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Reviews and Testimonials

Interview of Blackwater Novels' Author

Interview of Blackwater Novels' Author, Allen Johnson Jr., by John Seigenthaler, host of NPT's A Word on Words, Publisher of The Tennessean, and Editor of USA Today.

A Review for My Brother's Story

My Brother’s Story is an adventure tale that immediately grabs readers’ attention through suspense and a compelling plot. The ending is somewhat predictable, but the plot twists along the way will keep readers engaged. VERDICT: A work of historical fiction for fans of Huck Finn. Readers will find themselves cheering for the brothers in this triumphant story.”

— School Library Journal

A Review for The Blackwater Novels

The first of the Blackwater series by Allen Johnson Jr., “My Brother’s Story” is the story of identical twins Johnny and Will who are orphaned and separated as toddlers. Johnny is adopted by an abusive aunt in the country near Birmingham, Alabama. When he grows into boyhood, Johnny runs away and is sheltered by Linc, a reclusive black man who lives deep in the Blackwater Swamp. An engaging and entertaining novel for young readers, “My Brother’s Story” is enhanced with occasional black-wand-white illustrations and is an ideal read for middle-grade readers or anyone that can enjoy a boyish spirit and adventure. Very highly recommended for school and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that “My Brother’s Story” is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).

“The Dead House” is the second book in the Blackwater series by Allen Johnson Jr. It’s the story of Rad Fox, a boy who lives with his widowed who is visiting, discovering an evil presence at the old Granger House. The twins, Will and Johnny, come to visit Linc, and Johnny gets deathly ill. In this multi-layered mystery, once again Linc shows the value of his skills in the Blackwater Swamp. A deftly crafted entertainment enhanced with the occasional inclusion of black-and-white illustrations, “The Dead House” is a compelling novel that will hold the rapt attention of young readers from beginning to end, “The Dead House” is strongly recommended for school and community library fiction collections for children ages 8 to 15.

“A Nest Of Snakes” is the third book in Allen Johnson Jr.’s outstanding Blackwater series for young readers and continues the adventures of Rad and Johnny and their world of the Blackwater Swamp. Now the boys and their community must deal with the violence and racism in an era of Jim Crow and enforced segregation. A deftly crafted novel of considerable and dramatic suspense, “A Nest Of Snakes” will prove a compelling read and should be a part of school and community library General Fiction collections for young readers grades 5 through 8. Indeed, school and community librarians would be well advised to obtain the entire three volumes that comprise Allen Johnson Jr.’s exceptionally well written Blackwater series.

— Midwest Book Review

A Review for The Blackwater Novels

I want to tell you, having read The Dead House and My Brother’s Story, boys and girls and their parents and grandparents are all going to enjoy getting into these stories . . . traditional stories which kids are gonna love, not kids alone, I enjoyed them, more than I can tell you . . . The Dead House . . . the first one I ran across . . . captured my imagination, caught me, pulled me inside . . .”

(Host of Word on Words and Founding Editor USA Today)

— John Seigenthaler

A Review for My Brother's Story - Audiobook

Thank you for a very moving and interesting story, and for the excellent reading of it, which brought the story alive. Honestly, for someone like me who loves to be read to, this book can’t be topped.

— Renee

A Review for My Brother's Story

First let me say, if nothing else, the cover of the book won me over. I loved the story line of the boys’ adventures and how they longed to be together again. My middle school age grandson is going to love this book. I know I did!

— Mary Dailey

A Review for My Brother's Story

Disclosure: I won this book through Goodreads and from the author so thanks to them. Now this isn’t the type of book that I normally read but I think that is why I enjoyed it so much. It was a nice change of pace. It reminded me of the books I used to read in middle school and resulted in my love of reading. The story was simple but keeps your interest and the illustrations really add to it. It amazes me to think how much the world has changed in the last 75 years from when this book takes place…

— Rich Wagner

A Review for My Brother's Story

I certainly think this book is truly phenomenal for middle schoolers, especially boys. The things these twin boys do to get into some trouble will make you laugh. You definitely feel for the longing for them to be together again, even though they were at a real young age when they were separated.

I loved Will’s character, and the trouble he gets into. I also love Linc’s character, and how much of a father-like figure he is for Johnny, and I can totally picture his laugher “Heee. Heee. Heee….Lawd….” :) I am totally keepsaking this book for my boy, and we will read this together.

There are controversial issues in this book that occurred during the reconstruction era. I think it’s good for the kids to learn about what happened during these hard times for America.

I also think it’s important for kids to connect to this book, and they totally will. I don’t know how they could not. There are so many ways to connect with them: from having a loving family, or not, to having someone that looks out for them, or knowing people who stick up for other people.

