The Lady's Slipper

Published in 2017; author Emma Carlson Berne; illustrators Julie Kolesova and Michael Dwornik


Melody and her cousin Val meet a teenager named Leah at a meeting of the Fair Housing Committee. Leah isn't black; she's Jewish--Melody is surprised to learn that Jewish families faced the same sort of housing discrimination that her cousin's family did, and a Jewish man helped found the NAACP. Melody and Leah quickly become friends, but Val, who saw the violence black children who befriended white children were subjected to her in her hometown, is more reticent. Melody continues getting to know Leah, and Leah's botanist grandfather as well. He escaped the Nazis in Poland, bringing with him a rare orchid cutting, which survived the trip and is still thriving. But due to the starvation and other hardships in occupied Poland, Leah's grandfather has a weak heart and is rapidly getting sicker. Leah is saving her baby-sitting money to fly him to New York City for treatment, but he's refusing to go.

Meanwhile, Melody's grandfather and other flower shop owners in the area are throwing a soiree at the conservatory. Melody helps her grandfather set up, and he shows her some of the rare orchids in the collection. The next morning, five of those orchids have been stolen, and Melody's grandfather is taken aside by the police for questioning--no one else, just the black man. He does eventually come back to his flower booth, but Melody is upset. After all, her grandfather is still a suspect, and the flowers are each worth hundreds of dollars (easily pushing the crime to felony theft), and her grandfather's flower shop is the main source of income for Melody's extended family. Leah is upset as well. She finds out when she comes with her grandfather, scheduled to give a speech about orchids the next evening. Since the conservatory's most expensive orchids are currently missing, Leah's grandfather offers to bring his own rare one.

The evening of the speech, Leah seems miserable. Melody and Val are concerned that she's sick, and quickly grow more concerned when they see a man arguing with her and grabbing her violently. Shortly after they witness this, Leah falls into the stand holding her grandfather's orchid, and the curator rushes the plant out to repot it. Melody and Val follow, and see the man who was grabbing Leah trying to take the orchid!

Soon the truth comes out: knowing it would take too long to save enough baby-sitting money to cover a trip to New York City and the cost of the treatment, Leah stole the orchids for the man to sell. He was really after her grandfather's rare one, so Leah had been trying to keep its existence secret, claiming the plant had died. When he saw it at the soiree, things escalated. Leah's grandfather reassures her that although no specialist has been able to reverse the damage done decades before, he has had a long and happy life--something many Jews in Nazi-occupied territory could never have. Being a minor, Leah will likely have to serve some community service for her part in the thefts, and the man who orchestrated it all will face stiffer charges. Melody's grandfather, of course, is cleared of any suspicion.

Inside Melody's World

Most of the story takes place on Belle Isle, an island in the Detroit River. It's home to a zoo, an aquarium, a museum, a golf course, monuments, and the conservatory mentioned in the book. It's a popular vacation spot for Detroit residents. The conservatory has an impressive orchid collection, 600 of them donated by Anna Scripps Whitcomb, an heiress who brought them to the United States from Europe during World War II. She not only saved them from destruction during the war (many, many treasures were lost in addition to the terrible loss of human life), but from poachers. Even today, there are orchids that sell for thousands of dollars, and poachers who will try to steal them.


Dedicated to Henry, "the next reader in our family." Also acknowledged: Tom Mirenda, the Orchid Collection Specialists for Smithsonian Gardens, for his endless patience in answering so very many questions. And sincere thanks to Tim Culbertson, for helping me to understand the intricate and fascinating history of orchids."

Melody's grandfather mentions that a lot of important cultural artifacts were destroyed by bombs during World War II. One such specimen was a fossilized skeleton of Spinosaurus that was said to be bigger than a Tyrannosaurus. But with the bones and measurements destroyed, the claim can't be verified.

There's a subplot of Val being jealous of Melody and Leah's new friendship, in part because of how dangerous it would have been for Val to befriend a white girl back in Alabama.


