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Review of Unstoppable Octobia May

flake_unstoppable octobia mayUnstoppable Octobia May
by Sharon G. Flake
Intermediate, Middle School    Scholastic    281 pp.
9/14    978-0-545-60960-9    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-545-60961-6    $16.99

Unstoppable indeed is the dogged and imaginative protagonist of this fast-paced mystery novel set in 1953. Once narrator Octobia May gets an idea into her head, she follows it as far as it will take her, even if that means defying gender norms and racial prejudice. African American Octobia May has lived, for the past two years, with her auntie Shuma, an unmarried woman — and excellent role model — who owns a boardinghouse. The boardinghouse is populated by distinctive characters with their own struggles against racism and anti-Semitism. And then there is the mysterious Mr. Davenport, who never leaves his room during the day. Octobia May is convinced he’s a vampire, but no one will believe her — including readers, who will agree that it’s just her big imagination at work. The plot turns when Mr. Davenport reveals himself to be truly sinister, and Octobia May and her friend Jonah undertake an investigation to figure out what he’s really up to. It’s a page-turning read that never feels like a history lesson, even when the resolution is dependent on readers having grasped what they’ve learned from the story about racial politics; there are lots of twists and turns and dark humor. And the last page offers hope that we haven’t seen the last of Octobia May.

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Kathleen T. Horning About Kathleen T. Horning

Kathleen T. Horning is the director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, a library of the School of Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children’s Books and teaches a popular online course for ALSC on the history of the Newbery and Caldecott medals.

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