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Alligator Bayou
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About the Author

Donna Jo Napoli is the author of many distinguished books for young readers, among them The Great God Pan, Daughter of Venice, Crazy Jack, The Magic Circle, Zel, Sirena, Breath, Bound, Stones in Water, Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale, and, most recently for Wendy Lamb Books, The King of Mulberry Street. She has a BA in mathematics and a PhD in Romance linguistics from Harvard University and has taught widely at major universities in America and abroad. She has five children and one grandson and lives in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, where she is a professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College.

You can visit her on the Web at www.donnajonapoli.com.

Reviews

Gr 8 Up-Building on her extensive research conducted after reading a newspaper article about the lynching of Sicilian grocers in Tallulah, LA, in 1899, Napoli presents a moving, sobering story about an aspect of American immigration that is probably unknown to most readers. After his mother's death, 14-year-old Calogero leaves his bustling Sicilian home for the sleepy southern town to help his uncles and younger cousin run their grocery store. White customers expect to be served before blacks and make their displeasure angrily apparent when the Sicilians fail to do so. Barred from the white school and unaware that he can attend the black school, Calogero learns English from a tutor who also tries to help him comprehend Southern American behavior. The cousins meet some African American boys who take them on a terrifying alligator hunt that firmly cements their friendship. Calogero is attracted to Patricia, a African American girl, but fails to fully understand the danger behind her fear of being seen in public with him. Although he has heard his uncles' stories of the recent lynching of Sicilians in New Orleans, he is unprepared for the horrifying tragedy that befalls his family when a local white doctor kills Uncle Francesco's goats and then convinces an angry mob that the Sicilians plan to retaliate violently. Historical events are smoothly integrated with vivid everyday details, strong characterizations, and genuine-sounding dialogue. Ultimately, the author expands her themes beyond the story's specifics, encouraging readers to reconsider the motivations behind this calamity and other manifestations of racism.-Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information

Based on the 1899 lynching of five Italian immigrants, this thought-provoking book draws its power from vivid depictions of late-19th-century Louisiana and little-known historical facts. Settled in smalltown Tallulah, 14-year-old Calogero and a handful of other Sicilian immigrants find themselves isolated: by law they are not "white," but white people discourage them from mixing with Negroes (the sheriff, forbidding Calogero to attend the town school, advises him that he'd be better off uneducated than attending the Negroes' school). But social pressure doesn't keep Calogero from a budding romance with smart, pretty Patricia, even after he's almost beaten up for "fraternizing with them cotton pickers." Napoli (Hush) sketches out some economic and political roots of racism as the white citizens' resentment of the Sicilians builds. While the author leaves some seams showing in her attempt to incorporate background information, her protagonists are convincingly vulnerable, and the violent climax will ensure that readers remember her message. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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