The Runaway

Published in 2017; author Alison Hart; illustrators Julie Kolesova and Michael Dwornik


One evening after dinner, Maryellen notices that the family's dachshund, Scooter, is missing. And he's not the only dog; at least three more are missing in the neighborhood. Furthermore, Maryellen spots the ice cream man luring a dog into his truck! Or at least, she thinks she does--she's not sure enough to report the incident to the police or anything like that. She and her friends Karen King and Karen Stohlman start an investigation. They do discover that the ice cream man has dog treats in his truck, but he says they're to entice the dogs in the neighborhood to not follow him when he drives off. But he does mention a strange care he's seen driving around with "Bark Haven" written on the side.

Maryellen makes plans to go to Bark Haven, a pet shelter, with her friend Davy. He brings along his friend, Wayne, and the three ride to the shelter, but they are brusquely turned away by a woman at the front desk. A surreptitious detour to the dogs' kennels reveals no dachshunds or other breeds matching the descriptions of the missing ones. But then they see a car labeled "Barkhaven" (not Bark Haven) along the road--and the driver trying to get a dog into it! They thwart the pet-napping and get the car's license plate, and go back to the pet shelter. Now there's a dalmatian. One of the missing dogs is a dalmatian. Maryellen takes her information to the police, but an officer warns her that even if a pet-napper is caught, there aren't many laws that would do much--pets simply aren't a priority in the 1950s.

Then Maryellen hears about dogs being used as test subjects in space flights. She has a crazy thought--could Scooter be at Cape Canaveral, training to be shot into space? Since she needs a science topic for a school project anyway, she gets her dad to take her to visit Cape Canaveral (she gets permission from a tour from the Air Force). The tour is amazing and informative, but doesn't yield any dogs: the US is focused on unmanned space flight, and no living creatures are being used as test subjects. However, the lieutenant giving the tour mentions that some animals are used to test makeup, medicine, or other such products.

When Maryellen gets home, her mother tells her that the police station called--the Barkhaven car is a stolen vehicle. Her friends Karen, Karen, and Angela arrive soon after, having just formed a detective service for missing animals. Davy and Wayne join, and soon they find themselves at Daytona Pharmaceuticals, where Scooter's collar is in the trash. Another visit to Bark Haven reveals that the owner, Miss Hopkins, suspects someone is using the Bark Haven name to steal animals and sell them for testing. She's fairly certain another clandestine delivery of animals is happening that evening. They all go to the police, who set up a sting. The police tell Maryellen and her friends to stay away, but they can't help themselves. Even Miss Hopkins and Maryellen's mother come along. Sure enough, they find the missing dogs, Scooter included.

A few days later, Maryellen's mother breaks the news that they won a jingle-writing contest, the prize being a year's supply of dog food! Maryellen immediately suggests they donate the food to Bark Haven.

Inside Maryellen's World

Entering jingle-writing contests was a big thing in the 1950s. One woman , Evelyn Ryan, won so many prizes that she was able to support her family of ten and keep them out of poverty (her story was made into the book and movie The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio). Also prevalent at the time was animal testing, including stealing animals for that purpose. While many products are still tested on animals today, laws are in place that require the animals be specifically bred for testing and be treated as humanely as possible. Many industries are shying away from testing--while some medicines need trials on living things, makeup is less likely to need animal testing.


Special thanks are given to Judy Woodburn.

Maryellen and her mother have been entering seveal jingle-writing contests. Other prizes they win include a year's supply of cereal from one, and five bike bells from another.

About ten pages in, I was reminded of Dawn and the Disappearing Dogs.

There are some grammatical errors that I think an editor should have caught, like missing commas and tense problems.

The first dog in space, Laika, died there. The Soviets didn't have the technology to bring her back at that point. Later animals returned safely, in both the Soviet and US space programs: dogs, primates, and insects.


Claudia and Mean Janine (GN#4)

Original Publication Date: 2008

Ghostwriter? No, the text copyright is for Ann M. Martin.

Illustrator: Raina Telgemeier


Like the others, this graphic novel version of Claudia and Mean Janine is faithful to the original book. The second Claudia-narrated book was chosen instead of Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls because it was a story that included more about Claudia's family and would also translate better to a visual medium.

