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Books in Brief: In the Neighborhood of True, Vroom!, The Lost Boy's Gift

YOUNG ADULT

In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton; Algonquin, 320 pages ($17.95) Ages 12 and up. 

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Aspiring Atlanta debutantes compete for beaus, memorize a "pink book" of etiquette ("never show one's bosom before evening") and sling back an astonishing amount of booze while turning a blind eye to the rank injustice and racism of the Jim Crow South in this engaging coming-of-age novel inspired by the 1958 bombing of Atlanta's oldest synagogue.

After her father suffers a fatal heart attack, 17-year-old Ruth Robb, her mother and younger sister relocate from New York to Atlanta where her mother has been offered a job as a reporter for the newspaper her parents own and the family can live in their guesthouse. It's the end of summer, 1958: blacks and whites drink from separate drinking fountains and swear on different Bibles in court, blacks sit in the back of the bus and the stuffy balcony of the movie theater. Covenant Academy, the private school Ruth attends, was organized so whites could avoid newly desegregated public schools.

Ruth's mother converted to Judaism when she married her husband, and her daughters have been raised in the Jewish faith. The South is a foreign land to Ruth, who immediately develops a crush on handsome, affable Davis Jefferson. Desperate to fit in, Ruth accepts her grandmother's advice to "pass" as a Christian (Jews at the time were not welcome at the country club) but feels increasingly conflicted as the rabbi at the local temple makes a strong case for civil rights and her own moral sense is disturbed by the injustice she witnesses and the racism voiced by the whites in her circle. Susan Kaplan Carlton, author of YA novels "Love and Haight" and "Lobsterland," offers a rich sense of time and place and a compelling profile in courage of a conflicted 17-year-old finding her voice in this interesting snapshot of a little-known chapter of the early civil rights movement.

PICTURE BOOK

Vroom! by Barbara McClintock; Farrar Straus Giroux ($17.99) Ages 4 to 7. (Publishes July 2)

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A little girl puts on her helmet and goes zooming off in her silver race car, shooting out her bedroom window for a high-speed adventure that takes her through farm fields, over mountains, through desert sands and a forest, over a bridge and into busy city streets before she finds her way home again in this whimsical, entertaining picture book from accomplished author-illustrator Barbara McClintock ("Lost and Found," "Adèle & Simon").

McClinton's colorful, exuberant pen-and-ink illustrations perfectly suit her story celebrating the power of imagination. (There's a very funny one, of fast-driving, red-headed Annie stuck in city traffic, a scowl on her face, her tiny car dwarfed by full-size trucks and buses.) It's unusual to see a vehicle story with a female protagonist. McClintock reports that she was given a silver toy car as a kid like the one that Annie drives in the book and she currently is the owner of a silver sports car.

CHILDREN'S

The Lost Boy's Gift by Kimberly Willis Holt; illustrated by Jonathan Bean; Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt, 210 pages ($16.99)

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"There are places where you want to go and places where you want to leave. There are also places where you want to stay. Sometimes you have no choice in the matter."

This begins this poignant, whimsical tale celebrating the gift of noticing things, the power of paying attention from Kimberly Willis Holt, author of many acclaimed novels for children including National Book Award-winning "When Zachary Beaver Came to Town." The "Lost Boy" of the title refers to 9-year-old Daniel, forced to leave his home in the city and move across the country with his mother after his parents' divorce. Daniel is angry; he blames his mother for the divorce. He finds himself on a street called While-a-Way Lane, where an odd woman named Tilda Butter talks to snakes, spiders and snails, a mailman named Dewey Wonder reads the postcards he delivers and likes to hopscotch when no one is looking, and a scary-looking piano teacher named Agatha Brown secretly prefers the saxophone to the piano. Although he's a new kid, Daniel signs up to be a lost boy in the school production of "Peter Pan" (his favorite book). Kimberly Willis Holt has a gift for evoking enchantment amidst the everyday and she works a kind of magic in this rare story of inter-generational friendship, of a "lost boy" awakening to his gift, finding healing and friendship and a new sense of home on While-a-Way Lane.

 

 

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