Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Mother, the Cheerleader

Sharenow, Robert. 2007. MY MOTHER, THE CHEERLEADER. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780061148965 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]

New Orleans, 1960, and first grader Ruby Bridges is jeered and harassed every morning as she enters school under court-ordered integration. The group hurling the vicious racial insults every morning includes Louise’s mother Pauline, one of the “cheerleaders” of the group. When an editor from New York, Morgan Miller, comes to stay at the boarding house Pauline runs, Louise begins to see another side of the picture. She had always felt sorry for Ruby Bridges, but now she begins to really think about what she believes rather than what she feels. Things come to a head as Morgan, a Jew, and even a possible Communist, raises the ire of the Ku Klux Klan and everything Louise thought she knew about her life begins to change.

This year there have been very strong books written about school integration and the civil rights movement and several of them are included in the 2007 LIBRARIANS’ CHOICES. Sharenow, a television producer, in his first young adult novel, has focused on the roll of ordinary people in the turbulent times and presents a different point of view from most authors dealing with the subject.

Teachers are always looking for new ways to present information during Black History Month. Pairing MY MOTHER THE CHEERLEADER with books about Ruby Bridges or with Draper’s FIRE FROM THIS ROCK would make for an interesting lesson. Students could research school integration in their town and compare it with the fictional accounts.

Other books about school integration:
Bridges, Ruby. THROUGH MY EYES. ISBN 9780590189231
Fradin, Dennis Brindell and Judith Bloom Fradin. FIGHT ON!: MARY CHURCH TERRELL’S BATTLE FOR INTEGRATION. ISBN 9780618133499

By Janet Hilbun

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