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Lyda Phillips

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Mr. Touchdown
by Lyda Phillips   

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Young Adult/Teen

Publisher:  iUniverse ISBN-10:  0595359000 Type: 


Copyright:  July 29, 2005

Barnes &
Mr. Touchdown

A racially charged story about the terrible obstacles faced by a star running back and his timid sister when they are chosen to help desegregate an all-white high school.

The roar came closer. Headlights turned the corner from the highway onto the street where Lakeesha and Nancy stood. They looked at each other and then turned in unison to look toward the headlights.
Nancy saw a long stick emerge from the window of the oncoming car. The engine roared, and the car leaped forward.
Nancy froze in space and time. Her mind floated somewhere just above her motionless body. "Broom handle," Nancy thought calmly, watching it move in exquisite slow motion toward Lakeesha. That second stretched out like a rubber band, hours long. A brilliant flash of light made Nancy duck and blink. Then the broom handle hit Lakeesha with an awful crack. Nancy heard it even over the growling car that sped toward her and the ugly shouting from inside it.
The stick disappeared inside the window. Another flash of light came from somewhere behind her. The car swerved. Nancy came back to life and jumped away as it shot past her…

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Reader Reviews for "Mr. Touchdown"

Reviewed by Floyd Orr 10/13/2006
Anyone who enjoyed the movie, Remember the Titans, will like Mr. Touchdown, a fictional account of the first black student's indoctrination into an all-white high school in Memphis in 1965 via the football team. A local minister makes the difficult decision to support the NAACP by volunteering his own kids to integrate Forrest High. Eddie Russell has been an unequivocal star athlete at his high school on the wrong side of town. This is the story of his rise to a similar occasion at his new school, one that is not too excited about his presence, even with its losing football team. Lyda Phillips proves that cheerleaders and Bob Dylan song lyrics complement each other in her debut novel for young adult readers.
Reviewed by m j hollingshead 5/30/2006
Mr. Touchdown offers the reader a peek into the turmoil facing many students, black and white, during 1965 as they face changes in their lives when the law demanded that the schools be desegregated. Athletes, straight a students none of that matters, everyone knows –they- are dirty, they cheat and they can’t compete with white students. Everyone knows –they- are bigots, hate everyone not white and have no compassion. Facing anger and outright hatred of many of the teaching staff as well as fellow students is something few of us can honestly say we have experienced. Integration forced black and white to look within themselves and find the commonality of humankind…. It was not always an easy struggle. Writer Phillips has well portrayed the struggle for black and white alike as they come to understanding of themselves, social mores of the time and change in society.

Read full review AuthorsDen : mj hollingshead as article Mr Touchdown
Reviewed by Susan Baronoff 2/6/2006
Star athlete Eddie, his sister, Lakeesha, and two other “Negro” students, hand-picked to enter an all-white high school, are swept into the very heart of the civil rights movement in Memphis, 1965.

Chosen to integrate Forrest High by the NAACP – and his father -- we follow high school junior, Eddie Russell, as he encounters the viciousness of certain white students – the coldness of others – and grapples with the sheer unfairness of leaving his friends and teammates to come to this hostile and dangerous environment. But we also follow Eddie into his own heart, as he struggles to, in his father’s words: “…look into the soul of your enemies and find in them something to love.”

The richness of this wonderful book, however, doesn’t arise simply from its depiction of Eddie and the other black students as they enter a strange new world; we also experience that world as old and familiar, through our other narrator -- popular, white, Forrest High cheerleader, Nancy Martin.

Nancy is smart and confident and just beginning to notice a few teeny, tiny fractures on the fault lines between her and her best friends. Her dreams are changing – expanding – catapulting her to New York and Paris, while theirs are still centered around getting married and settling down. But when it comes to the dreaded integration, Nancy hates the idea just as much as they do. At first, anyway. Because pretty soon, she can’t ignore the indignities and humiliations meted out to Eddie and the others. And when the attacks become physical… That’s got to be more wrong than integration… Doesn’t it?

It’s in the interplay of these two characters – solitary, stoical Eddie and impulsive, inquisitive Nancy, that the book becomes bigger and deeper and compellingly human.

Mr. Touchdown is a terrific read. Using vibrantly descriptive language, Lyda Phillips creates a living world of shop class and gym teachers, pep rallies and pompoms, and pulls us right into it. Middle-school students and even their older brothers and sisters will enjoy the breezy dialogue, fast-moving plot, and genuinely shocking twists and turns. Rooting her story of radical social change in the familiar routines of high school, the author gives us a book that never abandons its characters, and it succeeds as both social commentary and adolescent rite-of-passage.

It’s also a warm and big-hearted book that honors each of its central characters, without robbing them of their flaws and rough spots. It celebrates the unimaginable courage of Eddie and, by extension, all the boys and girls who made history as they dragged an entire nation into becoming better than it was. And it also acknowledges the decency and grit of the Nancy Martins who witnessed that history, first-hand. And played their own small role in it. And grew up to write it down for the rest of us.

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