January 15, 2018

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The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson | SLJ Review

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redstarJOHNSON, Varian. The Parker Inheritance. 352p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. Mar. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545946179.

Gr 4-6 –Part historical fiction, part critical problem-solving exercise, part suspenseful mystery, this story weaves through the past and present of one town’s struggle with hatred and racism. Candice and her mother have moved temporarily from Atlanta to her mother’s hometown in Lambert, SC, while her parents finalize the plans of their amicable divorce. Candice is miserable until she meets Brandon and finds an old letter addressed to her from her deceased grandmother with a puzzle enclosed. Twenty years prior, her grandmother had tried unsuccessfully to solve the puzzle that would yield a great deal of money to the town and the person who solved it. Together, Candice and Brandon make their own attempt. Who were Enoch, Leanne, and Siobhan Washington? How does an illegal tennis match played in 1957 between the white Wallace School and African American Perkins School factor into the solution? The characters are varied, authentic, and well developed. The plot moves along quickly and seamlessly between the past and present, with chapters from the 1950s shaded in light gray for a smart visual effect. The present day isn’t sugarcoated, showing readers that racial equity is still an unresolved problem. Appended author notes offer additional context, making it an excellent link to social studies or history units. VERDICT A must-purchase for most libraries, especially where Johnson’s previous titles have fans.–Anne Jung-Mathews, Plymouth State University, NH

This review was published in the School Library Journal December 2017 issue.

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