Established or continued in this book:

The Girls (and Logan):

Claudia candy: M&Ms, cookies, low-carb pretzels for Stacey and Dawn, candy bars, Gummi bears, taffy, lollipops, chips, gum

No name-brand candies were harmed in the drawing of this book:

Their Families:

Claudia shows her family the portrait she painted:

Kristy, Dawn, and Jeff:

The Club (and clients):

Claudia's handwriting (and spelling):

Dawn's handwriting:

Claudia with the Newton kids:

Summer playgroup:

At the end of the book, Claudia says she'll have to cut back on baby-sitting a little. The new school is starting and she wants to be able to focus at least some on her studies. Kristy suggests they invite Mallory Pike to join, who helped then with the summer playgroup.


Some SMS teachers:

PSA Time:

Baby powder, especially the kind with talc, isn't recommended for babies anymore.


Martin dedicates this book to her "Aunt Adele and Uncle Paul," and Telgemeier gives "thanks to everyone who helped make this project a reality! Dave Roman, Marion Vitus, John Green, Ashley Button, Janna Morishima, David Saylor, David Levithan, Cassandra Pelham, Eliie Berger, Sheila Keenan, Kristina Albertson, Phil Falco, Vera Brosgol, Dr. Laurie Kane, the Green family: Bill, Martha, and MarMar, and most especially, Ann M. Martin."

The storm that opens Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls opens this book. Some other elements of that book are in here, too. For example, Kristy's mom and Watson aren't married yet.


Mary Anne Saves the Day (GN#3)

Original Publication Date: 2007

Ghostwriter? No, the text copyright is for Ann M. Martin.

Illustrator: Raina Telgemeier


This graphic novel version of Mary Anne Saves the Day is faithful to the original book. Some fun additions are Mary Anne daydreaming of wowing her classmates with a new look, and a visualization of a nightmare that the other three members of the BSC make up and shut her out. The drawings that flesh out the fights, meeting Dawn, and other events are done very well.

Established or continued in this book:

The Girls (and Logan):

Claudia candy: Ring Dings

Their Families:

It just occurred to me that Mary Anne and her father are shown praying before meals, one of the few times we see a character participating in a religious activity. And Mary Anne's father is fairly strict and controlling in the early books. Later religious characters are sometimes portrayed as straw men, like Merry Dow's censorship-crusading mother. I wonder if Martin has had some less-than-pleasant interaction with holier-than-thou types.

Richard Spier is illustrated with a beard. I've always pictured him clean-shaven, probably because my dad is a lawyer and doesn't have facial hair.

Mary Anne's internal dialogue says her mom died of cancer. Previous books had her dying of some sort of lingering illness, and cancer certainly fits the bill.

Mary Anne and her dad:

Dawn arranges a meeting for her mom and Mary Anne's dad (pretty much exactly how I pictured it):

The Club (and clients):

Mary Anne's handwriting:

Mr. Prezzioso tips Mary Anne and Dawn each $50 instead of $20.

Mary Anne with a sick Jenny:

The Pikes:

Dawn officially joins the club:


The Shillaber twins are brunettes. There were three sets of twins in my class, a total of four girls and two boys. For some reason I've been associating the set of blonde-haired fraternal sisters with the Shillabers rather than the brown-haired identical sisters (the boys were also identical). I didn't realize that until I saw the drawing and the Shillaber twins weren't blonde.

PSA Time: Nothing stood out


Martin dedicates this book to her "Beth McKeever Perkins, my old baby-sitting buddy. With Love (and years of memories)," and Telgemeier gives "thanks to David Saylor, Cassandra Pelham, Ellie Berger, Marion Vitus, Alisa Harris, Alison Wilgus, Zack Giallongo, Steve Flak, Phil Falco, Braden Lamb, and John Green. And of course, thanks to my husband, Dave Roman, for always encouraging me to do my best."


The Truth About Stacey (GN#2)

Original Publication Date: 2006

Ghostwriter? No, the text copyright is for Ann M. Martin.

