Today is Reading on the Beach's A-Z Wednesday, with B the starring letter. Every week bloggers are invited to spotlight a book starting with the letter of the week. You show the cover, tell the title, give a synopsis, and post a link. Just to be annoying, I like to actually read (sometimes just finish) the book on that day, so I include my little review. Makes things more interesting. Sadly, none of the library books that are due tomorrow begin with a B, so I kept trying to read two books at once. But I finished one. Now I'll sign up on her page to see what everyone else came up with.
I found Linda Beatrice Brown's Black Angels in my library pile, so I promoted it to the top (there was at least one other, but I had no hope of finishing it in a day, seeing as I'm also reading 65% of Kingsolver's Lacuna today). Set in the middle of the American Civil War, it follows three orphans about the age of my children as they stumble across each other and try to survive. I suddenly find myself trying to substitute in my kids in children's books I read, both as a sanity test for the books and to see how my kids are doing compared to these fictional types.
Luke, the twelve year old (in the book, not my house) escapes from slavery because he wants to join the Union army. He misses the meeting and heads north on his own, finding Daylily, nine (hmm, right about my youngest's age) who didn't so much escape as find herself adrift after unspecified soldiers attack her home. And the youngest, Caswell, matches up with my nephew at seven. Caswell is white, lost in the woods after union soldiers burn his house and all the neighbors. The children come together because the dark is too big for any of them, although it takes a while for Caswell to fit in. They find various refuges, from caves that shelter them for an evening to generous adults who try to add them to a family.
Interestingly, the last third of the book splits them up. They promise to reunite in ten years; Luke joins the army as a messenger, Daylily and Caswell are adopted by a black family until Caswell's father finally finds him and, horrified, yanks him out of the hands of the despised ex-slaves. Brown skims over the children's lives for the next decade, watching Daylily become a teacher, Luke working for true freedom and fairness, and Caswell refusing to accept his father's racism and deciding to enter a seminary. The last chapter finds them all making their rendezvous, relieved to find their family ties still strong.
The first part of the book is the strongest, as the children battle for survival, forge their friendship, and confront challenges that stretch them to their limits. But seeing the last section as an extended epilogue kept me happy -- it was interesting to see how their lives were shaped, and for a kids book, I appreciated the author grounding the book in what was possible and what was happening. I'll offer it to my kids, although the cover is a bit different than their usual fair; the children are paused, waiting for action, instead of leaping about doing something, preferably with dragons.