January/February 2022 Kids Indie Next List
“This novel in verse is set in 1965 as music-loving Eden’s cousin Winter visits her family in LA looking for his father just before the Watts riots break out. This sweet story’s a gentle and timely reminder of the history of police violence.”
— Mary Wahlmeier, Raven Book Store, Lawrence, KS
The whole world seems to transform during the summer of 1965, when Eden’s cousin from Mississippi comes to visit her in L.A. just as the Watts Riots erupt, in this stirring new novel by Coretta Scott King Honor winner Brenda Woods.
When Eden’s cousin Winter comes for a visit, it turns out he’s not just there to sightsee. He wants to figure out what happened to his dad, who disappeared ten years earlier from the Watts area of L.A. So the cousins set out to investigate together, and what they discover brings them joy—and heartache. It also opens up a whole new understanding of their world, just as the area they’ve got their sights on explodes in a clash between the police and the Black residents. For six days Watts is like a war zone, and Eden and Winter become heroes in their own part of the drama. Eden hopes to be a composer someday, and the only way she can describe that summer is a song with an unexpected ending, full of changes in tempo and mood--totally unforgettable.
About the Author
Brenda Woods was born in Ohio, grew up in Southern California, and attended California State University, Northridge. Her award-winning books for young readers include The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond (a CCBC choice and a Kirkus Reviews Best Book); the Coretta Scott King Honor winner The Red Rose Box; the ALAN Pick Saint Louis Armstrong Beach; and VOYA Top Shelf Fiction selection Emako Blue. Woods’s numerous awards and honors include the Judy Lopez Memorial Book Award, the FOCAL International Award, and the ILA Children’s Choice Young Adult Fiction Award. She lives in the Los Angeles area. To learn more, visit brendawoods.net.
★ “Author Brenda Woods offers this heartfelt piece of historical fiction as she recalls witnessing the Watts Rebellion in 1965. Eden is an aspiring songwriter, and the book cleverly uses music terminology to convey Eden’s and Winter’s shifting emotions during the six days of unrest and to mark the pacing of the plot. The free verse makes some of the more complex themes accessible, and this could easily spark a thoughtful discussion on how a history of Jim Crow laws, police brutality, and housing inequality plays into current social unrest.”
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review
“A highly relatable and at times poetic piece of writing and American history with a fresh depiction of lower- to upper-middle-class Black life in midcentury Los Angeles.”
—New York Times Book Review
“A heartfelt exploration of the 1965 Watts Rebellion as seen through the eyes of a remarkable girl.”
—Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award-winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming
“Woods has framed this story lyrically, using musical movements and terminology to move the exposition along believably through Eden, who hopes to be a songstress. Readers will find themselves immersed in the time period with naturally included details, including musicians, authors, and places. This slim yet affecting offering presents an important moment in U.S. history that sadly mirrors current events. Middle-graders will be entertained and educated, as well as inspired to action.”
“Woods explores the Watts riots of August 1965 through the experience of two Black cousins in a rhythmic historical novel in verse. . . . Interwoven with plentiful music references ("Winter and I became a duo; our ballad, a duet") and utilizing historically accurate language, Woods's harmonious play-by-play narrative of growing up during the Watts Riots spotlights some long-lasting effects of racial inequality and discrimination on children.”
“Eden plans to be a songwriter, and the text frequently achieves lines Eden herself would relish. . . . Neighborhood, family, friends, music, social justice, and dreams—themes that Eden begins to weave into songs by story's end. This is a layered story, told from the heart and rooted in the Woods's own experiences in 1965 Watts, as related in the author's note.”