Illustrator: Raina Telgemeier


Like all the graphic novels, this is a re-telling of one of the first books in a different format: The Truth About Stacey. Things are pretty much the same, even down to the fake names Kristy gives the Baby-sitters Agency. There are some more details about Stacey's diabetes (like a conversation with her parents about her blood sugar numbers) and reaction shots to things like Stacey being diagnosed with diabetes (this time in a hospital after fainting and being rushed in an ambulance) and the Baby-sitters Agency.

Established or continued in this book:

The Girls (and Logan):

Claudia candy: Lifesavers, package of cookies

The girls with their Kid-Kits (they used the same sort of boxes I did):

Their Families:

Claudia's family has lots of board games.

The McGills:

The Club (and clients):

Stacey's handwriting:

Lucy Newton weighed NINE POUNDS at birth. Terrifying. (My kids weighed 6 lb 11 oz, 7 lb 3 oz, and 7 lb 1 oz; in that order)

Stacey and Charlotte:


The drawings of the school look about how I'd pictured SMS.

PSA Time:

Stacey leaves opened scissors on the floor as she wraps Christmas presents. Looking at the picture, it's like I can hear my dad saying not to leave scissors open.


Martin dedicates this book to her "old pal, Claudia Werner," and Telgemeier gives "very big thanks to Marion Vitus, Adam Girardet, Duane Ballanger, Lisa Jonte, Arthur Levine, KC Whitehall, and Hope Larson. As always, a huge thank you to my family, my friends, and especially, Dave."

Okay, here's a big difference from the 1986 book: they play music on a CD!

Laine's wearing braces on her teeth.

Stacey and Laine in Times Square:

Stacey's dinner broken down into diabetic-relevant nutritional information:


Kristy's Great Idea (GN#1)

Original Publication Date: 2006

Ghostwriter? No, the text copyright is for Ann M. Martin.

Illustrator: Raina Telgemeier


In 2006, artist Raina Telgemeier worked with Ann M. Martin to create four graphic novel retellings of early Baby-sitters Club books. The plots and much of the dialogue are the same as the original books, with a few differences (for example, Claudia has part of her hair dyed purple). They're a fun read. I'm planning to use some of my birthday money to get my own copies--the ones I'm reading now are from the library.

Kristy's Great Idea is the natural starting point.

Established or continued in this book:

The Girls (and Logan):

Claudia candy: bag of unspecified chocolates, Gummi Bears, licorce

Kristy usually wears her hair down rather than in a ponytail.

Their Families:

David Michael is illustrated with a tooth missing. I think it's a nice touch.

The Thomas family (Sam's in the ball cap):

David Michael and Louie:

Watson, Karen, and Andrew (with Boo-Boo and Mary Anne):

The Club (and clients):

Kristy gets her great idea:

Kristy's handwriting:

Buffy and Pinky, the dogs Kristy watches, appear to be St. Bernards or Bernese mountain dogs.

Club flyer:


Kristy's essay on decorum:

PSA Time:

One child Claudia watches is recovering from the chicken pox. Fortunately, we now have a vaccine against that--which means no shingles in adulthood, either!


Martin dedicates this book to her "Beth McKeever Perkids, my old baby-sitting buddy, with love (and years of memories)," and Telgemeier thanks "Dave, Mom, Dad, Amara, Will, Grandma, Diane, Bruce, the Roman family, the Rigores family, the Cuevas family, K. C., Marisa, Jason, my editors, my friends, my co-workers, and my fellow comic artists."

The illustrations of Kristy's sitting job with the dogs are hilarious. And messy--someone else who checked the book out of the library before me must have been eating chocolate or something. But the smears are appropriate on the pictures of the dogs tearing around the yard.

There are also scribbles on the pages of Claudia watching Jamie Newton and his wild cousins. Also fitting.

