Freedom Riders

This young adult mystery by Jean Young Kilby is also a grown-up meditation on history, justice, and friendship.

The place is Mississippi, the year, 1963…. Growing up in the racially segregated South doesn’t much bother 12-year-old Jan Calvin. She’s rather clueless, always burying her nose in mystery books. When she stumbles upon a secret buried in the woods, though, she enters on a quest that whisks her out of her own world and into Thelma’s world.

Thelma is a girl with a dream. She follows Martin Luther King, Jr. on the radio and watches her father work to end school segregation and other Jim Crow laws. Someday she wants to be a Freedom Rider like her dad so she can make Mississippi a better place. Jan and Thelma quickly become entangled in a real-life mystery more complicated—and dangerous—than they expected. The girls are thwarted at every turn in their pursuit of truth. But once they learn friends can come in all colors—once they learn dreams can be shared—amazing discoveries follow.

This enchanting coming-of-age tale brings an era of explosive social change up close and personal through the eyes of Jan and Thelma, girls of different races. Aimed at middle-school readers, Freedom Riders follows Jan and Thelma as they begin to experience the world with deepened empathy and understanding, culminating in a friendship they never expected to blossom.


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