THINGS TOO HUGE TO FIX BY SAYING SORRY
Author: Susan Vaught
Data: Simon & Schuster, 368 pages, $7.99 Paperback. Ages 11-14.
By June Weltman
For the Times-Union
The day school ends for summer, Mac Richardson, one of 12-year-old Dani Beans’ good friends, tells her he can’t talk to her any more. Dani’s devastated. Her best friend, Indri Wilson, immediately calls him “Worm Dung.”
Dani lives in Oxford, Miss., home to the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). Dani’s mom, a coroner and part-time university instructor, is white. Her dad, an Army veteran, is African-American. He’s an organic gardener.
Their lives revolve around the care of her grandmother, Ruth Beans, a civil rights historian and academic writer who taught at Ole Miss. She lives with them and is bedridden from Alzheimer’s. Dani loves her grandmother deeply and tells her everything that’s going on — even though she doesn’t usually respond.
Lately, Grandma utters words and sometimes cries. Dani thinks she’s upset about ending her close friendship with Avadelle Richardson, Mac’s grandmother. Decades ago, Richardson published a best-selling novel about the Oxford riot. Beans never spoke to her again.
Beans was teaching at a local segregated school when Richardson, who’s white, came south to assist with voter registration, a hurdle for African Americans in Mississippi. They were on campus the night of Sept. 30, 1962, when James Meredith arrived, escorted by federal marshals.
Federal courts ordered the segregated University of Mississippi to admit Meredith, an Air Force veteran, as its first African-American student. Thousands of people, including students, segregationists and Ku Klux Klan members, some with weapons, were waiting.
By the next day, 23,000 marshals and National Guard and Army troops had arrived to stop the violence. Two people died and at least 300 were wounded.
Dani’s sitting bedside when her grandmother speaks: “Get the envelope. Take the key. It’s for you when I’m gone…I was there.” Dani wants her grandmother to have peace.
Dani’s bright and upbeat. She and her friends have fun, get into trouble and challenge adults as they search for clues to what really happened during the riot. Dani knows little of the harsh realities of segregation. She struggles to reconcile the past with her growing understanding of the love, loss and friendship in her own life.
Author Susan Vaught has created a powerful, eye-opening mystery. It’s a suspenseful story young readers will enjoy and a great book for discussion. Vaught includes resources.
“Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry” is a 2017 Edgar Nominee for Best Juvenile Mystery. Vaught also received a 2016 Edgar nomination for “Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy.” A neuropsychologist, she spent her childhood and college years in Oxford.
June Weltman, a Jacksonville mystery writing instructor, is the author of “Mystery of the Missing Candlestick.”
Authored by Janine Maureen