“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Morning in a Different Place • Young adult fiction

Morning in a Different Place
by Mary Ann McGuigan
Just out! February 2009 • Front Street Books/an imprint of Boyds Mills Press, Inc. • Young adult fiction
A National Book Award finalist’s latest novel renders a time of change.

Why does this friendship get everyone so upset? Because Fiona is white and Yolanda is black and in the Bronx in the 1960s, that's not the way it's supposed to be.

Story: Mary Ann McGuigan’s novel Where You Belong was named a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (1997). Now McGuigan brings her talent for emotional authenticity to its stand-alone sequel to follow best friends Fiona, the daughter of Irish immigrants, and Yolanda, an African-American girl, into eighth grade—and a world forever changed.
In 1963, with social upheaval all around her, Fiona faces her own moral crossroads. Her family’s escape from her abusive, alcoholic father turns out to be as fleeting as his sobriety. At school in the Bronx, the popular girls ignore Fiona. But soon her friendship with David, a boy they like, grants her invitations to parties and a chance to be part of the in crowd. Though desperate for acceptance, Fiona doesn’t want to lose Yolanda’s friendship in the process. Yet the popular girls are not about to include a “negro” in their circle. Despite the challenge to their friendship, Yolanda urges Fiona to follow the example of the courage of the Civil Rights leaders, who stood up to fire hoses and police dogs, and put a stop to her father’s abuse once and for all. Set during the Civil Rights movement, in the final weeks before the assassination of JFK, Morning in a Different Place renders a time of change.

Story behind the story: Mary Ann McGuigan notes that “in the first book, Fiona and Yolanda bond in an urgent and intense way. They become each other’s safe harbor. In Morning in a Different Place, I wanted to take a closer look at those pressures—not only the pressures from family and friends and society but also the pressures from within the relationship itself. Fiona and Yolanda get tripped up by their own insecurity and need to belong. I wanted to see whether they could navigate those stormy waters without losing their way.” About students' reactions to her work, the author adds: "Students who talked to me about the book fully understood what I was saying in it. They were able to articulate Fiona's anguish in terms of their own daily lives. The anguish is not in the past for them. They face it every day."

“McGuigan is as adept at evoking the class consciousness and racial politics of '60s New York as she is the horrors of adolescence, including insecurity and helplessness. With the twin evils of domestic violence and President Kennedy's assassination looming in the background, the author's portrait of the chameleonic nature of teenage girls builds aggressively to a powerful finale.”—Kirkus Reviews

“The stage is set for a classic moral battle, but the results are never didactic. McGuigan’s writing is spare and low-key, and her metaphors are acute…. History buffs will appreciate the visceral reminder of how much Kennedy’s beliefs meant to the black community, and how devastating was his death.”


Hear the author speak about and read from the book.

Have racial tensions all gone away? Is race an issue anymore in our friendships? In our schools? In our elections? How is your students' world different from Fiona and Yolanda's? Mary Ann McGuigan is available for video chats and phone visits (and, if she can steal away from her day job in publishing, in person) with classes and book groups, with teachers and librarians. To schedule a time for her to visit with yours, contact the author directly.

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please check back and click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.


Anonymous said...

I just finished reading Morning in a Different Place and was surprised that the author included some language that I don't believe was appropriate in the 1960's. The story is about a friendship strained by the fact that one person is white and the other is black. The story also focuses on the alcoholic abuse incurred by one of the parents. Other than that, the book is pretty basic. In a day where students are computer savvy and books on abound with wizardry and vampires, I predict this book to be a hard sell to students. I look forward to setting it out and getting some feedback from students.

Picnic Rating: 2.5

Julia Pitau
Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

dmuldawer said...

Morning in a Different Place subtly addresses racial tensions, social status, and dysfunctional families through the eyes of two girls: one black, one white.

In some ways, it reminded me of the movie THE COLOR OF FRIENDSHIP. Although race is a central issue, the friendship transcends race, and it is refreshing not to be bombarded with speeches and historical references that turn a story into a lecture. It is also refreshing that specific ethnicities and religions are mentioned. In short, McGuigan does a fine job in walking the thin line between exploring issues and overexposing them.

This is probably not a book children would choose to read for themselves, but children are often reluctant to read "good literature" because books like this one require more thinking than many bestsellers.

I would definitely recommend having this book in school and classroom libraries where it can be used as a tool to explore cultural, ethnic, and racial differences, as well as themes such as a need for acceptance, popularity, stability, and the influence of family and friends.

Picnic Basket Rating: 4

ahslibrarian said...

