review: Finding Langston

Posted on 14 September 2018 Friday


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title: Finding Langston
author: Lesa Cline-Ransome
date: Holiday House; 2018
main character: Langston
middle grade historical fiction
Review based on an advanced reader’s copy.

This historical novel set during the Great Migration gives readers an idea of how life changed for blacks when they moved from the rural south to the urban centers of the north. Although black neighbors were geographically closer, there was a greater distance in personal relationships when they moved. There was a greater separation among the races and while whites were seen much less often, there was an omnipresence of Whiteness experienced in events such as living conditions and economic opportunities. Langston grows in his personal power as he embraces his love of poetry.

Langston and his father moved from Alabama to Chicago after Langston’s mother died. He’s is having a difficult time adjusting to the new city and its peculiar ways. School is hard because he has no friends and is bullied for being a ‘country boy’. Luckily for Langston, his world is filled with trusting and caring adults. And, a library! Here he learns the origin of his name and how poetry can help him connect his thoughts and feelings to others.

Of the many lessons that Langston learns, the one most significant to readers is the importance of words, both in conversations with others and in the poetry and prose that we read. This book of only 100 pages will make a good choice for school and public libraries. I can see many teachers adding it to their curriculum.

“Can I read one?” My voice sounds as squeaky as a girl’s.

“You can borrow any kind of book you want,” she says kindly. “Just see the librarian at the desk.”
“Any kind of book you want,” I whisper to myself, and I take a few from the shelf and pull a chair up to a table.
I trace the letters on the covers of each and stop. One has my name. I pull it out and open to the first page.

I pick up my life
And take it with me
And I put it down in
Chicago, Detroit,
Buffalo, Scranton.

Feels like reading words from my heart.

(ARC, p. 21-22)

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