Powerful historical novel looks
at Jim Crow, segregated Army
Levi Battle’s Aunt Odella and Uncle Otis have some idea of what Levi will face when they send him from Chicago to North Carolina, but they do nothing to prepare him for his trip. In Jump Into the Sky, a powerful historical novel for middle-grade readers by Silver Lake author Shelley Pearsall, 13-year-old Levi has been living with Aunt Odella while his father serves in the Army, hoping to see some action against Hitler.
It isn’t really clear to Levi why Odella hustles him onto a train with only two hours’ notice. The war in Europe is dragging to a close, and she asks, “You’ll want to be with your daddy when that happens, don’t you think?” He doesn’t have a choice. Otis refers to the trip as sending a “lamb to the slaughter” for “a colored boy from the North who don’t know the rules.”
Young readers may be shocked at the rules. Levi has a pleasant enough ride from Chicago to Washington, sitting next to a young white woman who tells him her romantic troubles. Then he meets up with Jim Crow. He is forced to ride in a filthy car; when he arrives, he is taken aback by the segregated drinking fountains and benches. A shopkeeper threatens to shoot him for walking through his door and asking to buy a soda. “Your name is ‘Colored’ down here,” he is told.
Levi finds that his father has left his Army post for an undisclosed location, but at least he is able to confirm that he really is part of the “Triple Nickle” — the 555th Paratrooper Infantry Battalion, a select all-black unit. Levi’s claims had met with disbelief that the segregated Army would train black men for this exclusive job. With the generosity of one of his father’s mates, Levi crosses the country to find his father and learn about the 555th’s mission.
Like several of Pearsall’s other books, Jump Into the Sky carries a fascinating history. The 344-page hardcover costs $16.99 from Knopf.
Mom gives twins project to get along
Ten-year-old twins Maggie and Max Pruitt are having an ordinary squabble in the living room, but it happens to be when Mom is on an important business call. To help them communicate better and stay out of her hair during their long summer vacation, Mom has a project for them: a journal. Mom Made Us Write This in the Summer by former Bath resident Ali Maier is the result.
The twins must take turns choosing topics, which they each must write about. They really do get along pretty well, though they have different likes and opinions: Maggie, who dots every “i” with a little heart, loves the zoo and ice cream, and isn’t a fan of babies or baseball. Max loves babies and staying in hotels, and gets nervous on roller coasters. They agree that their grandparents are the best.
Each annotates the other’s journal entries with teasing comments, drawings, doodles and rebuttals, but they abide by Mom’s rule of politeness. Mom also promises that “Exceptional vocabulary will earn you extra allowance,” and the twins come through with “torturous” (used correctly) and “palettes” (not).
Mom Made Us Write This in the Summer (190 pages, softcover) costs $9.95 from Erie Island Media and is recommended for readers 8-12. A second book in the series, Mom Made Us Write This: Quiz Book for Grownups, has been announced. Ali Maier lives in Strongsville.
Young girl has dreams of dancing
Perseverance in the face of obstacles is the theme of Dina Prima the Ballerina, a storybook by Mary E. Ciesa. Young Dina has dreams of dancing, but her feet “turned in when they were supposed to turn out,” causing her to stumble and fall. The doctor prescribes orthopedic shoes, which draw the taunts of the other girls at school.
But Dina gets used to the shoes, still dreaming of dancing, and soon the doctor approves ballet lessons. The dance studio is in “the old mansion up the street,” which illustrator Ann Gosser has clearly drawn to portray Stan Hywet Hall. Dina’s classmates now want to be just like her, and their recital is a big success.
Dina Prima the Ballerina (36 pages, softcover) costs $16.99 from online retailers. Mary Ciesa once took ballet lessons at Stan Hywet, taught by Ann Gosser and her mother.
Ciesa will sign her book from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Art Latte coffee shop, 1662 Merriman Road, and from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the American Toy Marble Museum at Lock 3 Park.
Learned Owl Book Shop (204 N. Main St., Hudson) — D.A. Quigley signs Santa’s Magic, a collection of stories about his 30 years as Santa, 1 to 3 p.m. today; D. Robert Pease, author of the Noah Zark futuristic series for ages 9-12, talks at 7 p.m. Tuesday; Beacon Journal columnist Bob Dyer signs Blimp Pilot Terrorizes Akron: and Other Hot Air, 7 p.m. Thursday.
Barnes & Noble (28801 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere) — Howard P. Willens talks about and signs History Will Prove Us Right: Inside the Warren Commission Investigation into the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, 7 p.m. today.
Portage County Public Library (Streetsboro branch, 8990 Kirby Lane) — Bev Shaffer talks about and signs Chocolate Desserts to Die For!, 6:30 p.m. Monday.
Mac’s Backs (1820 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights) — Poets Nathan Hoks, Nicole Wilson and Roger Reeves read from their work, 7 to 9 p.m. Monday.
Dover Public Library (525 N. Walnut St.) — Matt Lautzenheiser signs Legendary Locals of Dover, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Laurel Lake Retirement Community (200 Laurel Lake Drive, Hudson) — Thomas M. Daniel, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, talks about writers affected by tuberculosis and his book Times and Tides of Tuberculosis, 3 p.m. Wednesday.
American Toy Marble Museum (Lock 3 Park, 200 S. Main St.) — Beacon Journal columnist Mark J. Price signs The Rest is History: True Tales from Akron’s Vibrant Past, 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Brook Park branch, 6155 Engle Road) — Tony Marini reads his storybook Pennie the Christmas Pickle at the Holiday Open House, 2 p.m. Saturday; the open house ends at 5 p.m. and includes music and refreshments.
Cleveland Public Library (325 Superior Avenue Northeast) — Author Gwendolyn Goldsby Grant (The Best Kind of Loving: A Black Woman’s Guide to Finding Intimacy) speaks at 3 p.m.
— Barbara McIntyre
Special to the Beacon Journal
Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.