Mary Ann McGuigan’s “Morning in a Different Place” may be one of the most important books that will never be widely read by those who need it most. Set in the Kennedy presidency, it describes the relationship of two girls- one black, one white- and their families. But it is more than a story in a critical period of our nation’s history; it is a story about race, families, and struggle that is timeless, and that is important.

People who grew up in the sixties may not have realized that the situation experienced by Yolanda and Fiona even existed. Family violence and racial concerns were often matters discussed behind closed doors. The idealistic families of the fifties were still prevalent in the sixties. Even well intentioned middle class working families conspired to keep socially embarrassing events secret.

Yet, the Kennedy administration offered new hope for families that transcended racial and social lines. Those lines spread from Appalachia to the largest urban centers and beyond. People had hope.

Hope disappeared for many people on November 22, 1963 and the next day automatically became different.

Middle school and high school students will understand the book. Their teachers, parents and grandparents also need to read it and talk about with them. The book is a great candidate for an entire community to read and discuss. It is a superb social commentary on the times that profoundly influenced a nation.

5 of 5

John Parker
Media Coordinator
Andrews High School
50 HS Drive
Andrews, NC 28901


Sandra Stiles said...

Moning in a Different Place shows students today what it was really like in the 1960's. I have some students that will definately enjoy this book. I don't think it will be a strong contender on my shelf the way I would like it to be. I really enjoyed it and will do my best to promote it to my students. I give this book a 4

jackie purificato said...

I just finished Morning in a Different Place, and wished that I had read the first book before reading this one. I don't think you necesarily had to read the first book before reading this one, but it may have helped.
I thought the book did a nice job describing the prejudice experienced in the 1960's. I enjoyed the conflict that Fiona had regarding her friendship with Yolanda and the other girls in her class. I enjoyed the character of Yolanda and the fact that she new where she was going in life.
Students would need some background knowledge to get through the book. They would not have the connections that I had reading the book. It would be a good book to add to a collection of civil rights books as a choice for students to read.
This book was a very easy book to read. I would offer it to my middle school students as a good read.
Picnic rating:4

Pamela Kramer said...

Unlike some books, this one became more engrossing the more I read. The book starts out slowly, the tension between Yolanda and Fiona, and Fiona and her father, building gradually. As in many books about teens, Fiona has to choose between the "cool" girls and her true friend. She also has to choose between helplessness and taking action--an even more difficult proposition.

I would recommend this book for students who are interested in this time period, although I think there are other books that deal with certain subject like racism better. This book should be enjoyed for the conflict between girls and Fiona's inner conflict.
I would rate this a 4 out of 5.

Pamela Kramer
Reading Teacher
Highland Park

EShay said...

Morning in a Different Place was an interesting read with its 1960s setting and common issues of the time. I am not sure today's students can relate to it entirely. I work in a diverse community and most of my students tell me often how they don't feel the race issues described in this book. Therefore, I feel they might not feel the realism of the book.
The ending was positive and made me glad, but it seemed a bit contrived. Happy endings out of tragedy are too common and students demand more.
The alcoholic father might hit a bit close to home for some students. I thought it was an accurate portrayal, but extremely sad. I was glad he was sent packing!
I felt for Fiona and was glad she finally stood up for people by the end. If students can see the book as a call to action, the book will be well served.

I give it a 3.

Lemon the Duck said...

"Morning in a Different Place" portrayed an important time in history but also brings up relevant issues of today.

The issue of race and dysfunctional families was evident, but what I felt was the most compelling issues of the book were the difficulties of finding your way, trying finding out who you really are, and deciding what you believe in and can live with. The story shows how one seemingly small choice can alter one's life-path.

The story itself started off slowly and the end seemed to have all of the conflicts reletively zipped up at the end. I still feel the characters, their relationships, and their conflicts have a lot to offer the reader.

I don't think this book is one the average reader would pick up but it could be an important part of a middle schooler's guided reading group or literature requirement. The discussions that blossom from the story are relevant and worth discussing.
I rate this book a 4 out of 5.

Laura Backman
Reading Specialist
Author of "Lemon the Duck"
Melville School

Anonymous said...

Morning Somewhere Else was a great book. It was intense, about having Irish and Black girls hanging out together like they are sisters. Their relationship was stronger than family and you couldn't break them apart no matter what.

I could read this book over and over. The way she stood up for her family and could still go to school. I really liked that.

-- Timmia, seventh grader

Jennifer Garnier, Library Support Specialist said...