Sheep are no longer in. But rainbows are:


Never Stop Singing

Published in 2016; author Denise Lewis Patrick; illustrators Michael Dwornik and Julie Kolesova


It's New Year's Eve, 1963; the day before Melody turns 10. She's finally old enough to attend Watch Night at her church, a remembrance of when free and enslaved black people waited for New Year's Day 1863, when President Lincoln would officially announce the Emancipation Proclamation. At the service, the pastor encourages his congregation to use the gifts and talents God has given them to change the world for the better. (Speaking of gifts, one important gift she gets is a pouch of heirloom seeds, from Miss Esther, an older family friend.)

Maybe Melody will have a chance to teach people about her heritage when her teacher announces they'll be celebrating Negro History Week in February (the name and duration for it at the time). Maybe she can do something related to how her cousin's family is facing discrimination in their house search. Maybe the community meeting about businesses that snub minorities will give her ideas. Then inspiration hits: fixing up a nearby playground, so it can be a gathering place for everyone.

Melody's sister Yvonne encourages her and gives her some tips, and Miss Esther helps Melody prepare a speech to give to the Block Club, a group of adults committed to advancing civil rights in their community. She ends up president of the Junior Block Club, but finds leadership more difficult than she anticipated. The opportunity to sing back-up on her big brother's singing group's first recording. And Melody's cousin and her family find a great house they can make an offer on. Things start looking up as spring marches on.

But then Melody gets a letter from the parks department: there's not enough available funds to replace the aging swingset. When Melody expresses her disappointment to Miss Esther and her parents, they discuss the possibility that the funds aren't available for parks in black neighborhoods. They also encourage her to continue making the park a beautiful place, even if she's not able to get everything she wants. After all, there are those heirloom seeds...

Just when Melody's gotten her team excited to beautify the existing playground, the parks department locks the gates. Apparently the swingset is too dangerous. The Junior Block Club composes letters to the department: they can't ignore the club forever. A letter from Melody's oldest sister inspires her to spread the word, to get even more letters sent. Melody even gets a local radio show to mention the letter-writing campaign. After a flurry of letters and phone calls, the parks department removes the broken equipment--and the lock. So summer begins with the project in full swing, Melody's sister Lila completing a year of her private school program (she won a scholarship), her oldest sister Yvonne securing a teaching job in the south during Freedom Summer, and Dwayne finally getting the official album of the song he and Melody recorded.

Melody and her parents take a summer trip with her cousin's family to her grandparents' old farm in Birmingham, for the Fourth of July holiday. Despite the shadow cast by the suspicious disappearance of three civil rights workers, celebrating freedom is extra-special for African-Americans this year, with the signing of the Civil Rights Act (one character points out that the real trick will be getting everyone to follow the law). In the midst of the festivities, the family learns that Yvonne's been arrested, for "disturbing the peace" and has broken her wrist during the arrest. Her parents are able to get her out, and while they're very worried for her safety, they agree that Yvonne's an adult who can make her own choices. Yvonne spends a little time with her family before returning to Freedom Summer.

Back at home, the seeds planted at the playground have sprouted and are mostly doing well. Melody needs to teach her team a bit about gardening (for example, the best time to water), but they've done well in her absence. A summer storm threatens a setback, but the Junior and original Block Clubs spruce it back up.

Soon the park is ready for a grand opening party. The radio show host herself shows up, with a proclamation from the mayor announcing the park reopened and named for the Junior Block Club! She also gives Melody a check to buy some new equipment ($75, almost $575 in 2016). The book ends with Melody and her brother singing the song they recorded earlier, onstage for the crowd.

Inside Melody's World

June, July, and August of 1964 came to be known as Freedom Summer for civil rights activists. Volunteers toured the country to educate about the contributions minorities had made to society and to champion equal rights, especially registering African-Americans to vote. Not everyone was welcoming of their presence. Some were heckled or arrested on false charges. Three young men, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, disappeared in late June. Their bodies were found in August. Despite the high profile of the murders and the widespread belief that the perpetrators were members of a conspiracy rooted in the KKK, only one man was ever convicted of the murders. In 2005. Forty-one years after the fact. The crime was part of a large resistance to the Civil Rights Act, a resistance which continues today.


This book is dedicated "in friendship to Sharon Shavers Gayle and in gratitude to the unforgettable Mr. Horace Julian Bond."

