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Night on Fire Review by Jennifer Allen

Albert Whitman & Company
Ronald Kidd
250 South Northwest Highway, Suite 320
Park Ridge, Illinois 60068
(800) 255-7675, (847) 232-2800

Night on Fire is a chapter book about the civil rights movement which is set in Anniston, Alabama, 1961.  Night on Fire by Ronald Kidd, chronicles the fictitious life of Billie Sims. Although the main character is fictional, the events in Night on Fire are real.  

Billie’s life seems much like any of those around her in those days.  She is a thirteen year old white girl who makes an unlikely friend in Jermaine Jones.  Jermaine is the black daughter of Lavender Jones the long time maid for the Sims family. 

In those days, all of Alabama was segregated.  Blacks had to use separate entrances and drinking fountains.  However, change was beginning to happen even in Anniston, Alabama.  Not everyone was happy about the changes that are taking place though.  Violence erupted when members of the Freedom Riders rode into Anniston on a Greyhound bus Mother’s Day 1961. 

Billie watches as the bus is attacked not by strangers, but instead by people she knows; people from her community.  She stands in astonishment as a known member of the Ku Klux Klan lights rags and throws them into the bus.  After that fateful day, she realizes she has a decision to make; will she sit back and watch the events unfolding around her or will she become part of the change. 

Night on Fire is an excellent chapter book for those in upper elementary and middle school.  It is an eye-opening adventure complete with actual events and actual people including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Reverend Abernathy.  The author, Ronald Kidd, provides a note in the back of the book identifying those people that were real and those people whose names were created to tell the story.  In Night on Fire, he tells of the actual events that took place in Anniston and Montgomery in such a way that you feel as though you are with Billie.

Night on Fire is an excellent book to introduce children to the Civil Rights Movement.  Even as an adult, I found it fascinating to read about the events that took place in Alabama in 1961.  Night on Fire would be an excellent resource to supplement the study of recent American history. 

-Product Review by Jennifer Allen, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December, 2015