I really wanted to come up with a more concise title, but as it stands, these three fiction picture books focus on the place of the library in African American history. Two of them were nominated for the Cybils Fiction Picture Book awards this year, and the first book won a Coretta Scott King Award in 2001.
Goin’ Someplace Special
by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
It’s the 1950s and ’Tricia Ann is heading downtown in Nashville to go “Someplace Special.” Her grandmother is reluctant to let her go on her own, but when she relents, ’Trica Ann faces a journey of pride, humiliation, encouragement, and ultimately joy as she reaches her destination the public library, open to whites and blacks alike. The injustices of the segregated south are made all too real with this likeable character facing off against the obstacles. Pinkney’s lovely watercolors bring just the right feeling of the era to the book.
by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Colin Bootman
When this story takes place in Alabama in 1951, Louis isn't allowed to use the public library. When his father's own book collection runs thin, he turns to the small library at his church to find a book on President Lincoln. When he can't find the information he wants to know, he bravely steps into the public library to find the book he needs. Some people are rude, but one librarian is helpful in getting Louis the book he wants which shows how Abraham Lincoln starting shaking things up even as a boy - just like Louis. The book contains additional information about segregation in libraries, plus a bit about Abraham Lincoln. The watercolor illustrations are lovely and capture the feelings and characters quite nicely.
Ron's Big Mission
by Rose Blue, Corinne Naden, illustrated by Don Tate
Ron loves books and is well-known at the Lake City Public Library for his frequent visits. He spends hours reading there, but this day is different. The nine year old boy is going to take on the system by demanding to be allowed to check out books. Knowing that the privilege is reserved for whites, he literally takes a stand to get his own library card. Based on a real incident in the life of Astronaut Ron McNair, the story gives a different feel to discrimination than most books on the subject, focusing on the institutional ruling than belief system. All of the individuals who encounter Ron - from the friendly elderly lady to the helpful librarian to the befuddled police - all want to help him, mostly by getting around the law. While it may not offer a more valid a perspective than other books that tackle discrimination, it puts the emphasis on an unfair law rather than racist people. The illustrations also lighten the tone, with the bright colors and expressive faces. A particularly good book for read-aloud in the classroom or library.
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