Equal (Bakers Mountain Stories)

Written by Joyce Moyer Hostetter
Review by Bonnie DeMoss

In summer 1959, at the foot of Baker’s Mountain, North Carolina, Jackie Honeycutt’s biggest concern is winning a blue ribbon at the fair with his cow, Lucy. Then he meets Thomas Freeman while fishing at the creek bank, and his horizons begin to expand. Jackie is white and Thomas is Black, and Jackie begins to realize that although they live in the same town, their worlds are far apart. When Jackie’s sister, Ellie, begins to get involved in the Civil Rights Movement at college, Jackie starts to step outside his close-knit circle.  At the same time, Jackie is dealing with a bully at school, and someone is trying to kill Lucy! Can Jackie and Thomas solve the mystery?

This is a fantastic middle grade historical novel that takes us straight to the civil rights movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Through Jackie and Ellie, we learn of four African American students who sat at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, asking to be served. We see the heroic efforts of Martin Luther King, Jr. and others. We see the peaceful protests growing. As the student protests expand and Ellie gets involved, Jackie becomes more   and more willing to speak out. Through the friendship of Thomas and Jackie and the town’s reaction to it, we see how trust was difficult and justice was rare for people of color in those days. This is an important book with engaging characters that teaches middle-graders about the history of the Civil Rights Movement in a real and memorable way. As a caution, it is noted that terms and language of the 1960s are used when referring to African Americans.