By Michael E. Glasscock III
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group
Publication Date: June 1, 2013
When Little Joe Stout survives the car accident that took his parents' lives, he is sent to live with his maternal grandparents in the small town of Round Rock, Tennessee. Orphaned and missing his Texas home, Little Joe is reluctant to adapt. But his grandparents, especially his grandmother, are up to the challenge of raising him despite their own struggles. Soon, childhood friendships are forged in the oddball duo of Sugar and Bobby, and--with the help of a new canine companion--Little Joe begins to see that his new home offers the comfort and love he thought was lost forever.
Set against the drama of World War II and the first sparks of the civil rights movement, Little Joe's new home is a microcosm of America in the 1940s. A frightening incident with a Chinese motorist traveling on the wrong side of town, the migration of troops across the countryside, and a frank discussion of Jim Crow laws are just a few of the local events mirroring the radio broadcasts that bring the news of the day into his grandmother s kitchen.
Little Joe begins a four-part series from Michael E. Glasscock III that explores the intricate social cloth of Round Rock, Tennessee.
Little Joe, book 1 in the Round Rock Series is set in the 1940’s during World War II. The book starts with Little Joe becoming an orphan due to a car crash that he was in with his parents. Little Joe ends up in Round Rock, Tennessee with his mother’s parents.
Little Joe has trouble adjusting to farm life, and the cold winter weather of Tennessee. All he wants to do is go back to Corpus Christi, Texas where he used to live. Little Joe’s grandparents do the best they can by Little Joe, but he finds them more strict than his parents, expecting him to do chores, and refusing to prepare him different food than what they are eating. His choice is to eat the greasy, unappetizing food presented to him or not eat. “ “At least drink your milk, son. You’ll get used to country cooking eventually. And you’ll eat when you get hungry enough,” she said”
I had a hard time liking Little Joe’s grandmother at first. Frances Washington often appeared to boss her husband Persifor around, and like a meek little man, he would do what he was told. She seemed to spend most of her day sitting in a rocking chair, reading books and smoking. I liked that she taught Little Joe racism is wrong when she helped the Chinese man that was being beaten up by the village’s riffraff and when she asked her Pastor if they could arrange for the choir from the colored Baptist church come to sing at their Christmas Day service. When denied this request, she, Persifor and Little Joe went to the Christmas service at the colored Baptist church.
I empathized a lot with Little Joe. Though I have not lost either of my parents, I can imagine how hard it must have been, to suddenly be removed from city life in a busy household and lots of friends, to the quiet country life that his grandparents lived.
I liked that Little Joe’s friends, Sugar and Bobby would have been marginalized in that society. Bobby is a black boy who attends a segregated school and Sugar is pretty much a tom-boy who prefers pants to dresses. The three of them are loyal friends who get into several scrapes and adventures together.
The book had a good pace and during the final climax of the book in which Little Joe nearly loses his life, he finally realizes how much his grandparents love him and how much he loves them. As he looks back at the year that he has spent with them, he recognizes that he isn’t longing for home any more. He is home. Home is where your friends and loved ones are.
This was a great story with a lot of truth in it. It’s a story that can be read by adults and youth alike. I give this book 5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley for providing an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) in exchange for my fair and honest review. A free product does not influence my opinion. All thoughts are my own.