by William Miller, illustrated by Gregory Christie.
This is the fictionalized telling of part of the life of Richard Wright. Miller bases it on a scene from Wright's autobiography Black Boy, published in 1945. It is a story of strength and courage and heroism.
“Richard Wright loved the sound of words.”This is the opening line of the story of his childhood in the segregated South of the 1920s. His family is poor. His mother tells him stories of living on the farm. His grandfather tells stories of fighting in the Civil War after he ran away from his master. They move often, looking for work. Richard didn’t go to school but his mother taught him to read from the funny papers. He couldn’t go to the library because Blacks weren’t permitted in the public libraries.
When he reached adulthood he traveled to
“There were thousands of books in the public library, but only white people could get a card, could take them out”.Richard finds a friend working in the office, a white man that is willing to help him check books out of the library. They pretend the books are for the white friend, Jim. They write a note giving Richard permission to get books out on Jim’s library card. When he walks in the library he is terrified and all the white people glare at him.
“Are you sure these books aren’t for you?” the librarian asked in a loud voice when he went to check them out. “No ma’am,” he said. “These books aren’t for me. Heck, I can’t even read.” The librarian laughed out loud and stamped his books. Richard heard the other people laugh as he walked out the door.”
For older elementary or middle school students this book will open dynamic and often difficult discussions. Use it to teach the Quaker testimonies (SPICES) of equality and integrity.