Reviews for Land


Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 August 2001
/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 7-12. Like Taylor's Newbery Medal book, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976), this powerful historical novel, a prequel to Roll of Thunder, refuses to "whitewash" history. As the author notes in her afterword, the language was painful and life was painful for many African Americans, including her family. Drawing directly on her family history, especially what she knows about her great-grandfather, she goes back to the time of Reconstruction to tell a searing story of cruelty, racism, and betrayal. She also tells a thrilling coming-of-age story about friendship, hope, and family strength.Paul-Edward narrates it in his own voice, which combines a passionate immediacy with the distance of an adult looking back. There are things he can never forget. The story begins when he is nine years old in Georgia. Born of a part-Indian, part-African slave mother and a white plantation owner, he is raised by both parents. Paul is treated "almost" as if he were white. He eats at his white father's table--except when there are guests. He learns to read, and his best friend is his white brother, Robert, who is the same age. His greatest enemy is Mitchell, the son of black sharecroppers on the plantation, who beats Paul unmercifully ("You think you way better 'n everybody else"). Then Paul teaches Mitchell to read, and Mitchell teaches Paul to fight.Through Paul's personal turmoil, Taylor dramatizes society's rigid racist divisions. Paul's identity as a "white nigger," caught between black and white, almost destroys him. A bitter turning point comes when Robert betrays him to save face with white friends. Taylor makes it plain that Paul never gets over it. Never. Paul learns another harsh lesson when he loses his temper and beats up a white bully: his father thrashes him to teach him an essential lesson for his survival: "You don't ever hit a white man. . . . Use your head, Paul-Edward, not your fists." Losing his temper could get him lynched, and he doesn't forget, even when whites exploit him, insult him, cheat him, and injure him.His dream is to own his own land. It becomes his obsession. The second part of the book is about his work, backbreaking work for months and years to get that land. As a teenager, he finally runs away, and Mitchell runs with him. They meet up later, brothers now, family, "[Mitchell is] more a brother to me than any of my blood." The bond between Paul and Mitchell is at the heart of the book, all the more moving because it begins with raging hostility.Paul falls in love with a strong, independent woman, whom he eventually marries. But his focus is on the land, working the land, his own land. It's rare to find detail about work and business in books for children. Paul's work is vividly described: he trains and races horses, and he makes money as a skilled carpenter. Then he signs a contract with a white landowner and works seven days a week, clearing the land, chopping the trees, hacking the branches, burning the brush, planting cotton--only to have the landowner tear up the contract ("You think I care about a paper signed with a nigger?"). That moment is like a lightning flash, illuminating the racist truth through Paul's bitter heartbreak. Yet, even then, Paul remains ruthlessly determined. He continues his backbreaking labor and quest for the land, obsessively calculating how much he needs and how he'll earn it. The banks refuse Paul credit. He sells his most precious possessions. Finally, with the help of Mitchell, he earns the money and, through a complicated financial transaction that involves a sympathetic white man and a surprise family inheritance, he buys the land of his dreams.The novel will make a great discussion book in American history classes dealing with black history; pioneer life; and the Reconstruction period, about which little has been written for this age group. Filled with details of how people work the land and build a home, what they eat and how they cook it, the book will appeal to teens who loved the Little House books (a series that also spoke to racism), and it could easily be paired with any number of stories about immigrants' struggles to follow their dreams in America.Taylor's characters are drawn without sentimentality. Not all whites are demonized; some whites help Paul. But many are vicious racists, like the farmers who don't want blacks owning land nearby. The "n" word hits like a blow each time it's used. But, as the author writes, that's what her grandfather endured. Let's hope that the historical truth, the words, and the violence don't cause adult censors to keep this landmark book from young adults who will want to read it and talk about it.Paul-Edward's granddaughter will be Cassie Logan, and readers who remember her from Roll of Thun der will grab this and be astonished by its powerful story. ((Reviewed August 2001)) Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2002 Spring
Race complicates every relationship in young Paul Logan's life in this Reconstruction-era prequel to [cf2]Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.[cf1] The son of a white land owner and his former slave, Paul comes to realize that to white folks he's ""my daddy's colored son"" and that black folks ""think I think I'm better than they are."" Taylor masterfully uses harsh historical realities to frame a powerful coming-of-age story that stands on its own merits. Copyright 2002 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2001 #5
Race complicates every relationship in young Paul Logan's life in this Reconstruction-era prequel to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. The son of a white land owner and his former slave, Paul comes to realize that to white folks he's "my daddy's colored son" and that black folks "think I think I'm better than they are." His father dutifully makes sure that Paul can read and has learned a suitable trade, lovingly shares his passion for owning land and working horses, and brutally teaches him how to live in a white man's society: "You sass a white man, you hit a white man, they'll kill you." Each lesson takes. When Paul finally breaks with his white family, Mitchell Thomas, a young black neighbor who once taunted Paul mercilessly, accompanies him. Paul begins to consider Mitchell a brother who shares and understands the bonds of respect, hard work, and adversity, bonds unrealized by his white brothers who acknowledge their blood kinship but are unable to overcome social customs that make for "different rules for white children and colored children." Paul finds the land he wants, but the cost is dear: his life savings, two years of back-breaking labor, broken promises, and Mitchell's life. Understanding these costs, generations of Logans, most notably granddaughter Cassie in Roll of Thunder, inherit a determination to hold on to their land. But knowing Paul's lineage is not necessary for reading The Land. This more complicated book stands on its own considerable merits, introducing an individual who is indeed a product of his own times rather than a modern hero with contemporary sensibilities plunked into a costume drama of the deep South. Paul's South is a region filled with meanness and hate. Race is the defining force in this society, which allows a white-trash drifter to kill Mitchell without retribution and renders a contract between a white man and a black man worthless. Taylor masterfully uses these historical realities to frame a powerful coming-of-age story of a bewildered boy becoming a man beholden to no one. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Magazine

