As Fast As Words Could Fly

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Tuck’s story, based on her father’s personal experiences with school segregation in 1960s North Carolina, won Lee & Low’s New Voices award in 2007, resulting in this picture book, illustrated in dramatic oil paintings by Velasquez (The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery). Mason Steele helps his father’s civil rights efforts by writing letters for him; when the Steeles get a manual typewriter, Mason shows a gift for typing quickly and accurately. After a court case wins Mason and his brothers the right to attend a local high school, they are met with distrust and outright hostility at every turn. Against the odds, Mason’s typing skills earn him the chance to represent the school at a typing competition, but his record-setting victory there is tinged by prejudice: “Not a single person in the audience clapped. Mason received nothing.” Tuck lays bare the challenges that faced Mason and black students like him, but she also tempers the story’s cold realities with moments of hope, echoed by the pride and determination visible in scenes of Mason and his family. Ages 3–8. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Leona Illig
Mason Steele is a fourteen-year-old African American boy who helps his Dad and a local civil rights group by writing letters, on their behalf, about instances of discrimination in their community. When Mason is given a manual typewriter, he practices using the new machine to write the letters, and he becomes a very fast typist. During this time, desegregation comes to his school district, and Mason is bused to a new, mainly white school where he faces bullying, resistance, and discrimination. He perseveres, however, and because of his skill in typing is able to get an after-school job and to make the transition from using a manual typewriter to an electric one. When Mason is chosen to represent Belvoir High School in a regional typing tournament, he realizes that while his letter writing campaign is important to furthering the cause of equality, he now has a chance to make a real statement on his own. Based on some of the true experiences of the author's father, this fictional picture book contains illustrations that are so high quality as to resemble paintings rather than pictures. The story itself deals with the complex concepts of racial discrimination and the civil rights movement, and there are references to Dr. Martin Luther King, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Neighborhood Youth Corps. There are also references to things that young readers may not be familiar with, such as business letters and typewriters. For all of these reasons, young readers will need adult guidance to understand the various themes and ideas. In fact, there are enough themes and plot lines in this story for two or three books. Nevertheless, this story is well worth the work of sorting it all out, and it will undoubtedly inspire a new general of readers. Reviewer: Leona Illig
School Library Journal
Gr 2–5—Velasquez's vibrant paintings animate this earnest story based on actual incidents in the life of the author's father. Fourteen-year-old Mason transcribes letters for his father, a local civil rights activist; as a reward, he receives a manual typewriter. Then he and his older brothers learn that they'll be among the first to desegregate their local high school. It's not easy: the school bus driver refuses to stop for them, fellow students and teachers ignore them; but as Pa says, "Somebody's got to make a change." Mason quietly perseveres and his typing skills win him a job in the school library. Eventually, he earns the right to represent the school at a regional typing contest. Velasquez deepens readers' understanding and empathy for these characters with well-chosen details: Mason listens eagerly to Pa's impassioned speeches as Ma looks on with a bemused smile. The striking compositions in rich browns and blues, along with Tuck's pride in her family, help distinguish this story of perseverance and courage. This well-crafted tale would be an excellent complement to overviews of the Civil Rights Movement.—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
Kirkus Reviews
A tribute to her father, Tuck's school desegregation story highlights an African-American boy's triumph in a typing tournament. Mason Steele (the fictionalized version of Tuck's father, Moses Teel Jr.) is a 14-year-old who helps his father's civil rights group by writing letters for them. Impressed and grateful, the group presents him with a manual typewriter, which proves useful when Mason and his siblings desegregate a public school in their home state of North Carolina and encounter overt hostility and discrimination. He nevertheless excels and earns the honor of representing his school in a countywide typing tournament--a position racist administrators grant him to avoid trouble with the Board of Education after he scores highest in his typing class. The other competitors choose electric typewriters, but although he realizes that he will lose time, Mason selects a manual typewriter, later saying "[I]t reminds me of where I come from." And he wins. The victory's drama seems woefully understated, however, especially since Velasquez's accompanying oil paintings never show the children typing, instead depicting moments before and after the competition. And yet, although he lacks celebration from those outside his family, Mason is proud, knowing "his words typed on paper had already spoken for him--loud and clear." A warm, if understated, title about the struggle for equality. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781600603488
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/28/2013
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 607,534
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 10.60 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 3, 2013

    The story follows Mason and his brothers as they attend a school

    The story follows Mason and his brothers as they attend a school that used to be all white. Many students, teachers and administrators are not happy that Mason is there. Mason uses his skills on the typewriter to continue to help his father, gain respect from some people and prove that he has an amazing skill.

    Why I liked this book –

    I like how Ms. Tuck puts explains segregation in a kid-friendly way, from Mason’s POV. It makes it more powerful. The world needs more books like this. I like how Mason preferred a manual typewriter to an electronic one in the typing contest he entered. The book is historical fiction but is based on Ms. Tuck’s father’s experiences during that time period. There is an author’s note at the end of the book with more details about the history and story behind this story. It really added to the book.

    Mr. Velasquez’s illustrations were amazing! The expressions on the character’s faces told even more of the story. I love all the details he included in them.
    I think this book should be in every household and classroom!
    *NOTE I bought my own copy of this boo at a book festival

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  • Posted April 12, 2013

    As Fast As Words Could Fly is a wonderful and heartwarming story

    As Fast As Words Could Fly is a wonderful and heartwarming story of courage and triumph. At 14 Mason had experience writing business letters for his father's Civil Rights group, but no experience when he had to live some of what he wrote about. He didn't give in to his fears. Confidence in himself and his ability kept Mason focused on the challenges ahead. Eric Velasquez's dramatic illustration add a powerful impact to the story. I loved this book and recommend it highly. Pamela Tuck is truly a great, inspirational writer and story teller. I look forward (anxiously) to more from her.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2013

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