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Belle Teal book cover

Belle Teal by Ann M. Martin; Scholastic
Press:  New York, 2001; $15.95

Do you ever act differently around African Americans than you do around white people? Belle Teal did not think anyone would ever do such a thing, until segregation was reduced and, once more, schools began to integrate at Coker Creek. Belle Teal tells of the cruelty to people just because of their skin color.

Before I read this book I knew that people were often singled out, but I never realized that they would actually get hurt, or sent to jail, just because of their race. In Belle Teal many kids, and even parents, were extremely mean to the new kids at Coker Creek Elementary. When one of her friends started to taunt the new kids, Belle Teal got very upset. Her friend's father became the real problem, though. He is racist and prejudiced toward the children. His extreme racism finally came to a head when he began spreading lies and rumors. When Belle Teal found out that the stories were untrue, she became especially angry and decided she needed to do something to help. This story was about the struggle between right and wrong.

Belle Teal really made me think about how much it hurts people when you tease them or get them in trouble for something they didn't do. I have always thought and wondered, why do people treat their peers differently because of their race or religion? They are humans too.

In school you learn about the segregation laws and how life was in the 1950s, but Belle Teal truly makes you visualize how things were. I personally thought that this was a great book. In my opinion, it teaches you more about life in the 1950s than a teacher can explain to you. I would definitely read this book; it will make you see how African Americans really did feel in the past, and even, sometimes, in the present.

Belle Teal Hannah Lentz
Hannah Lentz, 11
Richmond, Virginia