Melody's birthday is January first, same as my best friend. And a very convenient birthday, as I discovered when calculating the ages at date of death for several deceased family members. "19xx-18xx is--wait, had she had her birthday yet?"

So we skip not only the winter holiday story, which is always my favorite to read about, but also the assassination of JFK, a huge historical event.

Funny story related to JFK: when I was about Melody's age, my mom asked my dad where he was when Kennedy was shot. Of course, she was asking because it's one of those moments almost everyone who lived through remembers, just how people can vividly recall how they found about September 11, 2001. But I didn't get that at the time, and thought she was asking because she seeing if my dad had an alibi!

Several prominent African-American figures are name dropped. My favorite of the innovators is Charles Drew, who had a profound influence on blood transfusion. I donate blood, so that one's close to my heart (literally). (His death was not the result of discrimination, contrary to popular belief; his injuries were too severe for that to have been a factor) Jesse Owens, too; as I did track and field. Another athlete, Tommie Smith, would rise to fame for giving the black power salute at the 1968 Olympics--and I have his autograph.

The letter-writing reminds me of Andy Dufresne's strategy in The Shawshank Redemption. He writes a letter a week to secure funds for a prison library, and his persistence is eventually rewarded with some money and letter than ends, "Please stop writing."


No Ordinary Sound

Published in 2016; author Denise Lewis Patrick; illustrator Julie Kolesova


Melody Ellison is a happy nine-year-old growing up in 1965 Detroit. She's the youngest of four, with two older sisters and an older brother (Yvonne, Lila, and Dwayne). She's also close with her cousins--one of her best friend is her cousin Valerie (the other, Sharon, isn't related to her). Every Sunday after church, her parents and siblings meet at her grandmother's house for dinner. This particular Sunday in May, she can hardly wait to tell everyone that she's been picked to sing a solo for Youth Day in October. Big brother Dwayne, already 18, is more excited than she expects (he's normally hard to impress) and says she should write to Yvonne, off at college. Melody doesn't want to be a Motown star like Dwayne (the whole Ellison family is musical), but the spotlight at her church is small enough that singing there is exciting instead of scary.

The next day brings more happy news: once the school year is over, Melody's cousins are going to move from Alabama to Detroit! Yvonne's back from college, too. She's gained a lot of confidence, and a clearer understanding of how unjust segregation is. She's refused a job at a bank simply based on her skin (Melody, in a heartwarming show of solidarity, closes her account at the bank to protest), and instead of chemically straightening her hair or keeping it in tight hairstyles, wears loose and natural. When the cousins arrive on Mother's Day, Melody's hair stylist aunt, Tish, is excited to offer Yvonne's style to her future clients.

The move isn't all happy though. They were prompted to come north because of the worsening racial tension in the South. Yvonne wonders what will happen to the fight for equality if everyone leaves, but Aunt Tish and Uncle Charles argue that they can't risk losing their jobs by protesting--they have a family to support. Furthermore, the protests and counter-protests are becoming more violent. They hope to be able to enjoy less segregation and better jobs in Detroit. Right away, Melody gets to show Valerie how things are better up north: the library is for everyone, and anyone regardless of skin color can enter through the main doors.

Of course, things aren't perfect. Dwayne has a music audition coming up, and when he and Melody go shopping for the perfect suit for him to wear, they're followed by store clerks and accused of shoplifting--that's all "their kind" would be in a fancy store for anyway. Melody wonders if Dwayne would still face this sort of prejudice if he were famous. The siblings also discuss how different people fight for equality in different ways. Melody ponders this while going with Valerie and her parents on their house search--and encounters more prejudice. Some people don't want to tell them, only to whites.

Incidents like this inspire Melody's choice of song for her Youth Day solo: "Lift Every Voice and Sing" originally written by James Weldon Johnson as a poem and now a song called by many the Black American national anthem. Seeing Martin Luther King Jr speak cements the choice in her mind.

