WELCOME TO ANOTHER MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY!
And it’s a special one! Congratulations to Varian Johnson and THE PARKER INHERITANCE, the winner of 2018’s CYBILS Middle Grade Fiction Award.
I previously reviewed two of the CYBILS Finalists: In December I featured FRONT DESK and last September I gave a thumbs up to THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL. Tomorrow and Wednesday I’ll have brief reviews of the other four finalists. But today is all about our winner!
In the past three years I’ve read Middle Grade books exploring a number of heavy topics. Racism, gay acceptance, police violence against black youth, bullying, and sexism come to mind. There have also been much lighter fare devoted to friendships and the occasional mystery. The Parker Inheritance takes all of these topics and threads them into one glorious story all of us should read.
Set in the fictional town of Lambert, South Carolina (although based on the author’s hometown, Florence, SC), it’s the present day story of Candice and her new friend Brandon as they research the past and a letter Candice found in her Grandmother’s attic. She not only wants to clear her beloved grandmother’s name for some wrong doings, but also discover if there really is a huge amount of money hidden somewhere in the town. To do so she and her friend will have to solve a puzzle.
This leads the sleuths to the ugly past of Lambert and a separate story set mostly in the 1950s. The cover depicts this splendidly with the split visual of old and new. On the left side of cover you can barely make out the characters from this other time period, Beautiful Siobhan standing under the PJ’s sign and mixed race Reggie shining shoes. They are in love and events soon to unfold will tear them apart, but also provide the connection to the modern day story.
The casual reader will have an almost impossible time figuring out the puzzle, but it is fun trying. This is one of those rare books I couldn’t wait to return to so that more of the mystery would be revealed. It’s an eye opening account of growing up a different color than white in the south. Things have improved but we still have a long way to go.
You may need a scorecard to keep up with all the character names and the length might scare away emerging readers, but the story is one you will long remember. The themes are ripe for discussion and the end result will be a greater healing of the differences that often divide us in this country.
PUBLICATION DATE: 2018 PAGE COUNT: 352
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT:
THE PARKER INHERITANCE
- The two friendships in the story were a touching reminder of the importance in having someone you can lean on.
- The back and forth writing in two time periods is a difficult one to pull off. There is usually a drop off in interest as one story is interrupted by another. Here though, the two tales are woven into one in an intriguing and page turning way.
- Although fiction, the book does give you real life events like Brown v. Board of Education and African American tennis player, Althea Gibson, winning her match at Wimbledon.
- The puzzle was a fun way to pull in readers. The end result is the real story of intolerance in 1950s America. A time period we should never forget.
- The author does a six and half page Q & A in the back of the book—further insights into topics and events in the book. Very revealing!
She ran her thumb over her grandmother’s handwritten words.
Find the path. Solve the puzzle
What if her grandmother hadn’t made a mistake? What if there was a treasure?
What if her grandmother had put the letter there, on purpose?
THE OFFICIAL BLURB (From AMAZON)
A QUOTE FROM Varian Johnson
As I wrote The Parker Inheritance, I found myself thinking even more about the power of perception. How it could be a danger to those without power . . . and also how we could manipulate that perception to create a level playing field. What if we dressed in a different way? Talked in a different way? Had different friends? How much of yourself is worth giving up if it allows you a chance to be successful? To live without fear? To survive?
Even after writing the book, I don’t have any real answers. But I hope as others read the novel, they begin to consider their own perceptions. Those in positions of power often see their mistaken viewpoints as mere inconveniences, or as life lessons. But for the powerless, that same misguided viewpoint may very well be the difference between life and death.
(For the full background on the event in the author’s life that became the jump start for The Parker Inheritance, visit Mr. Johnson’s website)
Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.