Glory's biggest concern in that hot and humid summer of 1964 should have been planning her 12th birthday party, held every year at the Hanging Moss Community Pool, but more than just the weather is heating up in Hanging Moss. "Freedom Workers" have come to town. They're opening up a health clinic, befriending the town's Negroes, encouraging them to advance the work of the civil rights movement in the South.
Quite unwittingly, Glory has made friends with Laura, a "freedom worker's" daughter - a Yankee, about as welcome in Hanging Moss as a mosquito at a picnic. This causes no problem in Glory's house. Reverend Hemphill of the First Fellowship United Church bears no ill will toward the Northerners, nor does Glory's sister, Jesslyn, or their housekeeper; in fact, they're sympathetic to the cause - but others are not so understanding. The very fabric of the town begins to fray as the Town Council and the newspaper go up against the Hemphill family and Miss Bloom, the librarian. Neighbors take sides in a battle that is waged not in the streets, but in the newspaper, in the signage at the Community Pool, and in that most communal and equalizing of locations, the Public Library.
Glory Be encapsulates the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s into one small town's fight to maintain its segregated community swimming pool,
"I don't think the Pool Committee's worried about your birthday" was all Jesslyn said.
Here I was, sure that one little part of this town had changed. That maybe people like Frankie's daddy finally got together to decide opening the pool up for everybody, just in time for a Fourth of July celebration, was the kind of thing you should do on our country's birthday. But I was wrong. My thinking was all mixed up.
"A lot of things are different this summer, Glory," Jesslyn said, the corners of her mouth turned down like maybe she wished it was last summer. "Including your friend."
When I peered through those hard metal fence links at the bluest, cleanest water, I was so mad I wanted to spit. I vowed never to speak to that hateful Frankfurter Smith if I lived to be a hundred.
Thankfully, my childhood activities at the public pool were more in line with those of Greg Heffley in Jeff Kinney's Dog Days, than those of Gloriana June Hemphill's in the fictional 1964 town of Hanging Moss, Mississippi. Glory Be is a timely reminder that change does not come easily, that having truth or righteousness on your side does not make things easier, that it is easier to do what comes easily than what is right.
Sometimes, a girl, a family, a town, even a whole generation must sacrifice to make a better future. Readers will enjoy Glory's down-to-earth qualities. She's not a larger-than-life hero, she's a diminutive slice of life itself.
Librarians will appreciate the prominent role that author and former librarian, Augusta Scattergood, gives to the public library.