As summer continues, Melody's parents find out about Dwayne's music plans, just before his (ultimately successful) audition. They've been dreaming for him to go to college at Tuskegee like Yvonne (he was accepted for the fall term) but instead he's going to be a singer. It's hard for them to watch their son follow a different path that they worry won't open as many doors as college, but to their credit they realize he's an adult who can make his own decisions.

Soon it's almost time for school to resume. Melody's best friend Sharon returns from her summer vacation just in time to celebrate the opening of Aunt Tish's hair salon, and is pleasantly surprised to learn that Diane, the star singer who seemed stuck-up, has been helping Melody learn her song for Youth Day. A lot seems to be changing for the better, from the large-scale marches for equality in the nation's capital to small things like friendships that once seemed impossible.

And then it's September 15, 1963, the day of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. This was a real historical event, and a tragic one. Four KKK members blew up a church with dynamite. Twenty-two people were injured. Four died. They were all children: Addie Mae Collins, 14, Cynthia Wesley, 14, Carole Robertson, 14, and Carol Denise McNair, 11. No one was prosecuted for the murders until 1977, when one of the four conspirators were sentenced to life in prison. Two others were tried, convicted, and sentenced in 2001 and 2002. The fourth never faced charges. In 2013, President Obama posthumously awarded the four girls the Congressional Gold Medal, recognizing their impact in the Civil Rights movement.

Melody and her family are horrified and in shock. How could anyone have so much hatred as to murder children? At church? Melody is so affected by the news that she can't sing. Her mind is a whirl of fear and sadness and confusion. Singing at church, when four girls only a little older than her were murdered while getting ready to sing in the church choir, is just too overwhelming.

Melody's family gives her gentle encouragement though, and she finds her voice again. But she's still afraid to go inside her church, where the Youth Day concert will be. Church is supposed to be a safe and happy place, but four girls were murdered viciously in theirs. Yvonne tells her how a woman was inspired to register to vote despite pressure from racists trying to keep her away from the booths, Dwayne writes to her about being on the road and still facing prejudice but also seeing less in some areas, and the rest of her family rallies around her. Val, Sharon, and Diane help her too, and when it's time for the concert, Melody is able to sing her song--in honor of the four girls who will never sing again.

Inside Melody's World

While Melody had more freedom in 1965 than Addy did a century before, she was still denied many things available to her white contemporaries. Detroit itself was a city where many black people could find good jobs and even own their own businesses, but schools were still segregated and persons of color were denied services for no reason other than their skin. People rallied around public figures like Dr. King and other civil rights leaders. While some were able to make their voices heard on large scales, like Rosa Parks or Malcolm X, others fought the fight on personal levels. But every bit counts toward the larger whole.


This book is dedicated to "everyone who hears the call of justice, and answers."

Just before the first chapter is a note explaining that in 1965, "Negro" and "colored" were acceptable terms to describe people of African descent, but today are considered offensive. They're used in the text for authenticity. In the second chapter, Melody and her family discuss the best way to describe themselves, along with the progress her family has seen since her grandparents and parents were growing up, and how much still needs to happen (the Civil Rights Act of 1964 hasn't happened by that point in the book, and it will be enforced inconsistently).

My great-grandmother used to serve Sunday dinners too, into her nineties. Speaking of family, Melody is almost two years older than my mom.

Melody has two nicknames: Dee-dee and Little Chick.

The Ellison family has a dog named Bo.

I like how Melody's parents deal with her feeling a little put out by another girl's superior music talents. Melody's siblings start to talk about what the other girl (Diane) can't do, but her parents instead focus on what Melody can do. I like that they don't need to disparage Diane at all, but instead shift the focus on making Melody feel good about her own talents. I see this "Oh, sure, X is the popular quarterback now, but in ten years he'll be flipping burgers" a lot and...what if X ends up really successful? You don't want your happiness dependent on someone else's misfortune.

Yvonne is attending Tuskegee University in Alabama. A year after this book is set, it will be designated a national historic landmark. It was founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881.

Melody's father was a Tuskegee Airmen in World War II.

Dwayne is able to attend the Youth Day concert, and offers Melody a chance to sing some back-up vocals for his band.