Two teens respond when parents need help; Circle of Fire, by William H. Hooks. New York: Atheneum. 147 pp. $9.95. (Ages 11 and up.)
TThe Growing Season, by Violet Olsen. New York: Atheneum. 220 pp. $10.95. (Ages 11 and up.)
Surely one of the hardest parts of growing up is discovering that parents, too, can be afraid of things. Both of these pre-teen novels deal with youngsters who at first are shocked by the realization of their parents' fears, but who then go on to resolve their own concerns and help themselves and their families over some rough spots.
Set in North Carolina during the depression '30s, William Hooks's ''Circle of Fire'' is an authentic portrayal of life on a Southern farm. It also speaks of the local prejudices that lie like dusty, imperceptible topsoil on the land and peoples.
Eleven-year-old Harrison Hawkins is the youngest of the family and at times a worry to his elders. Grandmother can't understand why his only friends are ''colored'' Kitty Fisher and his sister, Scrap. Harrison can't understand why his grandmother is concerned. After all, her best friend is the family's ''colored'' cook, Aunt Het.
Just before Christmas a band of Irish tinkers arrive in Broomsage Hollow to set up camp. Although they've always been welcomed on Hawkins property, it's a strange time of year for them to be passing through. Harrison finds out that they're fleeing the Ku Klux Klan but is sworn to secrecy by his father. How he helps his newfound friends and at the same time discovers a wealth of courage and decency in his neighbors - where he'd seen only fear - makes for a dramatic story that's true to its times.
Violet Olsen's ''The Growing Season'' features another 11-year-old on another depression-era farm, this time in a heavily Danish populated section of Iowa. At the same time that widowed Mamma Carlsen has raised her two sons and four daughters to turn out the lights at night to save on electricity bills, she's taught them the importance of neighbor helping neighbor and neighbor helping stranger. It's a lesson young Marie finds difficult to learn at times, especially when she has to pick up yucky corn cobs in the barnyard while a traveling tramp is treated to a hearty dinner in the kitchen.
Her mother's fear of losing the farm to the bank makes Marie uncomfortable, but it's nothing like the shame she feels for a schoolmate whose family is even poorer. Marie eventually comes to terms with her own childhood fears and begins to find life among the corn and cows to her liking. Spring picnics, bottles of Nehi strawberry pop, and a new boyfriend help complete the realistic picture author Olsen paints.