Freedom Summer : Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Summer
by Wiles, Deborah; Lagarrigue, Jerome (ILT)

In 1964, Joe is pleased that a new law will allow his best friend John Henry, who is black, to share the town pool and other public places with him, but he is dismayed to find that prejudice still exists.

Deborah Wiles was born in Alabama and grew up in an Air Force family, moving many times but digging deep roots into the Mississippi soil of her extended family. She still travels &;down South&; today from her longtime home in Frederick, Maryland, where she lives with her family and works as a freelance writer. She also teaches writing and oral history workshops&;sharing with children how all history is really biography, and how every person&;s story is important. Freedom Summer is her first book.

Jerome Lagarrigue was born and grew up in Paris, France, in a family of artists. Mr. Lagarrigue is the illustrator of Freedom Summer as well as My Man Blue by Nikki Grimes, and his work has also appeared in the New Yorker and on the cover of the New York Times Book Review. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, he teaches drawing and painting at Parsons School of Design and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Ages 5-8. "John Henry Waddell is my best friend," begins the narrator of this story, set during a summer of desegregation in the South. John Henry is black and the narrator is white, so the boys swim together at the creek, rather than at the whites-only town pool, and the narrator buys the ice-cream at the segregated store. When new laws mandate that the pool, and everything else, must desegregate, the boys rejoice, until the town fills the pool with tar in protest and the narrator tries to see this town, "through John Henry's eyes." The boy's voice, presented in punchy, almost poetic sentences, feels overly romanticized, even contrived in places. It's the illustrations that stun. In vibrantly colored, broad strokes, Lagarrigue, who illustrated Nikki Grimes' My Man Blue (1999), paints riveting portraits of the boys, particularly of John Henry, that greatly increase the story's emotional power. Beautiful work by an illustrator to watch. ((Reviewed February 15, 2001)) Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews

Wiles draws on memories of her childhood summers in Mississippi in her first picture book, a slice-of-life story about Joe, a Caucasian boy, and his best friend, John Henry, an African-American boy whose mother works as a housekeeper for Joe's family. The setting is the Deep South in the summer of 1964, the period called Freedom Summer for its wide-ranging social changes following passage of the Civil Rights Act. Joe and John Henry have spent all their summers together, working around the rampant prejudice of the era and maintaining their friendship even though they can't swim in the public pool together or walk into the local store to buy a pair of ice pops. When the new law takes effect, the boys race together to the public pool only to find it being filled in with asphalt by city workers. John Henry's hurt and shame ring true in the text, but Joe's precocious understanding of the situation outstrips his age. ("I want to see this town with John Henry's eyes.") An author's note at the beginning of the book describes her experiences and the atmosphere in her own hometown during this era, when some white business owners preferred to close down rather than open their doors to African-Americans. Younger children will need this background explanation to understand the story's underlying layers of meaning, or the filling-in of the swimming pool will seem like a mindless bureaucratic blunder rather than concrete prejudice in action. Teachers and parents could use this book as a quiet but powerful introduction to the prejudice experienced by many Americans, and of course the book is a natural to pair with the story of another, more-famous John Henry. Vibrant full-page paintings by talented French-born artist Lagarrigue capture both the palpable heat of southernsummer days and the warmth of the boys' friendship. (Picture book. 6-12) Copyright Kirkus 2001 Kirkus/BPI Communications All right reserved.

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