Kristi Collier's Jericho Walls
Book review by Karen Talley
All Josephine Clawson wanted was to be an ordinary 11-year-old girl. But it's difficult when your father is the preacher of First Baptist Church.
Jo is expected to be the perfect preacher's daughter. Memorize your Bible verses, stay out of trouble and above all, don't give the church deacons anything to use against you.
Jo finds herself in a new city when her father receives one of his callings from the Lord. This time it's the southern town of Jericho, South Carolina, where Joseph Clawson grew up.
Jericho is nothing like their former home in Harrisburg, Indiana - not the climate, the people, or the culture. This is the old south in the 1950's and a town steeped in racial discrimination. The last thing the townspeople want is someone challenging what they believe.
The sleepy little southern town is perfectly content with the status quo.
Jo is introduced to a "colored" person for the first time when her mother gets a job and hires a housekeeper. Abilene Jefferson shows up one day with her son, Lucas. The boy, who is Jo's age, tags along do a plumbing job for the preacher's wife.
The two accidentally meet when Jo strays into a part of the woods that goes through the colored quarters. After this first awkward meeting, a friendship is born. They bond over their love for books, adventure, and a mockingbird.
The mockingbird plays a significant role in Jericho Walls. The bird lives in a tree in Jo's yard. The creature continually sings "Variations on Sparrow," as Jo's Mama called it. Jo's curiosity about its singing leads her to ask Miz Abilene why the bird only mimics others.
Miz Abilene explains to the girl that now and then mockingbirds work up the courage to sing their own song.
When Jo accidently injures the bird, she seeks the help of Lucas, an animal whisperer of sorts. The boy gingerly repairs its wing and nurses the critter back to health. When the mockingbird is healed, the two set it free. But there is no music as it flies away.
Will the bird ever sing its own song?
Their friendship is tested when Lucas confides in Jo that he and his brother plan to commit civil disobedience. This puts Jo in a precarious situation. Can she keep her friend's secret? Will she stand with him and defy the town rules?
Ms. Collier does an excellent job portraying the south during one of the
worst times in American history. She raises questions about
discrimination and segregation in a way the young reader can understand.
The pace of the book moves quickly. Her ability to describe scenes without getting bogged down in tons of details is excellent. She transported me to Jericho, where I walked beside Jo like an imaginary friend.
Jericho Walls get a five-star rating from me. I would definitely recommend it to kids in this age category.
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