Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Review: An Unspeakable Crime

An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank by Elaine Marie Alphin. (Grades 8+) Carolrhoda Books, March 2010.

In 1913, thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan went by the pencil factory where she worked to pick up her paycheck. She didn't make it out alive. Police searched for clues as to who had beaten and raped her, at first suspecting the African-American watchman. Eventually they arrested and prosecuted Leo Frank, the factory's Jewish superintendent. Leo Frank was lynched... for a crime he may not have committed.

The lynching of Leo Frank brings to light the anti-Semitism of the time. I think there's a lot written about racism concerning blacks in America, but less written about racism against other groups, so it's great that something like this is being published.

It's a fascinating case, certainly, and the book is painstakingly researched. It includes photos and newspaper headlines from the time. It's obvious that Ms. Alphin put in a lot of work on this book. To be honest, it was almost too detailed for me and I have to admit that I skimmed a lot of it.

The book contains a heck of a lot of information - a timeline, a list of major players in the case, a glossary of legal terms, an index, an author's note, and suggestions for further reading are all included. I'd try it on teens who love true crime stories.

Read more reviews at A Patchwork of Books, The Boy Reader, and Great K to 8th Books. And check out this interview with Elaine Marie Alphin in SLJ.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Head on over to The Miss Rumphius Effect for this week's roundup.