Mother Daughter Book Reviews is pleased to be coordinating a Blog Tour for the middle grade book, “Between the Lines” by Claudia Whitsitt from May 18 to 31, 2015.
About the Book
Summary: Between the Lines tells the story of three girls who become friends during the racially-charged aftermath of the 1967 Detroit Riots.
Hattie Percha is crushed when the riots start on her tenth birthday, and when she must move away from her treasured childhood home and friends, attending public school for the first time, she’s afraid her life is over. Then, she meets Beverly Jo Nichols, her first black friend, and Crackers, a fearless tomboy. Despite opposition from Hattie’s mother and a racist teacher, the unlikely friends join forces. As the self-proclaimed Dream Girls, they challenge bigotry and intolerance, willing to do whatever it takes to hold onto what’s most precious to them all, their friendship.
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1. What is the book about? This book is about what happened after the Detroit riots. In this book, a girl named Hattie befriends a black girl named Beverly and a tomboy named Ann but people call her Crackers. Hattie’s mom does not approve of Hattie having a black friend because she thinks it will make her family look bad and a whole lot of other reasons. Also their teacher is really racist and says mean things about Beverly behind her back. Hattie, Crackers and Beverly are doing whatever they have to do to keep holding onto their friendship.
2. What do you think of the book cover? Even though the cover was not super detailed, I really like it.
3. What are your favorite parts of the book? My favorite part in the book was when they did the experiment for the hair color because the kids realized that the black people were being treated unfairly.
4. Is there anything you didn’t like or that didn’t make sense? I didn’t like how they treated the black people. I especially was disappointed by how the teacher had pretended that she liked Beverly but then gave another teacher a note that insulted Beverly. And then there was the mom who was really rude to Beverly. And I really didn’t like that.
5. What did you learn about through this book and how did it make you feel? This book made me sad to see how Beverly AND Hattie were getting treated. Beverly was getting treated poorly just because she was black and Hattie was getting treated poorly because she was friends with Beverly.
6. What do you think “Between the Lines” means? The line “between the lines” comes from Crackers who tells Hattie she needs to step outside the lines to make a difference in the world. Throughout the book, Hattie ponders what Crackers means by this and she comes up with many different meanings. What Hattie learns is that she can stay “Between the Lines” (i.e., play by the rules), but still make a difference in the world with the way she treats people. She realizes that everybody should be treated the same.
7. Overall, what did you think about the book? I really loved this book. That is all I can say other than THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING!!!!!!!!!
8. Who do you think would like this book? I think girls 11-14 years old would like this book.
My Thoughts: Sparked by a long history of racial tensions, the 1967 Detroit riot and its aftermath provides the backdrop to a story about three young girls who form an unlikely friendship. Hattie is a young girl whose life is about to change, when she moves to a new neighborhood days after her 10th birthday, which happens to fall on the first day of the riots. At her new school, she meets a young black girl, Beverly Jo who immediately befriends her along with the tomboy, Ann “Crackers”. In an era of blatant systemic racial discrimination and oppression perpetrated from even those closest to them, this trio of friends are determined to stick together and show that “friendship is colorblind”.
Claudia Whitsitt has written a powerfully evocative piece of middle grade historical fiction tackling the challenging issue of racial prejudice and the discrimination of African Americans during the rise of the Black Power Movement in the 1960’s in Detroit City in the United States. Whitsitt uses a stream of consciousness approach as a narrative technique to effectively put the reader in 10 year old Hattie Percha’s shoes as she is exposed to racial intolerance for the first time. Hattie shares her fears as she witnesses the Detroit riots first hand and we experience her ambivalence and confusion as she discovers the consequences of befriending the school’s only black child. As disheartening as it was to read about the blatant racism exhibited by Hattie’s mother and teacher, I was cheering the forward-thinking, compassionate view of Hattie’s Dad and Grandmother (LOVED THEM!)
I fell in love with Hattie (and the other girls, Beverly Jo and Crackers, too!) and her raw honesty. Whitsitt perfectly captured the mind of a young tween girl who pouts because her birthday party is cancelled, who is feeling anxious moving to a new school and neighborhood, and who innocently steps “outside the lines” by becoming friends with a black girl forcing those around her to reflect on their own belief systems. I loved the use of the “stories within the story” as reflection points for Hattie as well as she tries to make sense of the world around her. Growing up in a rural community in an era when racism against First Nations people was prevalent, I found myself re-experiencing many of the same thoughts, feelings, and scenarios as Hattie. Whitsitt absolutely nails it!
