Thursday, May 6, 2021

Kid Sterling by Christine Welldon - OPTIONAL

Kid Sterling by Christine Welldon
, 406 pages. Red Deer Press, 2020. $15

Language: PG (3 swears, 0 ”f”), Mature Content: PG (2 mentions of naked), Violence: PG (fights, kidnapping)



10yo Sterling Crawford lives in New Orleans in 1906. He goes to school, but he also works shining shoes to help his family pay the bills. Music is his passion and Jazz has begun to emerge in his city. Sterling frequently shines his idol, Buddy Bolden’s shoes, but can never get Buddy to teach him a few “licks” on his own trumpet. Sterling’s loving family includes his mother and his older brother, Syl, who tries to be a good brother, but is involved in some questionable activities. Through no fault of his own, Sterling gets caught up in some trouble during that year which leads him into some dark times, but his love for music and some caring adults help him through. 

 This is a carefully researched novel about Jazz, New Orleans and the South, and racial tensions and inequalities in the early 1900s. Historical and fictional characters are interwoven in a story about a young African-American boy and his perspective on the world around him. Sterling is a likable young man who learns through his mistakes (and the mistakes of others) and comes through a difficult year more mature and ready to grasp a bright future. Sterling gets a first-hand look at the unequal judicial system of the day and is forced against his will into some criminal activities. There is mention of adult themes like lynching, prostitution, and drug use, but these activities are off the page and Sterling does not directly view them. While this is an excellent book, the mature content makes it difficult to recommend for elementary school. Even middle school students and high school students may not find the main character appealing because of his young age, unless they are drawn to books about jazz or New Orleans. 

 Reviewer: SR 

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