The author does an excellent job developing the relationship between two young girls who are from different racial ethnicities.
This relationship between Fiona and Yolanda which was full of racial tension would have been typical of the 1960?s and still very much prevalent today. I believe that the students in my middle school would be able to easily relate to the moral conflicts in this book. I would recommend this book to my students.

Jennifer Garnier, Library Support Specialist Eastern Passage Education Centre Nova Scotia, Canada

loonyhiker said...

I would definitely give this book a rating of 5.

This book takes place during the 1960s and focuses on two friends of different races. Each girl has her own problems and their friendship gives them strength to face their problems and make their friendship even stronger. Since I grew up during these times as the only Chinese girl in my school, this book really hit home. Yet, I think the feelings in this book of friendship, racism, abuse, dysfunctional families, tolerance, and acceptance knows no time boundaries. I think middle school and high school students will be able to relate to the events that take place in this book and will encourage open discussion about these topics. This would be a great book to anchor a unit around and have students complete projects about the main topics from the book. This could be used use in teaching subjects such as reading, writing, history, social skills, and character education.
Pat Hensley
Successful Teaching
Greenville, South Carolina

cupcake said...

Picnic Rating: 3.5

I wanted to love this book more than I did. There are some wonderful aspects to it - there is some historical context, a main character to whom teenagers should relate, interesting supporting characters, and a good story. But in the end, it earns a kind of "above the below but below the upper" rating from me.

I think the biggest problem I had was that it felt incomplete. It is a thin book, and I believe it would benefit from more story bulk. For instance, when the father and mother have reunited and are in the kitchen, she rebuffs his attempt at affection. He appeared to be doing what the mother wanted, but she rejects him and then the subject is sort of dropped. It would help to have the mother discuss this with Fiona, who surely is as confused as we readers.

The ending is way too neat. It seems like Fiona has an epiphany one day and rises to overcome her shortcomings. For all of the angst and torture that surely surrounded her friendship with Yolanda and her relationship with her father, she certainly rises to the occasion quite readily.

I liked it, I've got it in my classroom library, but I think this could have been a better book.

High School English Teacher /
Yearbook Advisor
North Carolina

Tilda Sumerel, Franklin County Alabama School System said...

This book definitely has many topics to use in teen discussions and for writing assignments. It would be a great book to use in conjunction with a study of the social and political issues of the 1960’s. I believe Fiona really learned a lot by observing the more mature behavior of her friend Yolanda. Even though both girls are experiencing a rough life, Yolanda seems to be overcoming difficulties which spurs Fiona to take action to try and help her mother get the family out of an abusive situation. Yolanda forces her friend to make a choice between being her friend and being friends with other girls who seem to be using her and are not really her friends. This would be a good story for students to write another chapter to explain what happens next in the girls’ lives. It would also be good for students to research the political events of the time period including the events surrounding the death of President Kennedy. I would recommend this book for social studies classes or for use by counselors in the high school grades.

Tilda Sumerel
Franklin County Alabama School System

Susan Appleton said...

"Morning In A Different Place," was a really interesting book that demonstrated the issues of racism in the 1960's and also a vivid example of the problems of a dysfunctional family. It started out a little slow at first and I had a hard time getting into it, but once I got about 1/5 of the way into it, I found that I couldn't put it down. One of my students read it and asked me a lot of questions about racism and prejudice and the presence of it still in today's society. A few other students tried to read it, but lost interest before finishing it, so I think that it suited more towards students who are at the point in their reading comprehension to analyze and synthesize information and question the relevancy of the issues in the book in relation to their own lives today. I would rank it a 4 out of 5 and suggest that maybe it would be more effective to use in a reading group so that the teacher could promote more discussion and provide background information before and during the reading of the novel. Good book!

Kathy said...

Morning in a Different Place was a super read. Excellant insight into the 1960s and the conflicts of that time period. I enjoyed the two characters of Yolando and Fiona and their strong friendship. Even though I have many connections to the book, I'm not sure my students would. They are growing up in a completely different time and place and do not see the prejudice that we saw in the 60's. The author accurately described our feeligs on November 22, 1963, and our wonder of what tomorrow would be like.

Picnic Rating: 3

Kathy J. Johnson
4th Grade Classroom
Williamsburg Elementary
Williamksburg, MO

Linda said...

Since I grew up in the 60s, this book acted as a trip back to the past. The author correctly identified the mood, relationships, and life of this era. I am not sure if the students will be able to relate to the story. There seems to be too much going on--alcoholism, racism, abuse, besides growing up as an adolescent.

Anonymous said...

I would rate this book a 4.

