Karyn's Bookshelf.

Author:Saemann, Karyn L.
Position:Children's review - Book review

They Called Themselves the K.K.K.

Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003

9780618440447, $19.00, www.amazon.com

Award-winning nonfiction author Susan Campbell Bartoletti stretches beyond the juggernaut that is historical Ku Klux Klan violence, offering young readers something even more important: a meticulously researched explanation of social and political causes of the group's rise. Bartoletti gets to the violence - there's no way to write about the Klan and not mention lynchings, whippings and nighttime raids. But there's also deep discussion about the ruined post-war southern economy, and the fury and fear of southerners who worried that former slaves were poised to climb the social ladder, voting, worshiping and educating themselves to dominance. With their plantations in smoldering ruins, their Confederate money worthless and no more slave labor, wealthy plantation owners had no means to resume their livelihoods. Working class whites, meanwhile, feared that former slaves would take their jobs. The nation was grieving their dead. And there was deep division in Washington, as Democrats and Republicans fought over how best to proceed with the reconstruction. Amid all this, in 1866 in Tennessee, a group of young men began meeting in the evenings for no particular reason but to pass the time. Soon, they hit on the idea of riding through the countryside dressed as the ghosts of dead Confederate soldiers. They quickly discovered that many people, particularly superstitious blacks, were afraid of them. And the Klan's power was born. Bartoletti includes a rich collection of photos and illustrations, perhaps the most haunting one being a portrait of an icy-eyed Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general purported to have led the group in its early years. The book is impressively, densely sourced yet written in a style that even young teens can easily follow. And Bartoletti firmly makes the point at the closure that the Klan isn't just history, that it still exists today. Important, accessible writing as Bartoletti continues to cement her place among today's best tellers of history for kids.

Bless This Mouse

Lois Lowry, author

Eric Rohmann, illustrator

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003

9780547390093, $15.99, www.amazon.com

Clever, communal church mice adapt to whatever sanctuary life throws at them. They subsist on...

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