Book review: Bobby Lee Claremont and the Criminal Element, by Jeannie Mobley

Mobley, Jeannie. Bobby Lee Claremont and the Criminal Element. Holiday House, 2017. 229 pgs. $16.95. ISBN 9780823437818. Ages 8-12. P8Q8

Bobby Lee Claremont, age 13, decides to leave New Orleans after losing his mother to consumption and realizing that he has no future in that city. He embarks on a life of crime by robbing the poor box at the Sisters of Charitable Mercy Orphanage. He buys a train ticket to Chicago, since it looks like the best bet for a clever kid who wants to join a gang and cash in on the illegal alcohol business that prohibition created. His plans don’t quite work out though- he gets thrown in with some nasty gangsters on the train, and finds that the life of crime may not be for him. Together with two quick witted African American boys (the grandsons of a train employee), Bobby Lee gets to the bottom of a murder mystery. I really enjoyed this fast paced adventure, with its villains, believable characters, jazz musicians, and train culture. Bobby Lee learns a lot about the Jim Crow laws that were in place at the time, and comes to believe that segregation and racism are very wrong. The author’s note gives further information about Jim Crow laws, segregation on trains, and gangsters in the 1920s.

VERDICT: I think young readers will find this a fast and fun read. It could be used in the classroom to provide background in a history class as well.

January 2018 review by Carol Schramm.

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Book review: Searching for Silverheels

Mobley, Jeannie. Searching for Silverheels. McElderry. 2014. $16.99. 282p. 978-1-4814-0029-9. Ages 11-14: The issues of women’s rights, bigotry against Germans, and a bit of romance weave through the plot set in a small Colorado gold-mining town during World War I. Working in her mother’s café, 13-year-old Pearl is ideally situated to become embroiled in a story of a dancer who may have nursed people through a smallpox epidemic in the previous century or may have been less humanitarian. Pearl’s first-person voice strengthens her experience in a growing friendship with a grumpy old woman who has closer knowledge of the town’s past than anyone realizes. The girl’s crush on a visitor rings true, and her emotional growth provides an honest look at a girl entering adolescent. P7Q8 October/November 2014 review by Nel Ward.