An Award-Winning Middle Grade Novel Inspired by the True Events Leading Up to the 1919 Chicago Race Riots
Some people think there’s a line, and if everybody stays on their side of the line, then we’ll all get along just fine.
That’s what Billy’s da told him, back before he joined up in the Great War. Da said that sometimes, to do what’s right, you gotta cross that line.
Course, that was before the war ended and Billy’s da came home with shell shock. Now it’s up to Billy to be man of the house, to take care of his ma and sisters and work at the docks when he can. He ain’t no coward, and he don’t complain, not even when money troubles mean he has to change schools. It’s hard times for all the Irish—maybe even for all of Chicago.
And it gets harder when Billy becomes friends with Foster, a black boy who loves baseball and whose daddy went to war, too. What seems like just horsing around to them—building a raft, spending time in their secret hideout by the creek—stirs up trouble when the rest of the city gets wind of it.
Soon, the boys’ friendship has triggered a series of events that will change both their lives forever. And with racial tensions in the city coming to a head, Billy must decide once and for all what it means to be courageous, to be a friend, and to truly cross the line.
“Readers of all ages will be pulled into this strong, warm, and important coming-of-age story, seen through the eyes of an innocent boy trying to make sense of a racially violent world around him. Blending honesty and humor with history isn't easy, but Bibi Belford has hit all her marks with courage and conviction.” —Randall Platt, author of Incommunicado and The Girl Who Wouldn't Die
“‘We have stories to tell,’ Bibi Belford writes in this powerful novel, ‘if we are brave to tell them.’ And I’m so glad to have read this brave story. Crossing the Line tackles tough issues that didn't make sense in Billy's lifetime, and that don't make sense now—and his journey is infused with hope that even the smallest among us can be a catalyst for big change.” —Beth Vrabel, author of Pack of Dorks and A Blind Guide to Stinkville
“A heart-wrenching, heart-pounding read, set almost a hundred years ago but with themes that still resonate strongly today. The characters are unforgettable, and loyal even as their friendship is tested. A story that will leave you thinking about how you can cross the line.” —Lisa Ann Scott, author of Back on the Map and School of Charm
"A timely novel . . . Belford deftly walks her own line.” —The Historical Novels Review
"There’s no easy way to solve the problem [of racism] but a start might be to require every fifth grader to read this book. It’s that powerful." —Always in the Middle
“Gritty and real and honest in a way that's still okay for younger readers . . . this is a book that [every pre-teen needs] to read. Honestly, I would say that this is a book that everyone needs to read at some point or another. It's definitely far and away one of the best books I've read this year.” —I Read Till Dawn
“A powerful story of friendship and the cost that can come with doing the right thing . . . Crossing the Line is an excellent read!” —Compass Book Ratings