A Summer of Kings

Written by Han Nolan
Review by Nancy Castaldo

Han Nolan is author of If I Should Die Before I Wake (1994); the National Book Award finalist Send Me Down a Miracle (1996); the National Book Award winner Dancing on the Edge (1997); A Face in Every Window (1999); and Born Blue (2001). In A Summer of Kings, Nolan writes a powerful coming-of-age story set in 1963, during the turbulent period of the civil rights movement. Fourteen-year-old Esther Young is looking for some excitement in her life, and she finds it when King-Roy Johnson arrives to stay with her family in Westchester County, New York. Johnson is the son of her mother’s friend and is sent north for his own safety after he is suspected of murdering a white fireman who turned the hose on him and his sister during a protest march. He is wary of white people and feels betrayed by the nonviolent teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. During the summer, Esther and King-Roy develop a friendship and discover the true nature of integrity.

Nolan again enters the arena of historical fiction with a winner. Her writing is well paced, and even those who don’t often read historical fiction will connect with Esther’s story. She presents us with a tale that will lead us to think about our own relationships and our own view of race relations. Above all it’s a great read. Age 12 and up