The Moves Make the Man
by Bruce Brooks. Novel. 256 pages. Grades 5-8.
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Jerome Foxworthy, 13, ace student, first black in an all white school and a basketball fanatic, narrates this story of his friendship with Bix. Bix's game is baseball but Jerome recognizes in his skill the same passion and technical accuracy that he himself has in his sport. When Jerome and Bix end up in the same cooking class, a friendship begins. It is clear from the beginning that Bix is deeply disturbed. Eventually it becomes clear that his mother is in an institution. This is an exquisite portrait of Jerome, a bright confident loner and Bix, distant and frightened and the fragile friendship that develops between them.
The sports context for much of the book, including the title, make this book one toward which some otherwise reluctant readers might be led.
Things to Talk About and Notice
- Bix's inability to compromise or to tolerate uncertainty or deception make Jerome's friendship with him a constant challenge and the basis for friendships can become a topic for discussion.
- Bix's relationship with his stepfather is a competitive and frustrating one for both of them. Within the book, this is contrasted with Jerome's family most sharply when his mother is hospitalized and the whole family works together to make things easier for them all. There's an obvious moral and parallel here.
- The scene in which Bix and his institutionalized mother meet can be contrasted with a similar scene in Lois Lowry's Rabble Starkey.
Racial tension and relations, while not the focus of the book, are a subplot here and can lead to discussions about integration, forced or not. Jerome's self-confidence gets him through what could be a terrible time as he becomes the first black student. What got other real life characters through such ordeals in the fifties and sixties? Who were they and what became of these segregation-breakers?
The author's choice of title is also an interesting subject for discussion. What is the context of that phrase within the book and would you have made the same choice? Looking through the library for other intriguing titles can come next and the reverse, looking for turn-off titles could be equally informative.
Rabble Starkey by Lois Lowry. (1987, Houghton. ISBN 9780395436073. Order Info.) Novel. 208 pages. Gr 5-9.
Rabble (short for Parable Ann) and her young, single mother Sweet Ho have a wonderful relationship even though times are hard. Sweet Ho works for the Bigelows and Rabble and Veronica Bigelow are best friends. Rabble's family is replete with characters and she has so many cousins that she lends some to Veronica for the classroom assignment of constructing a family tree. The characters in Rabble Starkey are memorable and the action believable in this story about love and mental illness. Read More.
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. (1990, Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316807227. Order Info.) Novel. 184 pages. Gr 3-6.
Jeffrey Magee runs away and into a racially split town where he becomes the catalyst for change there. This excellent novel is about prejudice and love and home and baseball and fear and understanding. It's about Jeffrey Lionel Magee, sometimes known as Maniac Magee, and about the people of the fictional town of Two Mills. Read More.
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