Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hyppolite (Seth and Samona) offers reassuring yet markedly simplistic solutions to racism and forced assimilation with this upbeat story about an African American girl's adjustment to an all-white community. Ola's parents think their children will have better opportunities if the family moves from Roxbury to a "cooperative community" in the historic, more affluent town of Walcott, but the nine-year-old has serious reservations. Her new home, which is almost identical to every other house on the block, is too large and quiet, and there are endless neighborhood rules about curfews, lawn care and even laundry (clotheslines are banned). At school, Ola, her older sister and her older brother are met with preconceptions and prejudice. After Ola's attempts to fit in fail, she decides that instead of changing herself, she must change what she does not like about Walcott. With the help of the mayor's daughter, she prevents a second "cookie-cutter" development like her own from being built in the town, and simultaneously wages a campaign to curb restrictions in her own neighborhood. Meanwhile, her sister and brother win a few of their own individual battles. At one gigantic block party, all the thorny conflicts in Ola's life are neatly pruned: she reunites with old friends, finds several new ones, helps her neighbors and makes her parents proud. Unfortunately, what promises to be a novel that grapples with complex issues wraps up too easily. Ages 9-up. (Feb.)
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6The sign on the front door of her new house reads, "Welcome to Your Cooperative Home"; however, Ola is determined to be as uncooperative as possible. Her family has moved to an all-white suburban neighborhood because of her father's job, and she and her brother and sister must adjust to being the only black students in their school. Despite the fact that her old house was crowded and in a crime-ridden neighborhood haunted by homeless people, it was familiar and she loved it. After several weeks in her new community, it finally dawns on the girl that her family is not going to move back to the city. That's when she devises "Operation Shake `Em Up," a plan that literally transforms her new neighborhood into a place she can call home. Ola's colorful character is sure to draw both sympathy and laughter through the clarity of her feelings and the hilarity of her shenanigans. Readers also get occasional glimpses of the family members' personal battles as they face racism and prejudice. A story that speaks directly to a contemporary audience.Tammy J. Marley, Charles County Public Library, La Plata, MD
Ola Benson isn't happy about her family's move from their urban black Boston neighborhood to a "cooperative community" in a white suburb. But Ola's a mover and a shaker-a trait soon recognized by the disgruntled senior citizens in her lifeless new neighborhood, who nominate Ola to organize the local kids to join them in stretching (and breaking) the community's more ridiculous rules. The final chapter presents a too-perfect, though satisfying, scene: an against-all-rules block party designed to re-create the liveliness of Ola's old neighborhood. The rosy conclusion is offset by the novel's realism, which includes Ola's sister's experience with a racist teacher and Ola's cold treatment by classmates despite her outgoing personality. A credible nine-year-old, Ola is resourceful but not relentlessly so-she initially gives up when she gets in trouble on her first attempt to break the neighborhood rules. Also believable is her slowness to recognize the similarities between her own situation and that of Lillian, the Haitian refugee her family has taken in. Realistic black-and-white illustrations accompany the story, which will attract readers with its undercurrent of humor and its trouble-making agitator-protagonist.
From the Publisher
"Hyppolite gives an old storymoving to a new townan unusual twist and a very appealing protagonist...A warmhearted look at a potentially explosive emotional situation, handled with grace and humor."
"A story that speaks directly to a contemporary audience."
School Library Journal
Read an Excerpt
"We really are the only black people in this neighborhood?" Aeisha always gets right to the point.
Khatib and Aeisha were quiet for a few seconds, and I moved down one step.
"And we're really gonna be the only black people at our schools?"
I moved down another step. We were all quiet now, and I knew what everybody was thinking. Living in Boston, you know that there are rules. Everybody lives in their own neighborhoods. Everybody goes to their own schools. People break those rules all the time, but if they do, they usually end up on the six o'clock news. Were we gonna get in any trouble for living here? I moved down another step until I was squeezed in tight between Dad and Mama.
"So we're the only black people in this town?" Khatib asked slowly. "How are people gonna feel about us?" An Excerpt from Ola Shakes It Up
Dad pulled the car back out into the street, and in a few seconds we pulled
into the driveway of another blue-and-white house. "Number seven-twenty-seven.
I stared out of the car window at the house. It made our house back in
Roxbury look like a beat-up old shed. This house had big, wide windows
instead of the small, tight windows in our old house. This house had a
tall, polished wood double door instead of a too-low single door with
peeling paint, like our old house. I felt like I was looking at a blown-up-to-life-size
version of those dollhouses we used to see in the store catalogs. Aeisha
had always wanted one of those dollhouses, but they were tooexpensive.
Then I looked at the other houses. They looked like dollhouses, too. In
fact, they all looked like exactly the same dollhouse. How was I going
to find my way home from school in this neighborhood? Even Dad didn't
know his own house.
"It's all wrong," I said. Khatib and Aeisha nodded with me. They put on
their most sorrowful expressions to show Mama, except that Khatib's expression
looked more like he was sick than upset.
Mama twisted her neck to look at us. "It'll look prettier in the spring,
when the grass gets back to being green and the trees fill out."
Ha, I thought. What about the humongous front lawn? It looked like it
was the size of Franklin Park. Who was gonna take care of it? Dad hated
doing yard work and Khatib was always at basketball practice. Who was
gonna shovel all the snow in the winter? Who was gonna rake the millions
of leaves that fell off those big trees? Not me.
"Come out, all you." Mama held the car door open for me. 'At least you
can have a look inside."
Khatib, Aeisha and I glanced at each other. I could tell they were wimping
out, 'cause neither of them looked me in the eye.
"Guess it wouldn't hurt." Khatib shrugged.
"We're already here," Aeisha pointed out.
"No way!" I whispered loudly.
The looked at each other again, and the next thing I knew they were climbing
all over me to get out of the car and running up the front lawn to the
From the Trade Paperback edition.