away from him for no apparent reason. And then it happens: Sam finds something that changes everything forever. Sam has always had faith in his father, but when he finds literature about the Black Panthers under Stick's bed, he's not sure who to believe: his father or his best friend. Suddenly, nothing feels certain anymore. Sam wants to believe that his father is right: you can effect change without using violence. But as time goes on, Sam grows weary of standing by and watching as his friends and family suffer at the hands of racism in their own community. Sam begins to explore the Panthers with Stick, but soon he's involved in something far more serious--and more dangerous--than he could have ever predicted. Sam is faced with a difficult decision. Will he follow his father or his brother? His mind or his heart? The rock or the river?
   
  Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney Loretta, Roly, and Aggie B., members of the Little family, each present the vivid story of their young lives, spanning three generations. Their separate stories -- beginning in a cotton field in 1927 and ending at the presidential election of 1968 -- come together to create one unforgettable journey. Through an evocative mix of fictional first-person narratives, spoken-word poems, folk myths, gospel rhythms and blues influences, Loretta Little Looks Back weaves an immersive tapestry that illuminates the dignity of sharecroppers in the rural South. Inspired by storytelling's oral tradition, stirring vignettes are presented in a series of theatrical monologues that paint a gripping, multidimensional portrait of America's struggle for civil rights as seen through the eyes of the children who lived it. The novel's unique format invites us to walk in their shoes. Each encounters an unexpected mystical gift, passed down from one family member to the next, that ignites their experience of what it means to reach for freedom.
   
    Betty Before X by Ilyahsah Shabazz In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty's house doesn't quite feel like home. She believes her mother loves her, but she can't shake the feeling that her mother doesn't want her. Church helps those worries fade, if only for a little while. The singing, the preaching, the speeches from guest activists like Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall stir African Americans in her community to stand up for their rights. Betty quickly finds confidence and purpose in volunteering for the Housewives League, an organization that supports black-owned businesses. Soon, the American civil rights icon we now know as Dr. Betty Shabazz is born. Collaborating with novelist Renée Watson, Ilyasah Shabazz illuminates four poignant years in her mother's childhood, painting a beautiful and inspiring portrait of a girl overcoming the challenges of self-acceptance and belonging that will resonate with young readers today.
   
    Revolution by Deborah Wiles It's 1964, and Sunny's town is being invaded. Or at least that's what the adults of Greenwood, Mississippi, are saying. All Sunny knows is that people from up north are coming to help people register to vote. They're calling it Freedom Summer. Meanwhile, Sunny can't help but feel like her house is being invaded, too. She has a new stepmother, a new brother, and a new sister crowding her life, giving her little room to breathe. And things get even trickier when Sunny and her brother are caught sneaking into the local swimming pool--where they bump
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