Sybil Rosen Speed of Light

ISBN 13: 9780689841514

Speed of Light

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9780689841514: Speed of Light

A summer of hatred...discovery Eleven-year-old Audrey Ina has lived in the town of Blue Gap all her life, and thinks she knows everyone in it and has nothing to fear. It's 1956, eleven years after Hitler's defeat, and nobody seems to even remember the war -- except for Audrey's Tante Pesel, who survived Auschwitz but is still unable to talk about it. Then one day, someone throws a rock through the window of her father's factory. Is it because he agreed to stand up for the right of a black man to join the police force? Or is it because their family is Jewish? Either way, Audrey Ina soon discovers that her sleepy southern town is full of hatred, fear, and violence beneath its surface, and that she and her family are in danger. Most vulnerable of all is Tante Pesel, whose nightmares seem to be coming true all over again. Will she survive the hatred that threatens to tear the family apart? What can a girl like Audrey do to stand up against injustice?

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From School Library Journal:

Grade 4-7-Audrey Ina Stern, a Jewish girl living in Blue Gap, VA, in the 1950s, must come to terms with racism and anti-Semitism when her father, a city councilman, champions a black man for an opening in the local police department. Councilman Stern's action triggers a sequence of events including phone threats, hostility from neighbors, and, ultimately, having his family's home firebombed. For Tante, a distant relative who lives with the Sterns, these events rekindle haunting memories from her childhood, including imprisonment at Auschwitz and the loss of her family. Through the Sterns' efforts, along with those of the courageous Mr. Cardwell, the black police candidate, and Miss Farley, an eccentric librarian, progress toward a more equal and just community is made. The story, narrated by Audrey, is both inspiring and exciting, though at times her voice sounds less like a young girl and more like an instructor, especially when defining unfamiliar words and phrases or describing historical events. The characters' lives touch on issues of great importance to young people-compassion, prejudice, and the courage to stand up for one's convictions. However, these themes are often obvious and heavy-handed, and several situations are unbelievably convenient or contrived. The background of the South in the '50s is realistically drawn, even though the racist townspeople are not developed past the stereotypical. Overall, though, Rosen adequately portrays the paradox of a world in which hatred and evil coexist with the miracle of human goodness.
Tim Rausch, Crescent View Middle School, Sandy, UT
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Publishers Weekly:

Rosen's overly ambitious novel is set in a Virginia mill town in 1956. The narrator, 11-year-old Audrey Stern, belongs to one of the few Jewish families in the area. She becomes acutely conscious of her heritage when her father, a town councilman, sponsors a black man's application to be a policeman. Outraging racist townspeople, Mr. Stern's actions precipitate a wave of anti-Semitism-including vandalism that terrifies Tante, Audrey's difficult distant cousin and Holocaust survivor who lives with the Sterns. Before the turmoil is resolved, Audrey learns about Tante's experiences in Auschwitz ("How could I ever have felt anything but pity for her?" she reproaches herself); Tante overcomes her pain and forges a bond with Audrey, aided by her somewhat convenient discovery that Audrey looks a lot like herself; and Audrey teaches and receives lessons in courage. As the title suggests, there's also an astronomy motif that shows up in various metaphors. The plotting is believable only up to a point, and the weight of the themes is always evident, given Rosen's heavy-handedness. The dialogue, too, strains in the author's attempts to convey various Southern dialects as well as Tante's Yiddish inflections. However, there are flashes of grace and insight, signs that this first novelist may rise to the challenging topics she has chosen for herself. Ages 10-14. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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