In Mabel Singletary’s book The Young Conquerors Series, Leon’s Share, life for eleven year old Leon Chandler was living in the shadow of his older brother Derrick. Having lost their parents three years before in a car crash, the boys came to live with their grandparents, Pop and Nana. While Pop and Nana dotes on Derrick, Leon hides his insecurity behind humor. But Leon has a secret, one that he wishes to keep hidden from the rest of the world.
Leon’s Share is written in the first person narrative, which not only makes it an easy read but also enables readers to be 'empathically' transported into the narrator’s world. This was successfully achieved because the voice and tone the narrator are very much alive, audible, and consistent, thereby giving the main character a fleshy, realistic existence. One can feel his exuberance for life and can easily empathize with his insecurity, and fears.
Singletary’s expressive writing skills are further evident in the other characters of the story. Even though Leon commands the pages of the book (as the main character should), the other characters are also well developed, rounded, and three dimensional. Dialogue between the characters is believable and engaging; as are the setting and the scenes which are detailed and vivid - one could almost smell the sweet potato pie as it cools on the window sill in Nana’s kitchen!
As the story takes off and readers journey into Leon’s world of joke-telling which results in disrupting the class, one can see that the book holds Singletary’s 30+ years of experience as an educator, and it shows in the vividness and ease in which she tells the story. There’s no doubt that Leon’s Share should be used in elementary classrooms as it is appropriately written for kids to learn the lessons here about good social behavior among their peers, character building, and the importance of friendship. In Leon’s Share, there’s a lot for kids to be absorbed in and to sink their reading tentacles in; therefore, teachers can extract the lessons to be learnt through discussion and book reports. For example, one of the main topics for discussion could be: What lessons did Leon learn from his conflict with Autumn?
Also, there’s much to be learned from Mrs. Kelso (Leon’s teacher), who takes all the “commotion from yesterday and send it someplace faraway” so that Leon could start each morning as a brand new day! In this very small splice of paragraph, lies a very big lesson - that each day was an opportunity to do much better than the day before. It's a lesson in grace - Mrs. Kelso showing Leon grace, that unmerited favor which he does not really deserve but nevertheless she treats him as if yesterday did not happen, giving Leon a chance each day to do better.
As the book comes to a close, readers can especially appreciate the heart warming and endearing way in which Singletary brought the book to an end. It’s wrapped up in a series of actions but the most important is the change we see in Leon; a reformation almost - a reorganization of thinking and habits, giving way to a clearer thought process as he comes into an understanding of himself and his interaction with others around him.
Leon’s Share is an absolutely great read, and it’s the kind of book that kids will come back to over and over again and keep learning from it each time they read!
Don’t miss our interview with author Mabel Singletary - Click Here!