The Only Black Girls in Town

Book review by
Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media
The Only Black Girls in Town Book Poster Image
Girls track down a secret in compelling, lighthearted tale.

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

This novel seamlessly educates readers about number of topics, including racism (the Emmett Till incident, the phenomenon of Blacks "passing" for White), pregnancy, getting a new sibling, coping with parents' divorce. The author very deftly makes library research exciting by putting a quest through archives and historical records at the center of the action. 

Positive Messages

Sometimes relationships take work. Be compassionate and understanding with your friends and family. Forgive misunderstandings. You never know what another person might be going through.

Positive Role Models & Representations

White, Black, Latino, and LGBT characters are included, and all are depicted in a positive light. The main character is the daughter of married gay men and a surrogate mother who also figures in the plot. The main parental relationships are all very loving and open. The parents and children share their joys and sorrows, and have healthy family traditions.

Violence & Scariness

Mention of the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955, including his "mangled" appearance in the coffin. 

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Only Black Girls in Town, by Brandy Colbert (The Revolution of Birdie Randolph) is about 12-year-old Alberta, who forges a friendship with her new neighbor, Edie, the only other Black girl in her seventh grade class. Alberta has lived her whole life with her two dads in Ewing Beach, a small town on the central California coast. Edie grew up in Brooklyn. Edie and her mom moved to Ewing Beach after her parents' divorce; her father and brother stayed on the East Coast. Further complicating Alberta's life, her surrogate mom, Denise, is staying with the family temporarily. Denise is having another baby, and her husband has to go away on business. When Edie finds some old journals in the attic, Edie and Alberta launch an investigation to find the author and unravel the mysteries of her life. Together, the two girls navigate the drama of middle-school friendships and first crushes; learn some lessons about Black history; and discover for themselves the power of research, including the old-school kind on microfilm at the library. There's a mention of the Emmett Till incident, including his "mangled" appearance in the coffin. There's talk of middle-school crushes and a first kiss. Jealousy erupts between two girls who like the same boy, and one spreads rumors about the other around school. There's talk of girls getting their periods and needing their first bras.

User Reviews

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  • Kids say

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Kid, 10 years old June 2, 2020

AMAZING!! BLACK LIVES MATTER

This book has gotten TERRIBLE reviews on other websites and, at first, I thought it was because the book wasn't great. I checked it out from my local libra... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byjohnsoner June 2, 2020

Freedom

I think people shound give more postive thoughts to other and to families and friends. Families should tell their family that you care mostly about them.

What's the story?

When THE ONLY BLACK GIRLS IN TOWN opens, 12-year-old Alberta is thrilled to learn that the family who bought the bed and breakfast across the street is Black. Edie, the new girl, and Alberta click right away, even though they don't have much in common besides being Black. Alberta has lived all her life in the beach town of Ewing, California. Edie grew up in Brooklyn. Alberta has two happily married dads and a biological mom she's friendly with. Edie's parents are divorced, and her brother and father stayed in New York. When Edie discovers some old journals in the attic of the bed and breakfast, the girls bond as they launch an investigation to find the woman who wrote the journals and unravel the mystery of her life. Together the two girls navigate the drama of middle-school relationships; learn some lessons about Black history; and discover for themselves the power of research, including the old-school kind on microfilm at the library.

Is it any good?

This lighthearted book tackles serious topics without coming across as dark or preachy and teaches without becoming dry. In her middle-grade debut, author Brandy Colbert does an excellent job of capturing the turmoil of that stretch of the middle-school years when relationships change. Lifelong friends renegotiate their connection. Academic demands rise. Bodies change. Romantic interests develop. Identities evolve. One character deals with her parents' divorce and another lives happily in a very unconventional family.

The characters in The Only Black Girls in Town could feel familiar to most kid readers of the last 40 years. With a strong focus on the emotions, Colbert still manages to educate readers about Emmett Till, "passing" for White, divorce, getting a new sibling, and even how to conduct research beyond the internet.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how characters feel about their hometowns in The Only Black Girls in Town. Where did each of your parents or caregivers grow up? If you have siblings, did you all grow up in the same town?

  • Have you ever been the new kid at school? What was that like?

  • Do you have friends who are different from you? How did you find common interests to share?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love stories of dads and LGBTQ tales

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