(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

When Jericho Prescott and his friends are invited to join a prestigious school club, they are thrilled and honored, but what should be harmless fun quickly turns sinister. Jericho, Joshua, and Kofi are among fifteen high school boys invited to join an exclusive club called the Warriors of Distinction. The boys are eager to get involved, because club membership comes with popularity and privileges. First, the boys are asked to help with a holiday toy drive for children. The drive goes well, but shortly afterward, they each receive an ominous phone call inviting them to meet the Warriors at a warehouse at midnight.

Jericho decides to sneak out of the house to participate. From that point on, Jericho finds himself in morally ambiguous territory. He wants to be a Warrior, but he feels that some of the group’s activities are questionable. The pledges gather at midnight to take an oath of secrecy. One girl, Dana, secretly infiltrates the group, causing an uproar. The Warriors decide to let her continue pledging, because she has already witnessed too many of the club’s inner secrets, but the elder Warriors warn her that the road will not be easy. Eddie makes it his mission to humiliate Dana, hoping she will quit.

Pledge week begins. The pledges are made to wear matching shirts, run in circles, steal, and perform degrading tasks, such as eating earthworms and climbing into a filthy Dumpster. They are called “pledge slime,” beaten, threatened,...

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(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Bishop, Rudine Simms. Free Within Ourselves: The Development of African American Children’s Literature. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2007. History and analysis of the evolution of African American writing for children and young adults; covers developments from the oral culture of slave narratives through contemporary African American writers for young audiences, including Draper.

Draper, Sharon M. November Blues. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007. The companion novel to The Battle of Jericho; in the wake of the pledge stunt tragedy, Jericho, November, and their friends and family struggle to deal with Joshua’s death.

Ralston, Jennifer. “Anger Management and Violence in Society.” School Library Journal, October 1, 2003. Discusses prevalence of anger issues and violence among youth and suggests that books touching on these topics can help young people deal with them; discusses The Battle of Jericho as one example.