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Byline: EDUCATION EXTRA The Register-Guard

A Tugging String

By David Greenberg

(Dutton Juvenile, 2008)

Ages 10 and older

Duvy Greenberg is 12 years old, just a normal kid growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., except this: His father is Jack Greenberg, the civil rights lawyer who is defending Martin Luther King Jr. in a case about voting rights in Alabama.

After dinner one evening the whole Greenberg family gathers around the TV to see a news story that dad is expecting. Walter Cronkite finishes his last story, and Duvy's dad says, "Please turn it off."

Disappointed, he then explains what happened in Selma that day when African- American demonstrators protested outside the Voter Registration Office.

The time is autumn 1964. Over the course of the next year, many people will put their lives on the line for all Americans to have the right to vote.

David Greenberg's memoir-novel is based on his real life experience. Jack Greenberg, his dad, was mentored by Thurgood Marshall and was his right-hand counsel in the Brown vs. Board of Education case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954.

Jack followed Marshall as director-counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, arguing many cases throughout the South and more than 40 cases before the Supreme Court.

He argued several cases for King, including the case behind the focus of this book - the right to march from Selma to Montgomery to protest voting rights policies in Alabama.

We see the events of Selma unfold through a young boy's eyes. Duvy (David's nickname) realizes his father is different, braver than most and compelled to act, "tied to all of this by a tugging string." Duvy comes to grips with big moments in history at the same time he experiences everyday injustice in his neighborhood.

Greenberg intersperses events in his coming-of-age story - complete with hilarious scenes of a typical boyhood - with fictional characters and actual speeches, creating a powerful context for primary documents such as President Johnson's proposal for the Voting Rights Act and King's speech at the conclusion of the Selma-Montgomery march, given on Alabama's Capitol steps. All the while, Jack tries to educate Duvy and his brothers as to what these events mean.

"A Tugging String" is an excellent choice for teachers looking for accessible historical fiction, especially for the middle grades.

David Greenberg, a resident of Portland, is known for his humorous children's books: "Slugs," "Snakes," "Skunks," "Crocs" and more.

- Joy Wells, librarian, Churchill High School
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Title Annotation:Local News
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1U6AL
Date:Dec 31, 2012
Words:411
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