Night on Fire

Night on Fire

Freedom Riders (1961 Anniston, Alabama)

  • Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Books of 2015
  • A Bank Street Book of the Year
  • Starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus Reviews
  • Paterson Prize (co-recipient)
  • Indiana Young Hoosier Book Award nomination 

Thirteen-year-old Billie Simms doesn’t think her hometown of Anniston, Alabama, should be segregated, but few of the town’s residents share her opinion. As equality spreads across the country and the Civil Rights Movement gathers momentum, Billie can’t help but feel stuck—and helpless—in a stubborn town too set in its ways to realize that the world is passing it by. So when Billie learns that the Freedom Riders, a group of peace activists riding interstate buses to protest segregation, will be traveling through Anniston on their way to Montgomery, she thinks that maybe change is finally coming and her quiet little town will shed itself of its antiquated views. 

But what starts as a series of angry grumbles soon turns to brutality as Anniston residents show just how deep their racism runs. The Freedom Riders will resume their ride to Montgomery, and Billie is now faced with a choice: stand idly by in silence or take a stand for what she believes in. Through her own decisions and actions and a few unlikely friendships, Billie is about to come to grips with the deep-seated prejudice of those she once thought she knew, and with her own inherent racism that she didn’t even know she had.

“Kidd writes with insight and restraint, creating a richly layered opus that hits every note to perfection.... Beautifully written and earnestly delivered, the novel rolls to an inexorable, stunning conclusion readers won’t soon forget.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“Lyrical and honest. In a year in which news events have made it clear that the civil rights movement is far from over, titles like Kidd’s have special resonance.... Billie’s internal thoughts about the two Annistons—the one she knows, and the one Jarmaine knows—seem in many ways a mirror to the present.”

Booklist (starred)

“In a powerful historical story that confronts uncomfortable truths about racism, Kidd (The Year of the Bomb) creates strong-willed, contemplative heroines while capturing period details and the energy of the civil rights movement. As Billie acknowledges the insidiousness of the prejudice within herself and her community and makes steps toward uprooting it, her transformation is painful and profound.”

Publishers Weekly