This was a book with a lot of different elements in it. There is a strained relationship because of color, the fear of an alcoholic father, the unknownness of where you will sleep the next night and how to fit into the "in" crowd.
With all that going on, I felt that I would have gotten lost but it turned out great. I liked the story but was a little diappointed with the ending. It left things undone. But maybe that is what the author wanted to have us thinking. How will this family manage now?
I teach grade 5. I am putting this on my bookshelf for sure and am interested in what my students will say.

wordwarrior said...

"Morning in a Different Place" is a interesting look at racial tensions in the 1960's. The story has a strong voice with excellent descriptive literary sections. However, it read more conversational driven than plot driven. I am not certain that many students would choose to read this book on thier own. It would be one that needs encouragement. I personally wished that the author would have delved into one aspect of the book more and explored it rather than covering racial tensions,peer pressure, alcoholism, and family abuse all so superficially. I rate this book a 3.

Anonymous said...

While this book brings up important issues and an interesting time in American history, it doesn't do it very well. The author's storytelling feels a lot like telling without a lot of showing. There wasn't much to emotionally connect me to the characters and the ending is hard to buy.
Rating: 3
Children's Librarian

Lindsay said...

This was really tough to get through at times. It wasn't a hard read but the content and subject matter were tough.

Substance abuse, racial issues, and other controversial topics like guns, abortion, and drugs all make this book "heavy on the mind."

I think the premise, an interracial friendship in the '60s and the strain and hardship of substance abuse are very real topics - even today. Some students would really identify with this novel and the struggles that Fiona and Yolanda face.

I would direct this novel to 8th grade and up, some of the subject matter would be a little dicey for younger students.

Overall I liked the novel, and I certainly felt the struggles right along with the main characters.

Picnic Basket Rating: 4 out of 5

Lindsay Horne
6th Grade Teacher
New Kent Middle School
New Kent, VA

Catherine said...

I recently finished Morning in a Different Place. It was an interesting story that some of my student may be able to relate to. I will have to try it as a read-aloud to see what their reaction is. However, most of my students would have a difficult time relating to the race issues. They would relate very well to the tough home life, problems with drugs, and alcoholism. This is too much of a reality for them. This is not a book that they would choose on their own and would require a lot of encouragement for me to get them to read.

I would give it a 3.5

Catherine Yezak, Special Ed Teacher, Marquette, Michigan

Joanna Pourciau said...

"Morning in a Different Place" is a story about the struggles of two young girls. The story takes place in the 1960's, Fiona is white and Yolanda is black. This book addresses many of the issues young teens face today, social status, alcohol abuse, dysfunctional families, and racial tensions. I enjoyed the book and think that many teens will be able to relate to the characters in the story. I will do my best to encourage my students to read this book and look forward to hearing their thoughts and feelings about the book. I give this book a 4 out of 5.

Anonymous said...

From Anonymous

I applaud Mary Ann McGuigan for a wonderfully written book. She covers many issues society was experiencing in the 1960's, focusing mostly on racism as well as dysfunctional families due to alcoholism and abuse.

Yolanda and Fiona (one black and the other white) formed a friendship, although sometimes challenged, despite the struggles of racism.

I will recommend this book to students who love historical fiction and those seeking a change from the fantasy genre.

4 out of 5!

Kelsey said...

I enjoyed Morning in A Different Place. The book includes some big ideas and issues that can still be realted to the lives of our students.

My seventh grade students, on the other hand, have been a difficult sell on this one. I have had a tough time getting students interested in the book.

I would rank the book 3 out of 5. I enjoyed the book, but I feel that there could have some things changed to grab the interest of young adult readers.

Kelsey B
Seventh grade English teacher

Ms. McFarland said...

I had some difficulty getting into Morning in a Different Place. However, once I got a little further into it, it grabbed my interest and I found it a very insightful read. For those students who have not experienced racial tension, this story will offer great talking points in a guided reading group.

Picnic Rating 4.0

Rhonda McFarland
3rd Grade Teacher
Gates Elementary
Aurora, IL

ESnover said...

As an adult who was raised Catholic, I found much to identify with in this book. However, its intended audience of modern day middle school students is going to miss much of the power of the book which lies in both the culture of Catholicism and in 1960's racial tensions. Thematically, there is much to identify with: the culture of silence and guilt, conflicts between parents and adolescents, and the coming-of-age story of a girl who would rather believe the lies she tells herself rather than face up to ugly realities in her life.
I don't think this book will get the attention it deserves from its intended audience.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Eileen Snover
South Mountain MS
Grades 6-8

L. Neilson said...

I enjoyed Morning in a Different Place, but it wasn't a page turner for me. I felt like it grazed across the two main issues in the book, racial tension in the 1960's and abuse in the home. Neither seemed dealt with in an urgent manner, which was dissapointing.

