Feb 26, 2017

Armstrong & Charlie

Armstrong & Charlie By: Steven B. Frank ****
Middle School,  Children's Fiction

This is an excellent book that will help children learn about the desegregation of public schools in the 1970s. The story is told from the alternating point of view of the book's 2 main characters, Charlie Ross and Armstrong Le Rois. Neither of the 2 boys are looking forward to the start of the new school year in 6th grade. Each boy has his own personal issues, fears and challenges.

The story is set in Los Angeles, CA in the mid 1970s. The 2 boys come from 2 very different social and economic worlds.
Charlie Ross is a white student who lives in upscale Laurel Canyon. He has more than 1 reason for not wanting to start 6th grade. 1). ALL of his best friends will be going to different schools while Charlie will remain at Wonderland Avenue Elementary. 2). Charlie will get older than his brother who recently died. Charlie is saddened by that and also feels guilty that he will experience more in life than his brother was able to.

Armstrong Le Rois is a black student from South Central L.A. Armstrong is not at all enthusiastic about going to a new school, especially when he learns he has to wake up at 5:30 AM instead of his usual 7:00 AM. Armstrong's parents signed him up for Opportunity Busing. He and a few other black students are to be integrated into a white school in Hollywood Hills.

The school year starts with some challenges as the schools 1st experience with desegregation. There are a few racial issues that come up. At the beginning, Armstrong has a bad attitude and I hoped the book wasn't going to stereotype Armstrong. It didn't. In fact, the book portrayed Armstrong as a better person than all of Charlie's old school buddies! Charlie and Armstrong do butt heads at the beginning but as they learn more about each other they develop a close friendship.

What I liked. The story gives an excellent 1st person account of this very historical time, from the point of view of 2 children. The book is family oriented and both boys have strong family bonds and support. It relates that both sets of parents want the same for their children, a good education, acceptance and unity.

What I didn't like. I didn't like the white boys torturing the lizard. It was cruel and served no purpose.
I definitely didn't like the white kids (Charlie's old school friends) stealing and trying to teach Charlie how to shop-lift. I didn't like that the book treated this behavior as if it's not more important than eating cereal for breakfast.

What confused me. The book begins with the 1st “Incident Report” dated 1974, later in the middle of the book an “Incident Report” is dated 1976. The book covers 1 school year. What happened to 1975? (perhaps this is a typo in the ARC I received that will be corrected before print)

I received the book free from netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review posted on goodreads, netgalley and moonshineartspot.blogspot.com