Last month I interviewed one of the Scriblerians’ own, Cynthia Toney, regarding her Birdface series. Cynthia also has another book out which is historical fiction, and I loved the story. I don’t give five stars all that often, so you know it’s wonderful!
In a southern U.S. farming community in 1925, thirteen-year-old Salvatore and his Italian immigrant father become involved against their will in a crime that results in the murder of an innocent man and family friend. Amidst bigotry, bootlegging, police corruption, and gangland threats, Sal must discover whom he can trust in order to protect himself and his family and win back his father’s freedom. Sal’s family, their African-American farmhand, and the girl who is Sal’s best friend find their lives forever changed as dreams are shattered and attitudes challenged in a small community called Freedom.
1. Books set in America in the 1920s are not nearly as numerous as those set during World War II or the Civil War. Cynthia Toney brings the Prohibition Era to life, living in a time of gangsters and graft.
2. The premise of the story is based on moral dilemma. A young teen finds there is no easy right or wrong answer as to what he should do. If he does what he knows is morally right, someone dies. If he compromises his values, evil continues, and he is guilty of allowing it to continue. Middle-graders are ready to confront ambiguities in life, and Cynthia Toney does a marvelous job of keeping Sal’s anguish at a gentle level rather than going at the problem with a battering ram.
3. The Other Side of Freedom has won several national awards with good reason. I’ve included a small portion of the list.
2018 Next Generation Indie Book Awards: 1st Place, Grand Prize Fiction, 1st Place, Children’s/Juvenile Fiction.
2018 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards: Gold Medal, Children: Coming of Age
2018 Literary Classics Book Awards: Gold, Upper Middle Grade, General and Gold, Upper Middle Grade, Historical.
1. Why do you think Sal wanted to leave Freedom as soon as he was old enough?
2. Sal’s Uncle Enzo was both a friend and a mentor to him. Why was Sal so concerned for him?
3. Name something Sal chose to do that his parents would not have approved of. Why did he do it? Was that a good reason?
4. Why did Antonina’s father want her to stop being friends with Sal?
The Other Side of Freedom is a novel of struggle and hope, of friendships gained and friendships lost. With a boy as a main character and a girl as a strong secondary character, children of either gender will enjoy the book.