The Long Ride
In 1971, Jamila and her two best friends, Francesca and Josie, live in a mostly white neighborhood and attend a mostly white school. But before seventh grade begins, the community decides they will bus students of color to a new school in a mostly black neighborhood with mostly black students. Francesca's parents opt out, sending her to a private school and splitting the trio before the school year even begins. Jamila's mom is white and her father is black, and people at her new school accuse Jamila of being white, and she and her family confront racism from white people regularly in their neighborhood.
There are a lots of great details in this story that reveal how pervasive racist systems are, and readers can easily relate to Jamila's frustration that nothing she does seems to be right. The notion that some students aren't given a second look at access to gifted or advanced classes, the friction about dating, stereotyping from teachers, and of course the bussing itself are all explored, along with a variety of responses from different characters.
The cover art is not as appealing as the story, and the complexity of the ideas, especially set in the early 1970s, may be out of reach of some upper elementary students. But the writing perfectly conveys the tension, fear, frustration, hope, and action of this age group, and readers who give this book a chance will appreciate it.
"Twelve is the best and the worst. It's the breathless swoop at the top of the Ferris wheel, dangling and wishing you could stay. It's the moment when the wheel's about to drop, and you're scared, but it's thrilling too."
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