Friday, September 30, 2011

Library Find - Ron's Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden

One thing I especially appreciate about our local libraries is that the staff members take the time to incorporate diversity into their displays. Although I work for the library system, I don't work in a branch, so I don't know how much extra time this takes, but we're grateful. Every time we go into the library, Sprout can see characters on the covers of books who have skin and hair like his, or like his friends. This is such a huge step forward in making everyone feel welcome -- kudos to all librarians, pages, booksellers and other staffers who take the time to do this!

The other day Sprout ran right over to the shelf and pulled down Ron's Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden. No surprise why -- the cover features a gorgeous African American boy with a plane overhead (win win for Sprout!). The illustration style looked familiar, with a rich color palate, careful use of shading and simple details that nevertheless add complexity. As soon as I flipped to the back I saw why, as illustrator Don Tate also did one of our favorite recent reads, Summer Sun Risin'.

The book relates an incident in the life of Ron McNair, a little boy from South Carolina who grew up to be an astronaut. As a boy, Ron loved the library, but as an African American child in the 1950's, he was not allowed to check out any books. Several of the white patrons would take out books on their cards for Ron. But one day Ron decided he had had enough, and he refused to leave the library until he was allowed to check out his books. The desk clerk refused to give him a card, and soon Ron's mother and even the police were called. But nothing could make Ron budge -- until, at last, the head librarian did the right thing and gave Ron his own library card.

If I thought the story wouldn't hold Sprout's interest, I was wrong. He was riveted through the whole thing. This is the first book we've read where racism was openly discussed, but it won't be the last -- we know that our child will encounter hatred in his life, and we intend to prepare him the best we can for that, with tools like these. And I couldn't help comparing Ron's experience at the library with ours today, fifty years later, when Sprout can go into a library and see books that represent diversity in all its forms. No, we're not a perfect society yet, and we have a long way to go until equality is realized for all our citizens. But on this day, it warmed my heart to see my beautiful Ethiopian son carry Ron's Big Mission up to the counter, hand the librarian our library card, and walk away with a smile on his face.

Ron's Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden, published by Dutton Children's Books
All ages
Source: Library
Sample quote: "At last Ron found some books on airplanes. He took the books and started to walk to the front desk. Ron felt nervous and his hands felt a little sweaty, but he knew what he wanted to do."
Highly recommended

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