The Girl from Felony Bay

Abbey Force has had a rough time of it lately. Her father is in a coma and can’t defend himself against some fairly awful accusations. Her beautiful home, Reward Plantation in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, had to be sold to pay off her dad’s supposed debts. And Abbey had to move in with her horrible Uncle Charlie and his wife, Ruth.

But it’s not all bad…

Abbey soon meets the daughter of Reward Plantation’s new owner. Bee Force (no relation) is Abbey’s age, and their families have a connection that goes back to before the Civil War. It appears that Abbey’s ancestors kept Bee’s ancestors as slaves, and Bee’s family took on Force as their last name after the war was over. Even though their family stories could have driven a wedge between these two girls, instead it brings them closer together, and they soon become as close as sisters…and they’ll need that closeness to weather the storm that’s headed their way.

Abbey is determined to prove to everyone that her father is innocent, and Bee wants to help her new friend. It quickly becomes clear that the two girls are on to something, but what? Why are there “No trespassing” signs and big holes around Felony Bay? Why was this parcel of land sold separately from Reward Plantation? Why is Uncle Charlie so smug all of a sudden, and what does the Deputy Sheriff have to do with his new attitude? What’s the connection with Abbey’s dad and the accusations made against him? Can two twelve-year-old girls really prove that something sinister is going on?

Abbey and Bee are working to solve this mystery, and their investigation takes them all over Charleston and Reward Plantation. Danger abounds, and the girls eventually uncover a plot that dates back over a century. Can they reveal the truth before it’s too late? Or will all of their sleuthing make them the next target of whoever is trying to frame Abbey’s dad?

Join Abbey and Bee Force in their quest for the truth when you read The Girl from Felony Bay by J.E. Thompson, a nominee for the 15-16 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.


Hey, Charleston! The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band

Hey, Charleston!: The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band, written by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by Colin Bootman, is a nominee for the 2015-2016 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

An ideal book for studies of jazz music and South Carolina history, Hey, Charleston! introduces readers to Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins and his work with orphans in and around Charleston.

Reverend Jenkins saw that these children needed care and education, and, knowing that he would need money to meet those needs, he devised a plan to create the Jenkins Orphanage Band. He asked the community to donate instruments that had been gathering dust since the Civil War, and he and his boys polished and repaired them. Local musicians came in to give lessons, and the band was born.

The Jenkins Orphanage Band traveled through the U.S. (and even to England) raising money to care for even more kids. And they did. They also spread joy through music and did their part in creating what we know as ragtime and jazz music.

Hey, Charleston! is an important book for those interested in books on overcoming adversity. It demonstrates how hard work, kindness, and love for one another can create something truly great even in tough circumstances. I also think this book ties into music and South Carolina history standards at both the elementary and middle school levels. It is a powerful picture book that, at the very least, belongs in every South Carolina library.

The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis

For me, the best part of this book was the setting. The author mentions that Popeye lives in Fayette, South Carolina, somewhere between Anderson County and Simpsonville. Since I’ve lived in that area my entire life, I can tell you that there is no Fayette, but the author’s description of Popeye’s world leads me to believe that he might just live near a little place called Fork Shoals. (Since I’m the librarian at Fork Shoals School, I thought this was pretty cool.)

When my students read this book, I can imagine that they’ll identify with how and where Popeye lives. Elvis, however, will be an enigma. His nomadic family brought a bit of eccentricity into this book and livened up Popeye’s life considerably. (I can tell you from experience that there’s not a lot to do in rural South Carolina, so breaks from the norm are a little exciting.)

When the two boys go looking for adventure, they find little boats made of Yoo-Hoo cartons traveling down the local creek. Each boat has a message. As Popeye and Elvis try to figure out who is sending the messages and what they mean, they learn a little about each other and the world around them.

This is a fun, quick read that I think will appeal to all readers, but especially boys who would often rather roam outside than read a book. It gives them a sense of adventure without ever stepping outside.