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 "Celebrates the unimaginable courage of ... all the boys and girls who made history as they dragged an entire nation into becoming better than it was," Midwest Book Review

2006 Writers Notes Book Awards Young Adult

IPPY Awards
Multicultural Juvenile Fiction

Prepublication Awards:
FIRST PLACE, 2000 Authorlink New Authors (children's fiction)
SECOND PLACE, 2000 Paul Gillette Memorial Writing Contest, Pikes Peak Writers' Conference (middle grade/young adult fiction)

ISBN 9781605280295 ($13.95, paperback)
ISBN 9781440109768 ($23.95, hardcover)
OCLC: 69171913



Pair Mr. Touchdown with:

 The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live, 1966: The "Royal Albert Hall Concert"

and Billboard Top Pop Hits: 1965


What Others Are Saying:
"I highly and enthusiastically recommend that all who care about racial justice, run right out to buy and read Mr. Touchdown. Americans are uncomfortable dealing with race, bias, and discrimination. Mr. Touchdown requires readers to renounce racial denial through evoking the sights, sounds, and emotions surrounding the desegregation of a Southern high school in 1965. In addition to being a great historical novel, Mr. Touchdown is gracefully written. One wants to linger over the elegant writing. Ms. Phillips, a Southerner by birth, has brought interesting and vivid characters to life and reminds us that race is a topic that Americans must face bravely and forthrightly." Eva Paterson, president, Equal Justice Society

"This is a raw, believable story with strongly developed characters. While a slim volume and a quick read, there’s a lot going on here. Some language appropriate to the time period is included (the n-word, for one), so keep that in mind. Honestly, if it wasn’t there, the story wouldn’t read as true. Recommended for readers aged 12 and up (though, again, some of the younger readers or their parents might be bothered by the language – making it a good learning opportunity and something to discuss). This is a well-written book about a touchy topic and would also work well in a classroom setting." Kimberly Pauley, Young Adult Books Central (4-star rating) 

"It’s not often we hand out a perfect score five hearts rating, but this Writers Notes Magazine award-winning YA novel is absolutely worthy of it. We grade the plot, pacing, setting, characterization, dialogue, tell vs. show, point of view, symbolism, emotional content, comparison to the genre, and mechanics. This wonderful story about what it was like to be a young black person in the Deep South during the segregation-breaking 1960s is superbly written. It maxed out in all eleven categories, which is a rare happening here.
Eddie and his sister Lakeesha are two of several bright black teenagers selected by their minister father and two outside civil rights agencies to enter the all white Forrest High School. The children all go through many frightening and humiliating experiences. Fortunately for Eddie, his natural athletic abilities force the football coach to use him in a game, which he helps win. He finally gets acceptance, but not his sister, who is badly injured by red neck youths. The author shows their reality through their eyes and hearts." Bob Spear, Heartland Reviews

"Eddie Russell, a black football star, anticipates enjoying his junior season at Douglass High School south of Memphis, Tennessee, in 1965, but complies with his father Reverend Henry Russell's wishes when local civil rights leaders select Eddie to integrate all-white Forrest High School. Epitomizing resiliency, Eddie; his studious sister, Lakeesha; and two other African-American girls, Lethe and Rochelle; stoically attend classes, experiencing passive racism at first and confronting academic inequities of segregated education when they discover better books and facilities in the white school. Most students either ignore or taunt the black pupils; a teacher washes her hands after touching them, and Eddie's football coach benches him for most of the season. Eddie strives to perceive good in his tormentors. Although the black children's perspectives predominate, reactions of popular white cheerleader, Nancy Martin, depict her tolerance for her new classmates. She befriends the black students, invites them to her home, and attends their church despite her friends' disapproval and rejection. The racism escalates when classmates assault Lakeesha ... testing Eddie's commitment to nonviolence and forgiveness. Based on the author's experiences as a teenager, this complex story explores young adults' experiences on school desegregation's front lines. Pair with John Armistead's The $66 Summer (2000) or Mary Ann Rodman's Yankee Girl (2004) to discuss interracial friendships and educational aspirations." Children's Literature