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Kirkus Reviews 2001 June #1
"Some white men took care of their colored children; most didn't. My daddy was one who did." This is the central conflict of Paul-Edward Logan's life: his daddy and white brothers love him, but he can never be their equal. His parentage sets him apart from the "colored" population as well, until he is virtually isolated in a society almost totally defined by color. This sprawling tale explores the history of the Logan family and the consequences of the miscegenation that caused diarist Mary Chesnut to call slavery the "monstrous institution." Pride causes Paul-Edward to leave his father's land in Georgia and make his way with his best friend to Mississippi. It is here, of course, that he finds and struggles to buy the land that will sustain the Logan family for generations to come. Readers have come to expect Taylor (The Well, 1995, etc.) to deliver a powerful story marked by defining moments that crystallize for the reader the unique cruelty of the post-Reconstruction South, and she continues to do so here. Paul-Edward encounters betrayal and brutality at every turn, from the brother who turns away as his white friends taunt Paul-Edward, to the lumber-camp boss who works him almost beyond endurance, to the landowner who reneges on a land deal. His narration has a tendency, however, to overexplain these events rather than letting them speak directly to the reader. This somewhat dilutes the power of the story; the narrator's mature distance from the events also saps the story of some of the immediacy found in other installments in the Logan saga. Still, readers who know the Logans will enjoy meeting the youthful avatars of familiar characters, especially the resolute Caroline-Cassie's Big Ma. Moreover, this is an aspect of the legacy of slavery not often confronted in children's books; Paul-Edward makes the reader feel its grotesque injustices. They will root for him, as they have for his children and grandchildren, to overcome. (author's note) (Fiction. 12 ) Copyright 2001 Kirkus Reviews

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School Library Journal Reviews 2001 August
Gr 7-10-In this prequel to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Dial, 1976), readers meet the relatives of the Logan family who lived during Civil War and Reconstruction times. Paul Edward is the son of a slave and her white master. He is treated well by his white half brothers and by his father, who teaches him to read and write. However, he and his sister learn that they are part of the white family in only certain respects. Early in his life, Paul is tormented for his mixed racial heritage by a black boy, Mitchell Thomas, who later becomes his best friend. The story follows these two young men as circumstances force them to run away from home and make their way in the world. Through hard work, the kindly help of a white employer, and sheer determination, Paul logs a tract of land that will supposedly be his. After much backbreaking labor, he is cheated out of it by the white owner. The plot takes several surprising twists as Paul and Mitchell fall in love with the same young woman, and tragedy lies in wait for them. The ugliness of racial hatred and bigotry is clearly demonstrated throughout the book. The characters are crisply drawn and believable, although at times Paul's total honesty, forthrightness, and devotion to hard work seem almost too good to be true. While this book gives insight and background to the family saga, it stands on its own merits. It is wonderful historical fiction about a shameful part of America's past. Its length and use of the vernacular will discourage casual readers, but those who stick with it will be richly rewarded. For fans of the other Logan books, it is not to be missed.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2001 October
Paul Logan has a fine life for a boy of color in late 1860s Georgia. His white father, Edward Logan, was a munificent and powerful man who taught his biracial children, Paul and his sister Cassie, to read and write alongside his three white sons. Edward required that all his children care for each other, although Paul and Cassie live with their African-Indian mother in a cottage on the property. Paul's seemingly idyllic life changes dramatically when he disobeys his father by racing horses for someone else. He and his friend, Mitchell, run away to escape certain punishment for taking money that rightfully belonged to Paul for winning the race. Because of this rash act at the age of fourteen, Paul severs all ties with his family and the land he loves. While he and Mitchell move and work around the South, Paul never loses sight of his dream of owning his own land. He experiences firsthand the harsh treatment Mitchell and other blacks endure. Sometimes he is treated even more cruelly because of his light skin. After several years of back-breaking work, Paul buys the land in Vicksburg, Mississippi, that becomes the Logan legacy. Taylor fashions an engrossing and heartwarming story that is a more-than-fitting prequel to her Newbery Award-winning Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Dial, 1976). Taylor uses stories from her own family's past to create a fascinating and honest look at life's struggles and joys for many African American families after the Civil War. Although this book will be a welcome addition to many middle and junior high school libraries, the fascinating, free-flowing tale will be received warmly by readers of all ages.-Brenda Moses-Allen. 5Q 4P M J Copyright 2001 Voya Reviews

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