When Little Joe Stout survives the car accident that took his parents’ lives, he is sent to live with his maternal grandparents in the small town of Round Rock, Tennessee. Orphaned and missing his Texas home, Little Joe is reluctant to adapt. But his grandparents, especially his grandmother, are up to the challenge of raising him despite their own struggles. Soon, childhood friendships are forged in the oddball duo of Sugar and Bobby, and—with the help of a new canine companion—Little Joe begins to see that his new home offers the comfort and love he thought was lost forever.
Set against the drama of World War II and the first sparks of the civil rights movement, Little Joe’s new home is a microcosm of America in the 1940s. A frightening incident with a Chinese motorist traveling on the wrong side of town, the migration of troops across the countryside, and a frank discussion of Jim Crow laws are just a few of the local events mirroring the radio broadcasts that bring the news of the day into his grandmother’s kitchen.
Little Joe begins a four-part series from Michael E. Glasscock III that explores the intricate social cloth of Round Rock, Tennessee.” – Goodreads
I must admit that I volunteered to review Little Joe by Michael E. Glasscock III mainly because it is the prequel to another book I am reviewing next month. I have a thing about reading books in a series in order… it’s that whole OCD thang, baby. While Little Joe was listed in the adult Literary Fiction genre, I really felt that it rings more true as a book for children, much in the tone of Little House on the Prairie. Not of the same caliber, by any means, but it has somewhat of the same feel to it. There didn’t seem to be a main plot/climax situation here; it was more a collection of day-to-day scenarios of a year in the life of Little Joe Stout as he adjusts to life with his maternal grandparents after the death of his parents in a car accident..
The story is set in the early 1940’s and indeed, such topics are addressed as life in America during World War II, racism, Jim Crow laws, bullying and more. All of these themes, however, are touched upon in a child-like and superficial manner – as is most of the book. This is most definitely not a condemnation of Little Joe – simply a disagreement with it’s genre classifying it as a book as adult Literary Fiction. Because, let me tell you, my 8-to-10-year-old self would have loved this book! I would have gobbled up the brief moral-of-the-story scenes, especially those related to racism and Jim Crow. I would have cried for Little Joe’s pain at his parents’ deaths. I would have ached to live on the farm with Mother and Daddy Washington, to be friends with Sugar and Bobby… this book would have been perfect for me – back then.
I have to say that I would not recommend Little Joe to anyone who tests at higher than an eighth-grade reading level. I would suggest that you purchase this for your children, however. Better yet, this would be a great book to read together with your children. It would be a great introduction into to discussions about the history of racism and the Jim Crow era – the brief references in the book will raise questions and you would be given many chances to elaborate on this information for your children. Many teachable moments are to be found within this book if you were to read it together with your child or another youth.
Little Joe is the first book in a four-book series about the town and people of Round Rock, Tennessee. The second book in the series, The Trial of Dr. Kate, will be published in early October.
Little Joe by Michael E. Glasscock III is currently available for purchase.
2.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Greenleaf Book Group (via NetGalley)