"Mr. Touchdown is a terrific read. Using vibrantly descriptive language, Lyda Phillips creates a living world of shop class and gym teachers, pep rallies and pompoms, and pulls us right into it. Middle-school students and even their older brothers and sisters will enjoy the breezy dialogue, fast-moving plot, and genuinely shocking twists and turns. Rooting her story of radical social change in the familiar routines of high school, the author gives us a book that never abandons its characters, and it succeeds as both social commentary and adolescent rite-of-passage. It’s also a warm and big-hearted book that honors each of its central characters, without robbing them of their flaws and rough spots. It celebrates the unimaginable courage of Eddie and, by extension, all the boys and girls who made history as they dragged an entire nation into becoming better than it was." Midwest Book Review

“With rich description and smooth dialogue, this can’t-put-down novel moves us to the heart of the high-pressure choices and explosive changes faced by Eddie Russell, his sister Lakeesha, and friends as they become the first black students to integrate all-white Forrest High in the autumn of 1965. It’s a balanced and vividly accurate portrayal of the violence, personal struggles, and inter-generational and community undercurrents of desegregation and non-violent movements for social justice of the 1950s and ‘60s.” 2006 Writers Notes Book Awards judging panel, Writers Notes Magazine

"Great gift for teens! Could be part of every Social Studies curriculum. An entertaining chronicle of the civil rights struggle, as told from the inside out, that is --through the eyes and voices of young people who were the devices of their elders, black and white. 'Mr. Touchdown' would enliven any classroom comprehension and discussion of a time of deep changes in human perceptions in America and in our definition of democracy. The warm, real characters embody true-to-life young Americans, and their teachers and parents, confronting great social and historical pressures. Amazingly hard to put down, for the reader --young or older-- becomes involved with the characters and intrigued with the outcome." R. L. S. Kropf, secondary school teacher

"Mr. Touchdown ... touches on issues that were prominent in the sixties and still exist today. Issues that we have yet to overcome. Mr. Touchdown is about a small group of African-Americans chosen to be the first blacks integrated into a small-town high school. As Eddie, Lakeesha, Lethe, and Rochelle endure that first year at Forrest High School, they will overcome terror, hate, and violence. And out of this will emerge the beginning of understanding, acceptance, and new friendships. But all of this comes at a price, one that, to me, seems to be a terribly high one to pay. It saddens me to think that such hatred existed, still exists. A hatred so strong that it seeks the destruction of innocence. It is shameful that such acts persist in today's world, it is shameful that we have not learned to embrace one another. ... I have to applaud Lyda Phillips's writing, for this book is nearly flawless. ... Everyone, particularly those filled with hate, should seek enlightenment by picking up a copy. For we all should learn from our past shames and work together to prevent them from ever happening again." Michael Hoffman, Gloomwing Magazine

"Mr. Touchdown offers the reader a peek into the turmoil facing many students, black and white, during 1965 as they face changes in their lives when the law demanded that the schools be desegregated. Athletes, straight A students--none of that matters; everyone knows they are dirty, they cheat and they can’t compete with white students. [And on the other hand,] everyone knows they are bigots, hate everyone not white and have no compassion. Facing the anger and outright hatred of many of the teaching staff as well as fellow students is something few of us can honestly say we have experienced. Integration forced black and white to look within themselves and find the commonality of humankind. It was not always an easy struggle." The Compulsive Reader

"In the wake of Hurricane Katrina doubt has again been raised as to the status of the equality of opportunity and the quality of life for minorities in our culture. Mr Touchdown addresses racism and segregation head-on for teenage readers. ... History, English, and Civics teachers will undoubtedly use the book as a study in the significance and difficulties of school integration in the 1960s. This is a book not to be missed." Judith Nasse, Taos, N.M.

"A real page-turner. ... The author has with accuracy and sensitivity dealt with a volatile page out of our history in a way that doesn't pull punches, doesn't condemn, and concludes with a teen scene rich in layers, one being hope for the future," Wilmoth Foreman, author of "Summer of the Skunks"

“This book should be required reading for all people who wish to make a difference.” Laura Bobbitt Crocker, Memphis, Tenn.

"This story beautifully encapsulates the quintessential struggle of youth to find its own agenda amidst the competing agendas of family, friends, and culture. Like all good coming-of-age and finding-yourself tales, this one deals with fear and courage ... full of characters who will stick with you long after you've put the book down." Jennifer Rasmussen, author, Charlotte, N.C.

5-star review from Blog of Books

1966 March Against Fear

Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike

Voices of Civil Rights

Civil Rights Timeline

Remember Segregation

Perry Wallace


Reader Reviews

Gazette Interview

Rebecca Reads Review

Writers Notes Young-Adult Winner

Mr. Touchdown Addresses Desegregation

Remember Segregation