When historical fiction is done right, it not only provides the hours of entertainment that a good story can offer, it provides insights and information about times past. The New Hope Library has recently added several new great historical fiction books to our collection. The Liberation of Gabriel King by K. L. Going is one of Mrs. Carter’s new favorites.
It’s the summer of 1976. Former Georgia governor, Jimmy Carter, is running for president. Gas prices are high and the country is in a recession where money is extremely tight. It’s also the year of the nation’s bicentennial, and the year Gabe has decided that he will not become a fifth grader in then fall. You see, Gabriel King is afraid of almost everything — spiders, cows, centipedes, and almost everything to do with fifth grade. Everything to do with fifth grade, EXCEPT his best friend, Frita Wilson, that is.
Nobody can make Gabe move up to fifth grade, well, except possibly Frita. Frita has determined that while some people were “born chicken,” Gabe is not one of those people. According to Frita, all Gabe needs is a little “liberating”, and she is just the one to help free Gabe from his fears. Gabe has to agree because he believes Frita is fearless and she has a plan. Frita asks Gabe to list of all of his fears (all 38 of them), and they will attack those fears one by one throughout the summer. Once Gabe has faced all of his fears, he will have the courage to face fifth grade.
Things don’t go quite as planned, however. Gabe learns that Frita is not fearless after all, and Frita’s fears involve people who hate her for the color of her skin. Can Gabe help Frita overcome her fears even though he is so frightened of everything himself?
The Liberation of Gabriel King by K. L. Going is a terrific read and I highly recommend it for grades four and up. It’s a thin little book (only 151 pages) and moves at a fast pace. Readers should be aware that true to the times and events depicted, there is some racist language that may make the book inappropriate for younger readers. Told in first person from Gabe’s point of view, the story is at times laugh out loud funny as Gabe desperately tries to overcome his own fears. When he becomes frightened for his best friend, however, Gabe’s voice becomes much more serious. Will Gabe find the courage to help Frita? Check out The Liberation of Gabriel King today and discover the answer for yourself.