Revolution, by Deborah Wiles | Book Review
Paperback: 544 pages
Age Range: 8-12
Publisher: Scholastic Press (May 27, 2014)
What to expect: Documentary Fiction, Segregation, Family Relationships, Bravery, Community Discord and Violence, Beatles, Religion, Baseball, 1960s
Revolution, Deborah Wiles’ second novel in The Sixties Trilogy, sends readers on a journey to Greenwood, Mississippi in the summer of 1964, also known as “Freedom Summer.” The journey is deeply complex, encapsulated by conflict, and ripe with poignant examples of breathtaking bravery and goodness in humanity. All these components, plus Wiles’ dynamic characters and relationships, will have readers of Revolution raptured from beginning to end, and wanting more.
Sunny is a 12 year old girl who reluctantly lives in a multigenerational blended family home and desperately yearns for the mother she hardly knew, making it difficult for Sunny to accept her new stepmother. Most of Revolution is written from Sunny’s point-of-view, and readers will quickly learn that Sunny is a stubborn, determined, brave, and outspoken girl. The remainder of the book, though far less, is narrated by Raymond, a young African American boy yearning for peaceful integration. Raymond is also stubborn, determined, brave and outspoken. These two inspiring and endearing characters live two very different but parallel lives in Greenwood. Revolution follows Sunny and Raymond as they grow and evolve during Freedom Summer, a pivotal period for the Civil Rights Movement.
“Invaders” have descended to Greenwood from the north to bravely help black Greenwood citizens register to vote. These “invaders” and their desegregation mission have ruffled the southern town’s feathers, breeding divisiveness, conflict, and even violence. It’s summer and traditional adolescent summer rites of passage like swimming, baseball, movies, and quiet, lazy days have been permanently disrupted. Sunny’s world changes as she realizes truths about her family and her community and feels called to align herself with the “invaders”. She takes risks and looks for answers, determined to piece her summer and family back together. Congruently, Raymond’s world changes as he propels himself to break free from the reigns of segregation, even if it means risking his own safety and freedom.
Revolution is a documentary fiction novel with a unique mixed media format that includes photographs, quotes, speeches, verses and other pieces of history which helps transport the reader to the time period. This is a time period in the Deep South when religion, baseball, family, the Beatles, segregation and desegregation were staple conversation topics for many families. The setting is a tumultuous time in US History, rife with pride for the bravery, sacrifices, and accomplishments of many but also shame for various vile acts of bigotry and segregation. As we mark the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, the unique documentary fiction format exposes both sides of the story and is pivotal in reminding readers that though Revolution is fiction, the stories told are more than just inspired by history.
The documentary fiction format is an innovative and refreshing way for readers to learn about history through story. At 544 pages, Revolution leans towards being longer than most novels for the 8-12 age range; however, with strong character development, multiple rich storylines, interwoven mixed media, and sustaining suspense, readers will find that the pages of Deborah Wiles’ Revolution turn themselves.
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About the Author
Deborah Wiles is the author of the picture book FREEDOM SUMMER and three novels: LOVE, RUBY LAVENDER; THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS; and EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS, a National Book Award finalist. She has vivid memories of ducking and covering under her school desk during air raid drills at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. She also sang in the Glee Club, was a champion speller, and hated Field Day. Deborah lives in Atlanta, Georgia. You can visit her on the web at www.deborahwiles.com.