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”).

freedom summer

Freedom Summer
Author: Deborah Wiles
Illustrator: Jerome Lagarrigue
Published January 1st, 2005 by Aladdin

Goodreads Summary: 

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 and her website

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?

We Flagged: 

freedom summer spread

Read This If You Loved: Revolution by Deborah WilesSeeds of Freedom by Hester BassSeparate is Never Equal by Duncan TonatiuhThe Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine, Sin-In by Andrea Pinkney

Recommended For: 

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15 thoughts on “Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles (Kellee’s Review)”

  1. Kellee – I do the same thing. If the author does a great job at research and there are a lot of great resources at the end, I will still add it to my post but put a disclaimer. I love this book and it is good to remember older titles with important messages. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I have not read Glory Be. I remember really wanting to, but it had gone off my radar–thank you for putting it back on it. If I don’t get to it, I’ll need to put it on my #mustread for next year!

  3. I think I remember Ricki mentioning this book to me months ago and I was so glad. I loved it. I thought Wiles did an amazing job capturing a very tumultuous time and told in the voice of a child. She is an amazing writer!

  4. Right, friendship is normal. I love how that premise is established at the beginning. Swimming as part of segregation is such a great way in to share this time period with young children.

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