Read it! I think you will like it!!!

— Ashley Carlson

A Review for My Brother's Story

I bought this book to read to my six year old son at night. He’s wide-eyed about everything new he learns and I wanted a departure from super-heroes. I hope that he will read it himself as he gets a little older. The premise of young twins having adventures and the innocence of youth intrigued me. I wasn’t disappointed.

— William Long

A Review for My Brother's Story

This is a lovingly told boys’ tale of growing up near woods, swamps and small country towns in the Deep South. But for Rad and Johnny, the young narrators in the book, it’s not just a joyous world of tree houses and lazy rivers, good dogs and lasting friendships. With suspense and drama, their story has an important childhood lesson at its heart: How good men and women, black and white, could stand up to violent, scheming racists in the era of Jim Crow.

(Cofounder Southern Poverty Law Center)

— Morris Dees

A Review for A Nest of Snakes

A Nest of Snakes is deeply engaging, downhome, and just a plain fun book to read. As with the two previous Blackwater Novels, I read A Nest of Snakes in one sitting—it’s really that compelling! There’s so much about the book I love: the incredible food descriptions and the amazing dialects, especially Linc’s, which effortlessly take you back to another time, and so many warm and touching moments alongside the numerous adventures of twin brothers Will and Johnny, including a few rivetingly close calls.

Johnson is a master storyteller who transports me back to my younger self when I was discovering the larger world around me. I had forgotten how unnerving it is to be confronted by something as ugly as racial hatred, and then how comforting it is to have loving adults in your life to teach, nurture and show you the way. If I could use only one word to describe this book it would be “home,” because it gives me the safe and secure feeling I had growing up in a sometimes frightening, often difficult-to-understand world.

Although there is a Mark Twain quality to Johnson’s writing, I prefer Johnson’s. A Nest of Snakes provides a timeless read for people of all ages. I could not recommend it more highly.

(Director of Philanthropy for the Humane Society Legislative Fund)

— Steve Ann Chambers

A Review for The Blackwater Novels

Allen Johnson Jr. is an engaging writer who goes beyond storytelling for the mere purpose of entertaining. Yes, his novels are certainly entertaining, but he uses his masterful storytelling skills to help teach young readers important life lessons.

(President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States)

— Wayne Pacelle

A Review for The Dead House

What an absolutely magical little book! It is a fine mystery story on one level and a truly lovely and evocative rendition of boyhood on another. The writing is graceful, the characters are ALL vivid and convincing, and your evocation of that time is just flat wonderful. The tree house, the swamp, the Pullman ride to Birmingham, all the marvelous meal scenes, the dead house, the dogs… all of that (and virtually everything else in the book) just comes totally alive on the page.

I can’t tell you how much I loved reading it. I think it’s exceptionally fine, in fact, a kind of classic of children’s literature.

(Author and screenwriter)

— Charles Gaines

A Girl's View of My Brother's Story

My Brother’s Story gives “getting lost in a book,” a whole new meaning.

Whenever my father took me to a sporting goods store as a young girl, I always found myself begging for a BB gun instead of a University of Alabama cheerleading uniform. In the hot summer months in Alabama, my little sister and I rarely chose playing “dress-up,” over scrambling through creeks searching for crawfish and tadpoles. While I did some of the stereotypical “girly” activities, playing outside with the neighborhood boys was more fun. Setting things on fire, starting “wars” with kids from other neighborhoods, climbing trees and getting into trouble was always more interesting.

I discovered My Brother’s Story at the age of ten at my elementary school’s book fair. I was quick to grow a strong connection with the characters, especially the two boys. I went on adventures with Johnny and Will. I hurt with them, laughed with them, and I loved with them. Looking through my original copy, I found sticky notes clinging to the pages of the book with commentaries on how I felt about certain parts of the story . . . anything from my curiosity about the price of country ham and eggs “back then,” to my being heartbroken by Johnny being mistreated. It is clear that I loved the book very much.

My Brother’s Story illustrates Southern culture beautifully. For those who aren’t from the South, the mysteries of the Southern way of life are revealed. This is a wonderful story that is entertaining and moving. Allen Johnson Jr. has perfected communicating with his readers, young and old.

(Now 24, works in commercial real estate in Washington D.C.)

— Hastings Crockard

A Review for My Brother's Story

Young readers will meet fun characters whose adventures are marked by honesty, loyalty, courage and love. Older readers will applaud a refreshing story that recalls and fosters those ideals.

(Legendary National Public Radio storyteller:)

— Kathryn Tucker Windham