Sources of Light

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
November/December 2010

By Margaret McMullan, Reviewed by Mara Cobb

Sources of Light book cover

Sources of Light, by Margaret McMullan;
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children:
New York, 2010; $16

Have you ever felt a little out of place in the world? Maybe you have felt like you didn’t belong, just like fourteen-year-old Sam (Samantha) feels in Sources of Light, by Margaret McMullan. Head back in time to the 1960s as you venture on a captivating journey through Sam’s world.

After Sam’s father dies, she and her mother move to Jackson, Mississippi. It was a bad place to be in 1962. Sam doesn’t like that her African-American housekeeper and her Indian friend, Ears, are treated so differently from her. Black people and white people aren’t allowed to sit at the same table at any restaurants! Black people have to shop at separate stores from white people. They even have to drink from a different water fountain!

Besides dealing with segregation, Sam has other problems to overcome. For one thing, Sam is extremely shy. Throughout the story, Sam has to learn to be more outgoing.

Another challenge that Sam deals with is that her mother is dating a man named Perry. He’s a photographer, and he gives Sam a camera of her own. With this camera, Sam catches some very important evidence. A fight breaks out in a fast-food restaurant because some black college students are sitting with some white college students. Sam snaps pictures of lots of people talking to the students. She takes photos of a mob bursting into the restaurant and beating all of the black students.

Just when Sam becomes more outgoing and starts to forget the whole mob scene, Perry is beaten. He starts to recover, but just a few days later, he dies.

A few days after Perry’s cruel death, Sam begins to learn to accept things in her life. She becomes much more outgoing and starts to make her own friends. Sam finally becomes comfortable in the changing world around her.

I am like Sam in a couple of ways. For a long time, I was as shy as Sam. Like Sam, I only let those who I knew best see that I was not really as shy as I seemed.

I, too, have a great love for taking pictures. I never took pictures of a mob scene like Sam did, though. I think that Sam believed that people can say what they want to, but a picture does not lie. It only captures the truth. I believe that as well. A photo is always the best evidence of something.

Although this is fiction, many of these events actually happened. This story helped me understand what happened around 1962. Every year in history class, I read about segregation and black people being treated differently from white people. I was always aware that things like this used to happen, but I had no idea that things like this happened in the 1960s! I was shocked to know these things went on just ten years before my parents were born! I don’t like that people were treated differently just because of their color. I am so glad that we don’t have to deal with much of that now! The author describes this in a way that shocks you as you turn each page.

I thought this was a great novel and fun to read. In fact, I could not stop reading this book! The day that I got it, I didn’t even go outside because then I couldn’t read! After school I ran to grab Sources of Light. Every chance I got, I would sneak off to read just one more page. I couldn’t wait to find out how the story would end!

Sources of Light Mara Cobb

Mara Cobb, 12
Dunmor, Kentucky

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