Crow

Book review by
Sally Engelfried, Common Sense Media
Crow Book Poster Image
Irresistible boy narrator faces turn-of-20th-century racism.

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age 12+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Crow takes place during an overlooked period of the South's history. In 1898, Wilmington, North Carolina was on its way to fulfilling the promise of the Civil War and Reconstruction: the town had elected African American representatives to Congress, and four of its ten aldermen were black. But during that year's election and following it, white supremacist forces joined together to take away Negro rights, culminating in the Wilmington Race Riot, which succeeded in destroying the new black middle class. An author's note provides additional historical detail.

Positive Messages

Moses' father teaches him that with a good education, he can achieve anything he wants to, and "to live in a world [he wants] to exist, not one that actually does." Because of his father's influence, Moses has a clear vision of what is right and fair, even if the world around him is full of injustice.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Like his father, Moses values education, but he also enjoys school and learning for their own sake. He loves books and reads Treasure Island aloud to his grandma, who was born a slave and is illiterate. His day-to-day quandaries are relevant to today's reader, such as when he mistakenly steals a bike and then must return it to its rightful owner with an apology. Moses is kind to others and protects his friends. His respect for his family is strong, and he tries to stay true to both his grandma's old-fashioned sensibilities and his father's more modern ideas about education. He never loses hope, even after the tragic Wilmington Race Riot.

Violence

Moses hears the term "lynch mob" but does not understand what it means, and his parents won't fully explain it to him because they don't want him to learn unpleasant things. On a trip to Fayetteville with his father, Moses witnesses a white supremacist rally and hears talk of killing Negroes who dare to stand up for their rights. During the Wilmington Race Riot, Moses sees black men being randomly shot at by whites, and many are killed. He encounters a little girl whose arm has been sliced by a bayonet and brings her to his grandma for medical attention.

Sex
Language

Several historically accurate uses of the "N" word in the mouths of white supremacists.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although Crow culminates in the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898, it is really a coming-of-age story of an 11-year-old boy trying to make sense of the world around him: why some people have more than he does, why he has to hide his friendship with the white boy he meets at the swimming hole, and why uneducated men have more power than his intelligent and well-spoken father. Author Barbara Wright doesn't shy away from the violence of the riot or events leading up to it, nor does she sensationalize -- presenting them in a straightforward way, true to the way a young boy would view them.

User Reviews

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Adult Written byMarianL May 3, 2017

Issue not addressed

I just read a posted question on a school librarian's FB page that alerted me to these issues that are not addressed here on CommonSense. I was surprised b... Continue reading

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What's the story?

In 1898 in Wilmington, N.C., 11-year-old Moses is looking forward to summer. Though his grandmother was born a slave and his mother works as a housekeeper for a rich white family, Moses takes for granted that his journalist father is right: A good education will allow a man to be anything he wants to be, no matter what the color of his skin. But as the summer heats up, so does the political climate. A long-anticipated train trip with his father turns into a run for their lives as they barely escape a rally by white supremacists. A local election tirggers a violent race riot, and Moses must reconcile the world his father has told him exists with the world he sees around him.

Is it any good?

In CROW, Wright skillfully portrays a difficult and mostly unknown period of history and puts it in the hands of a very appealing narrator. Moses' innocence and intelligence let him analyze the changes around him in a straightforward, unflinching manner that will be easy for young readers to relate to. Although Moses never accepts unfairness, under the influence of both the folk wisdom of his grandma and the formal education of his father, he comes to an understanding of the world around without abandoning hope.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the novel's title, Crow, which comes from the Jim Crow laws that segregated blacks from whites in the South, though these laws are not referred to in the book. What kinds of racial injustice occur in the story even before the White Declaration of Independence formally takes away the black population's rights?

  • Why is Moses' father so upset with him for helping the editor of the newspaper escape town? Why did Moses think his father would be proud of him?

  • Why do you think this novel was published in time for Black History month?

Book details

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