Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles (Kellee’s Review)
Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday
Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!
Disclaimer: This book is technically historical fiction, but I felt it belonged on a Wednesday because of its base in fact (see “A Note About The Text”).
Author: Deborah Wiles
Illustrator: Jerome Lagarrigue
Published January 1st, 2005 by Aladdin
John Henry swims better than anyone I know.
He crawls like a catfish,
blows bubbles like a swamp monster,
but he doesn’t swim in the town pool with me.
He’s not allowed.
Joe and John Henry are a lot alike. They both like shooting marbles, they both want to be firemen, and they both love to swim. But there’s one important way they’re different: Joe is white and John Henry is black, and in the South in 1964, that means John Henry isn’t allowed to do everything his best friend is. Then a law is passed that forbids segregation and opens the town pool to everyone. Joe and John Henry are so excited they race each other there…only to discover that it takes more than a new law to change people’s hearts.
My Review: Deborah Wiles amazes me every time I read something by her. I think I need to get everything she has written and devour it. Her books make me a better person. This one is no exception to these statements. Freedom Summer starts with a personal story of Wiles’s and sets the stage for the book: What would it be like to have a best friend who is black in the South in 1964? Do you know what it is like? Any other friendship! Except many people felt that it was wrong and you cannot go places together. Freedom Summer is about Joe and John Henry. They are both young boys. They both like to swim. They both love ice cream. However, only one can go to the pool and only one can buy ice cream from the store. I think what makes this story so impactful is that Wiles sets the stage of the friendship as something so normal (because it is!!) then shows how different their lives are. So powerful. Made me cry. It’s lyrical writing, soft and beautiful illustrations, and powerful message are so moving. Go read it if you haven’t.
You can view Ricki’s review of Freedom Summer here.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book belongs in classrooms. It will start discussions and make students think. Luckily, Deborah Wiles helps us out a ton by sharing so many resources with us on her Pinterest board https://www.pinterest.com/debbiewiles/ and her website http://deborahwiles.com/site/resources-for-educators/.
Discussion Questions: Why was the pool being filled with tar?; What do you think will happen after the end of the book?; Based on Joe’s parents letting him be friends with John Henry, what can you infer their viewpoint of integration is?
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