A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{April 1, 2010}   Grease Town by Ann Towell

Plot: In the middle of the 19th century oil boon, 12-year-old Titus Sullivan follows his elder brother to Oil Springs where they hope to make a life for themselves. They find that the promises of riches were overstated but remain nonetheless. Titus soon befriends a young black boy, the son of one of the escaped slaves who have made Canada their home. But not everyone gets along as well with the escaped slaves and they soon find themselves in the middle of a race riot. And Titus may be the only one who can get justice for his new friends.

There are not enough books about black history in Canada. The libraries I’ve worked for have always had very diverse communities and I’ve found that it can be a challenge to find books that are equally diverse. Still, I wish that this book were from the point of view of a black child rather than yet another book about the brave white man (in this case boy) who saves the poor coloured people. The black characters are not really given a voice at all in this story even though it is purportedly about them; they remain rather mysterious, even Titus’ friend Moses. That aside, it is an interesting book. It has been very well researched and it deals with a lot of serious issues such as racism in an accessible (if occasionally heavy handed) way. The whole story is told from Titus’ point of view and he really does read like a 12-year-old. In fact he has a bit of a Huck Finn feel to him. It’s a story I’m sure 12-year-old boys could enjoy and learn something from. Personally, I’m going back to The Book of Negroes until I find something a bit more promising on the YA front.


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