HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Let the Circle Be Unbroken
Author: Mildred D. Taylor
Cover Illustrator: Max Ginsburg
Publisher: Puffin Books, republished in 2002
ISBN-13: 978-0812409345 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0812409345 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0140348927 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0140348921 (Paperback)
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Said to be ages 9-10 and up, but I would say at least 13 and up (or even 16 and up)
Rating: *** 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Taylor, Mildred D. Let the Circle Be Unbroken (published in 1981 by Dial Books; republished in 1991 by Puffin Books, an imprint of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc., 3735 Hudson St., New York City, NY 10014). It is 1934, during the Great Depression, and eleven year old Cassie Logan, who was first introduced in the 1977 Newbery Medal winner Roll of Thunder, Hear Me Cry, lives on a farm in rural Mississippi with her father David, mother Mary, older brother Stacey, younger brothers Christopher John and Little Man, and grandmother Big Ma. Her Uncle Hammer Logan frequently visits from Chicago. The Logans’ friend, T. J., must go on trial for murder and face an all-white jury. Then Mama’s cousin Bud, who married a white woman, brings his daughter Suzella from New York City to stay with the Logans for a while, and when she tries to pass for white there are humiliating consequences. And their neighbor, Mrs. Lee Annie decides that she wants to register to vote but faces a lot of opposition, including that from her landlord. Finally, Stacey runs away to work in the cane fields of Louisiana. Can the Logans find out where he is? And will he return home?
Several people thought that Let the Circle Be Unbroken was better than Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. I read the latter and basically liked it. I didn’t care for the sequel quite as much. I didn’t think that the plot was as tight and focused. In addition to some common euphemisms (e.g., doggone, blasted), the “h” and “d” words are each used a couple of times, and the conversations seem filled with “Lord” this, “Lordy” that, and “Lord a mercy” as exclamations. The phrase “for God’s sake” also occurs. I did appreciate the fact that despite the frightening and turbulent times, the Logan family stands together and stands proud with courage, love, and understanding that enables them to face prejudice and mistreatment. The suffering of African-Americans in pre-civil rights times is a story worth telling, and Mildred Taylor tells it well. My biggest question concerns age-appropriateness. The book is recommended for ages 9-10 and up. First, I would think that the rather long chapters and some of the subject material might make it difficult to hold the attention of many nine and ten year olds. Second, there are some discussions that a lot of parents might not feel are appropriate for that age group.
For example, in talking about how white men have used black women, an incident is cited where a black man was messing with a white girl giving a description of the consequences—they “cut off his privates.” At age eleven, Cassie is worried about her flat chest. A teenage girl, Jacey Peters who has been the object of Stacey’s interest, is found to be with child out of wedlock by a white boy. And there is a somewhat lengthy confrontation which includes charges of a black man bedding down a white woman. For these reasons, I would not recommend the book for anyone under at least thirteen, perhaps even sixteen. By weaving history into the storyline, Taylor generally gives the reader a good feeling for the hardships of the Depression Era. Let the Circle Be Unbroken is the fourth book, chronologically, in a five-book series that is based on stories of her family that she heard while growing up. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry was written first. There are two “prequels,” The Land and Song of the Trees, and one additional sequel, The Road to Memphis.