by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Unabridged book on four compact discs, 4 hrs., 25 mins. Read by Dion Graham. Brilliance Audio, 2010.
From the back cover: "Boys, let us get up a club." Six words and six restless, rich boys who raided a linen closet in order to disguise themselves as they went about their hijinks gave birth to what Bartoletti calls an American terrorist group. Their original intention seems to have been to have some fun scaring the local black population; but as the reality of the economic devastation of the south and the perception that racial equality was unacceptable hit home, the group became more organized and increasingly violent.
The group was modeled on the Greek fraternity system and included secret rites, initiations and meetings, as well as a well-defined hierarchy. Bartoletti vividly describes the events from the end of the Civil War through the Reconstruction. The words of those victims who gave testimony are painful to hear. The crimes committed against these brave souls are unimaginable but then, they were doubly victimized since much of the time, they received no justice through law enforcement. Often, the local sheriffs, judges and lawyers were among the robed and hooded Klan.
I read this one with my ears and intend to reread it with my eyes once my school's library copy arrives. Listening to informational literature is an interesting experience. So much of great informational literature for young people is quite graphic/ illustration intense. My personal approach when reading informational literature with my eyes is to view the photos and read the text boxes before focusing on the text. I find that if I try to read the text first, I become distracted by the illustrations and lose the continuity of the story. However, when reading with my ears, the illustrations are lost, but I can give the narrative my undivided attention.
The genius with this production is that there is a bonus disc of all the illustrations, complete with captions. They can be viewed in a slide show with the captions read (by either the narrator or the author) or caption narration turned off. Additionally, the Civil Rights Timeline is provided, as well as the author's bibliography, source notes and acknowledgements. The author interview is also a valuable source for both social studies and language arts teachers to bring alive the research process. The story behind the story was as compelling.
The narration, as performed by Dion Graham was riveting. I have enjoyed performances by him in the past. I loved Peace, Locomotion and We are the Ship (another intensely illustrated book that worked as an audio). Aside from the accents he employs when speaking the words of the many people who were quoted, his is quiet narration. He lets the horrors do the talking.
The book received its share of starred reviews and a great deal of Newbery and Sibert buzz. Additionally, it was a YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults finalist. Curiously, it was snubbed by the Sibert. I haven't yet read the winner and honors and it was a fabulous year for non-fiction, as far as I'm concerned, so I am not criticizing, just observing.