Horn Book Guide Reviews

Nellie Lee copes with the hardships of Jim Crow Tennessee, but when her uncle is murdered, her father decides it is time to seek new beginnings in Chicago. McKissack skillfully captures the realities of the Great Migration and how it helped to establish Chicago as a center of black culture and achievement. A historical note and archival drawings and photos are appended. Copyright 2000 Horn Book Guide Reviews

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 4-6-Although 11-year-old Nellie Lee takes after her Mama's folks and "could pass," she proudly says "color me dark." Through the child's diary entries, McKissack explores the racism that existed in post World War I Tennessee, where a lighter skin was considered "better" than a darker one. In fact, a major story line involves Nellie Lee's sister, Erma Jean, as she learns to treasure her darker color. When Uncle Pace, returning from the war, is found badly injured, the family suspects the worst but can't prove it, and Erma Jean suffers hysterical muteness. His death propels Nellie Lee's father to join the Great Migration north to Chicago in search of a better life. The family discovers that although they do not face the Klan there, racism still exists, even within the black community. McKissack deftly explores the social unrest between blacks and whites and the social stratification within the black community, where newly arrived southern blacks were looked down upon by the more affluent residents. The time period is well developed, and serves as a compelling backdrop to the Love family's struggle to find a place. Nellie is a feisty and loyal protagonist, and although her voice sounds a bit mature for an 11-year-old, her observations carry the story line and interpret the action in a believable way. Secondary characters are distinct and add a richness to the telling.-Jennifer Ralston, Harford County Public Library, Belcamp, MD Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews

On Christmas Day in 1915, Nellie Lee Love and her sister Erma Jean are given diaries by their mother. Nellie puts hers away until she begins with New Year's Day, 1919, recording her thoughts and the events involving her family and friends during ayear of change. The Great War is over, but a different war is brewing in the United States. As black soldiers return from battle overseas, they are faced with discrimination and the fear of lynching in their hometowns. The violence of racism hitshome for the Love family, becoming too brutal to ignore. Nellie's father moves his family from rural Tennessee to Chicago in search of opportunity. Although life is better in Chicago in some ways-the Loves no longer have to hide their NAACPmembership or their reading of the works of W. E. B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey-it is also difficult. Mr. Love's application for a business loan is rejected several times, and the family experiences riots and endures prejudice within their own race.Through courage, perseverance, and family unity, however, the Loves eventually find hope and triumph and become comfortable in their new community. The diary format of the Dear America series makes for readable historical fiction that will appeal to history students and reluctant readers alike. Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winner McKissack has written a story about a family whosestrength and solidarity will touch readers, regardless of their cultural or ethnic backgrounds. The author's notes and illustrations additionally serve as an excellent introduction not only to the civil rights movement but also to the lives and worksof prominent African Americans. This is the author's second book in the series, following A Picture of Freedom: The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl (Scholastic, 1997).-Elizabeth Wetherson. Copyright 2000 Voya Reviews