In the late afternoon a few days ago I sat down with a glass of wine and a book I had just purchased for my ten year old granddaughter and planned to read for 'awhile'. I did not get up until I had finished reading the book. It was that good, that engrossing, and that easy to read.
Crossing Jordan is a timeless story of a black family moving into the neighborhood. The scene is the South, but it could be anywhere. Most of us immediately think we know what will happen, and it does, but along with 'it' happening comes some wonderful moments and insights. This is a soft treatment of prejudice, nature, and friendship. There is no hitting you over the head with a message, it is just there, naturally.
The story opens with word going through the neighborhood that Mis Liz's old place has been sold to a black family. The white father next door immediately puts up a fence, recalling Robert Frost's "A good fence makes good neighbors," but we know that being a good neighbor is not what he has in mind. He wants nothing to do with and forbids his daughters to have anything to do with the black family moving in. When the black family arrives we learn that there is prejudice there also. The mother wants nothing to do with and forbids her daughter to have anything to do with the white family next door. "Stay away from that house, stay away from them" is the message they both receive.
Ironically, that tall wooden fence offers them a way to get to know each other that they would not have had without it for they naturally communicate through the knothole and through the boards.They feel they can do this and follow their parents' instructions for they do not go into each other's yards.
The girls share many interests, but it is their love of running that truly brings them together. They practice in the early mornings, at the school track, and form a team. They even name their team....Chocolate Milk. Their light-hearted use of this familiar term for their friendship exemplifies the soft, sensitive approach Ms. Fogelin uses to portray her message against prejudice. There is nothing heavy-handed in this book.
Through time, a wise old grandma, a near tragedy, a dead woman, and Jane Eyre the families finally come together. As for Cass and Jemmie, who won their first major race ? They both did, but not in the manner the reader expects.
Although this is a serious subject, the book is not serious and ponderous in its approach. It is fun reading, with very likable characters on both sides of the fence, and there are many scenes that accurately portray the lives of young people about to enter or in middle school.
I highly recommend this book and cannot wait to give it to my granddaughter. I think she will enjoy it and pass it to cousins and friends to read.