Strong Feelings

Apr 02, 2023 by Rose O'Keefe
The trials of a farm boy, determined to get even against Confederate marauders from Missouri into Kansas, take a 16 year old into the Union army, and on many detours from the battlefront where he had expected to find revenge and glory. The author masterfully wove fact and fiction about Cherokee nation Confederate fighters who had no loyalty to the Union after the federal government forcibly removed them from their ancestral lands. Jeff Bussey was a well-mannered young man, whose fondness for dogs added three good dog stories to the whole. That young Bussey stumbled into the thick of a Union traitor's plans to sell new repeating rifles to the Confederates was high drama that ended in the third marvelous dog tale. Rifles had a bit of everything: detailed descriptions of daily life, the countryside and weather that all soldiers endured, humor, romance, and examples of the power of common courtesy to smooth over the orneriest encounters. Bussey's appreciation of the Cherokee rebels' different and better way of life was a surprise. Keith shared seldom-told history that is still relevant.
Krumgold had a marvelous way with his narrator's voice. In Onion John, 12 year-old Andy's friendship with small-town hermit, Onion John, led to a well-intended town effort to rebuild John's house. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but what the townspeople with their well-coordinated plans failed to understand was that not only did John like his hand-built home on the hill just the way it was, he had no interest in living in a modern house. Not knowing how to use the new electric stove, John accidentally burnt the house down, causing the townspeople to want to rebuild the whole thing. Andy and his father's disagreement also matched Andy's distress at his father's plans for Andy's career. The conflict between generations and different cultures were well drawn out, and the mellow reconciliation between father and son was well done.
I didn't want to start another story of war and conflict, but having already read The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Speare, I had to take a peak at Bronze Bow. What a strong take on the drive for revenge! This was a multi-layered story involving several different ways that people from Galilee coped with living under merciless Roman oppression. Speare showed the extreme poverty and wealth of some of the locals, the overwhelming beauty of the land, and the cunning and resourcefulness that the main character, Daniel, grew into and out of in grappling with his fierce hatred of Roman soldiers. The interweaving of the  characters from different parts of the community, along with the mesmerizing encounters with the carpenter-preacher from Nazareth, was wonderful. Daniel's shift from hate to acceptance was very satisfying.
After having spent years researching local history in Rochester in the 1800s, it was a surprise to read the small magazine, "Rochester's Radical Reformers". In twenty pages of text and images, a group of students in a Black Lives Matter class at the University of Rochester, summed up the issues and conflicts of those times and their relevance to today. Six students on the editing team, Rochele Jean Baptiste, Ellis Siepel, James Kinde, Dariel Guerra, Lanashia Lewis, and John Pettarca, pulled together background and overviews of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs and Amy Post. What a portable and handy reference. Well done! #amreading; #RiflesforWatie; #HaroldKeith; #OnionJohn; #JosephKrumgold; #BronzeBow; #ElizabethGSpeare; NewberyAward; #rochestersradicalreformers; #urstudents;