Bends the Rules
“…Another thing is Jim Crow. That is the name they give to laws they have to keep Negroes and white people separated from each other. Can you believe it? I would love to do something against old Jim Crow, but I don’t know what. What could a kid do against laws like that, anyway?…”
It is early in the summer of 1943 when ten-year-old Susan Marcus leaves the Bronx – her best friend Marv and her beloved NY Yankees – and moves to Clayton, Missouri, a sleepy suburb of St. Louis, where everything is different. Things get unexpectedly complicated when Susan finds out about Missouri’s Jim Crow laws and decides it is up to her and her new friends to try to do something about them.
An Excerpt from
Susan Marcus Bends the Rules:
We all sat together on the long backseat of the bus, whispering and giggling. We didn’t have far to ride to get to our stop.
Every time the bus bounced, the backseat bounced extra hard, it seemed, and Liz made much out of how bumpy and bouncy it was in the back of the bus, bumping and bouncing her silly self all over the place, and giggling so hard that she made the rest of us laugh, too.
The few people who were riding in the seats in front of us turned around to see who was making all the noise. Just kids, I felt like telling them, having a good time. But from their sour looking faces, you could see they were thinking about something else.
Too bad. We knew we weren’t breaking any rules. It was not against the law for us to be riding on the bus together. And it was not against the law for us to be having fun.
“Our stop,” Marlene said. We jumped up and stood in line by the back door, which, after the bus wheezed to a stop, swooshed open.
“Come on, Liz,” I said. But Liz lagged, and she looked confused.
“Why are we getting off so soon?” Liz whined.
“Just come on, Liz,” I said, “right now. Hurry.” Marlene and Loretta were already on the sidewalk, and I was halfway down the stairs. “Liz, come on! The door’s going to close!”
“Liz,” they called, “get off the bus!”
The urgency in our voices propelled her down the stairs behind me and onto the sidewalk, and as soon as we both were off the bus, the driver closed the door and roared away.
“What was wrong? Why did we get off? We are nowhere near downtown, are we? We have not seen anything you told Mom we were going to see!” Liz confronted her sister.
I put myself between them. “Calm down, Liz,” I said.
“I will not calm down.” She stamped her foot.”
“Lizzy,” Marlene began.
“Lizzy what?” demanded Liz.
“You girls sure do take the cake,” Loretta remarked. “You have not told Liz about the plan, now have you?”
“Well, it wasn’t my job,” I replied.
We both looked at Marlene, who made a helpless face. “I was afraid to,” she confessed. “She would have told Mom.”
“I never!” objected Liz. “I never!” Then, “Told Mom what?”
Booklist - “Rebelling against discrimination is only part of this appealing story. . .An enjoyable chapter book with great potential for discussion.”
School Library Journal – “Children will cheer for Susan’s courage in defying the injustice in her world!”
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