The author did not shy away from tackling racial discrimination and oppression head on. On the surface, Between the Lines is about friendship, but Whitsitt cleverly uses dialogue to elucidate the reader about the history behind racism directed toward African Americans. The reader is provided with tidbits of historical fact and a deeper analysis of the issues either by having an adult explain things to Hattie or by overhearing two adults (usually the grandmother and Hattie’s mother) arguing. What I loved is that those sections were written primarily from a compassionate view, not a judgmental one with the author trying to place the racism experienced in the book in the proper historical and social context.
As a PhD-level researcher who has studied social and systemic discrimination and oppression, this book appealed to me on so many levels but two things in particular resonated with me. The first is that Between the Lines generated a number of deep, meaningful conversations between myself and my daughter who read the book before me. We have a come a long way when it comes to racial relations (however, we have a long way to go as is demonstrated by recent events in the U.S. and elsewhere); but, for my children (and many others of their generation) who live in a diverse community and who have friends from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds, friendship truly is “colorblind”. This book was an eye-opener for my daughter and an important lesson in history: Remember the adage, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. ~ George Santayana“. How true!
The second thing I feel compelled to mention is the twist in the book using school teacher and activist Jane Elliott’s famous “Blue Eyes – Brown Eyes” experiment. This famous experiment took place with her third-grade class, the day after Martin Luther King’s assassination to demonstrate the effects of discrimination. This powerful experiment allowed children to experience the thoughts and feelings of both the oppressor and the oppressed by placing them in those roles. In Between the Lines, Hattie and her friends design a “Brown Hair – Blond Hair” experiment in their classroom to successfully replicate the experience. Bravo! Well done, and I have to wonder if a similar experiment shouldn’t be part of the school curriculum but I imagine clearing ethics boards would be challenging!
My Bottom Line: There are so many reasons to love this wonderfully crafted piece of historical fiction for middle grade. Claudia Whitsitt effectively uses stream of consciousness to allow the reader to experience Hattie’s thoughts and emotions as she learns first hand about racism after she befriends a black girl in the aftermath of the Detroit riots in 1967. Peppered with historical facts, reflections on the social and systemic root causes of racial discrimination and oppression, as well as many heart-wrenching examples of both overt and covert racist thoughts and actions, Between the Lines is a masterfully written and evocative story for tweens that will leave a lasting impression on a generation of readers who are the future leaders of our society. I highly recommend this wonderful book to children ages 8 and older and in particular for mid to upper elementary classrooms seeking a book to elicit a discussion about racism. Loved it!
* This book was provided to us by the author free-of-charge for the Blog Tour organized by Mother Daughter Book Reviews in exchange for our honest reviews. All opinions expressed are our own. *
More Buzz About the Book
“Between the Lines is a powerful piece of historical fiction that must be added to the reading list of every middle grade student.“~ 5 Stars, Lori L., Goodreads
“Teachers and parents need to purchase this novel… Parents could use this novel to engage their kids in discussions to help develop a sense of social responsibility, friendship, and morality… Ultimately, this story is inspirational.” ~ 5 Stars, Amazon Customer
“This book is a must read for everyone, no matter what age … I would recommend it highly to be in the curriculum of every 5th and 6th grade classroom. ” ~ 5 Stars, Sandra W., Amazon
“My daughter and I read this book together and loved it. It is a story that will stay with both of us for many years to come!” ~ 5 Stars, aleblanc, Amazon
“Between the Lines tells a really heartbreaking but uplifting story, about race and loyalty and friends, in a way that any kid will relate to. A perfect gift book for that hard-to-please youngster!” ~ 5 Stars, Jimmy, Amazon
About the Author: Claudia Whitsitt
Claudia Whitsitt spent a lifetime teaching special education and writing before becoming a full-time author. She believes in the power of friendship, small acts of kindness, and paying it forward. Nothing makes her happier than spending time with her children, which includes not only the five she raised but the countless students who touched her life over the years.
“Between the Lines” Blog Tour Schedule (2015)
* Blog Tour Giveaway *
Prize: One winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card or $25 PayPal cash prize, winner’s choice
Contest closes: June 7, 11:59 pm, 2015
Open to: Internationally
How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.
Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by Claudia Whitsitt and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.