Braving a scornful bus driver, he manages to take a sip of the white fountain. Then a scolding white woman causes him to fall in fear to the ground below the fountains. He is shocked to find out that in fact both fountains deliver water from the same pipe, and taste exactly alike. His courageous act of defying adult-enforced racist law and convention gives him a revolutionary insight. His epiphany into truth vs. lies reveals his own unlimited potential:
"The signs over the fountains had put a bad idea in my head. But they were a lie. If they weren't real, what else should I question? Maybe there wer lots of things - like that nasty old white water - that weren't true. That had nothing to do with nothing. Maybe everything I thought I couldn't do was just in my imagination, too. That's when I realized - I could do anything."
Strickland's realistic watercolor paintings bring the experience to life and pull us into the brutal reality of living under injustice. Michael has the strength and determination to challenge the institutional racism supported by all the adults in his world. It is his driving curiosity and passionate determination that make him a hero and inspiration. Here is a story of American history that every child needs to hear and see.
I am nominating this book for a Cybils award in the picture book division. Go on over to the Cybils site before October 15 and drop the titles of some of your favorite children's books published in the past year!