Gloriana June Hemphill, better known as Glory, is about turn twelve during the summer of 1964, on the fourth of July, in fact. She can’t stop thinking about the fun she will have at the town pool to celebrate like she has in past years, but this particular summer, it seems as if nothing is staying the same. Augusta Scattergood’s new middle grade novel, Glory Be brings this tumultuous time to life through the eyes of an honest young narrator.
Significant social issues of the time loom large in this novel, from the many town leaders doing everything they can to avoid opening the segregated pool to every citizen in the community, to the sudden appearance of activists from the North to aid African-Americans in getting access to health care, among other things. But this story is told on a much smaller scale, from the perspective of eleven year old Glory whose worldview just isn’t that sophisticated yet. The things that matter most to her– her relationship with her sister, her lifelong friendship with Frankie, and her desire to spend her summer at the town pool– are the focus of Glory’s story. As a result, young readers can begin to understand the gravity of what is happening around Glory just as she begins to have her eyes opened to it as well.
Though I tend to think of the middle grade category as most appropriate for the 9-12 set, this novel is definitely accessible to children a bit younger. I like that it raises serious issues of the time, but does so in a manner that rings true for how an eleven year old might be understanding and processing events. It can be difficult to explain particularly dark periods of our country’s history to our children, but Glory Be helps to put it in a story form that is appealing to young readers. Parents can easily breeze through the 200 pages and be able to discuss the story with their children, bringing a realistic perspective to a fictional story.
Dawn’s growing love for middle grade and YA fiction is definitely inspired by the fact that her oldest child just keeps getting older. He, and the other two book-loving kids, appear frequently on her blog, my thoughts exactly.