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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
- Author: Brandy Colbert
- Genre: Friendship
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Middle School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publishers: Little, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: April 7, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: May 14, 2020
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