Saturday, October 3, 2009

Book Review 25: On Beale Street by Ronald Kidd

I wasn't too sure about this book, but once again I was pleasantly surprised. This is a fictional tale about the time when Elvis was first starting out. It is told by a fictional narrator named Johnny Ross. We get to see the racial tension of the time, as well as learn about how the music business worked. Johnny and him mom live in Memphis, in a cabin on the back of her boss, Mr. Chapman's, estate. The chauffer is Will Turner, a black man. His son Lamont Turner shows up at the very beginning of the book, and it is both Lamont, and Mr. Chapman's son Trey that turn Johnny onto the black music. There is a girl that Johnny likes, but turns out she's Trey's girlfriend. Johnny doesn't know his father, because his father left when he was a child. Johnny begins visiting Beale Street, where he meets Elvis, and soon gets a job working for Sun Records. So we get to see the rise of Elvis in a way. And soon we find out who Johnny's father really is, in a weird situation with the "big house" and all the people involved.

I like all the historical issues this book brings up. I like that they mention Brown vs. the Board of Education, and talk about how record companies would pay black artist for recording the records, but then not give them the royalties later on. I think this would be a great book for Communication Arts teachers to read with their students who were studying this time period in their Social Studies classes. I hope this one makes it to the actual list next year. I also know there was another book by Ronald Kidd called Monkey Town that I think was about the whole Scopes trial, which I think was the evolution debate. Now that I know I enjoy his writing, I'll be sure to find that book when I'm done with my reading.

Also, I am done with the Truman list! Yay! I'm going to mail my ballot this week, and today I've started the first book on the Mark Twain List, The Seer of Shadows by Avi. I'd never read any books by Avi until last year when I read for the Mark Twain list, and I really liked the book I read last year and was disappointed when it didn't make it to the nominees for kids to read this year. There are 2 of his books possible this year, and I'm going to read both of them first.