Award-winning author Frances O’Roark Dowell’s latest book is a page-turner, but not in the traditional sense. The plot doesn’t race along at breakneck speed, nor is there a life-or-death mystery to be solved. There are no car chases or spies or evil villains. Readers of Dowell’s previous books will understand that the appeal of Trouble the Water is the author’s top-notch character building and storytelling prowess.
The town of Celeste, Kentucky, in 1953 is no hotbed of politics and civil rights. But to Callie, neither is it the worst place to live. The 11-year-old watches the black people live and prosper on her side of town and only quietly resents the new white school and the whites-only swimming pool. When the white boy Wendell comes to her side of town and wants to help her find the owner of a mysterious wandering dog, she figures that’s his business. Yet as their friendship blooms, tensions come to a boil.
Dowell has given us a true hero in the character of Callie, a girl just realizing what segregation means in her life. Understanding that she can’t change the world unless she’s willing to change herself first, Callie’s journey by way of a small mystery and meaningful friendship brings the past and present together in unexpected ways. The anticipation to see how Callie ends up in this turbulent time will keep you turning the pages, as promised.
Jennifer Bruer Kitchel is the librarian for a Pre-K through 8th level Catholic school.