I will recommend it to my students, but most likely it won't be selected all that often.

I'd give it a 3 out of 5.

Natalie, teacher (Philadelphia, PA) said...

Morning in a Different Place is a story of race and friendship. It takes place in the 1960s. I really feel that a book like this belongs in a classroom where discussions can be lead regarding the different issues at hand. As a teacher I found so many "teachable moments" in the book. I'm not sure that a student would pick up this book on his/her own. This book ends happily which is so great because most of the book is sad. I rate this book a 3.

Anonymous said...

This was an interesting book to read. I think the subject matter is definitely to mature for my 4th graders. I would recommmend for late middle schoolers.

A. Hunt said...

I really wanted to like and enjoy "Morning in a Different Place" but to be honest it felt a bit flat. I loved the use of the time and setting, but the characters were lacking in depth.

Like some of the other reviewers, I look forward to getting my 8th graders' feedback on the book.

2.5 - 3 out of 5

A. Hunt
Middle School Language Arts
Fort Walton Beach, FL

The Black Family said...

This book addresses some important issues prevelant during the 1960s and some still today, such as racial tension, alchohol abuse, abusive parents, the haves vs. the have nots. However, it was not a book that I had to get through. It is relatively short, but I found myself going to other things when I felt like reading. It just doesn't have the draw that I would like to see from a book covering such touchy issues. The connection between Yolanda and Fiona seems a bit forced. I would have liked some more background on their friendship and more relationship building.

2 out of 5

Lindsey B.
Title I teacher, Utah

Anonymous said...

As is suggested in the information about this book in the blog post, this book is for young adults; the book’s publisher recommends it for readers aged 14-17. I agree with the publisher and wouldn’t recommend it to younger readers.

The one thing that comes to my mind when I think about this book is metacognition. The author has thought about the thinking of a white, middle-school aged girl in the Bronx in the early 1960’s. The protagonist tells the story in the first person, and is very good at expressing what she is thinking and feeling. I’m not sure how realistic her thoughts would be, coming from a girl in the eighth grade; her thoughts seem confident, mature and clear, and I’m not so sure thoughts of a pubescent girl would be so sophisticated except they were instantly captured in writing, like in this book. But then again, I haven’t been around middle-school aged thinking in a long time, and I could be wrong.

I enjoy the references to historical/contemporary social movements and groups, and to historical figures, as they are great catalysts to get students researching and learning. Also, I think this book may be useful in helping to get readers engaged in metacognitive writing. If not that, it is at least a great discussion piece, like literature, and would certainly provoke some great and difficult classroom discussions.

Personally, I really enjoyed the emphasis placed on the friendship between the two main characters; I like the loyalty that is portrayed between them. I also enjoy the portrayal of the protagonist taking risks based on sound advice or conversations she had in her closest relationships, and then seeing those risks bear positive fruit.

Overall, I would give Morning in a Different Place a Picnic Basket rating of 3. Although I really enjoyed the book, because of its serious nature, I wouldn’t plan a picnic around it. In the right company and with certain people, or with a forewarning, I could discuss it and be entertained by it, but it’s not a sunny afternoon picnic topic for everyone.

Sarah Oyerinde
Marion, Indiana

Mary said...

I had trouble getting in to this book, but I am glad that it was finally able to grab my attention. I like the way that it exposes students to a different time and mindset of our history. I don't think that it is appropriate for the elementary age that I teach, but will have it available for older students to read.

Mandy said...

I had a hard time reading Morning in a Different Place. I don't think I could find a connection to the book and it made the reading difficult. It is not a book that I could put out for my 5th graders to read, but I could see upper middle school students and high school students showing an interest in it.

2 of 5

Anonymous said...

ALthough I enjoyed this book, I feel loke the topics in it are for middle grade or beyond. It was sad for me to read, living in an area where differences are not enjoyed and celebrated. People reading this book will see what it was like during the time of racism and get a feel for the it. Also, the other topics such as alcoholism and violence need to be discussed as you read.
Overall it was a decent, if not sad book.

Martine Battista said...

I love history and the Sixties were an exciting time, yet I still had difficulty getting onto this story. It never grabbed me in a way which compelled me to keep reading. This is a book I could probably get my "readers" to checkout, but I don't see the average middle schooler giving it much interest. I give it a 3.