Strong voice, lively dialogue, humor and important themes make this a winner. (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
The Liberation of Gabriel Kingby K. L. Going
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Gabriel King was a born chicken. He’s afraid of spiders, corpses, loose cows, and just about everything related to the fifth grade. Gabe’s best friend, Frita Wilson, thinks Gabe needs some liberating from his fears. Frita knows something about being brave she’s the only black kid in school in a town with an active Ku Klux Klan. Together Gabe and Frita are going to spend the summer of 1976 facing down the fears on Gabe’s list. But it turns out that Frita has her own list, and while she’s helping Gabe confront his fears, she’s avoiding the thing that scares her the most.
Joan Kindig, Ph.D.
Read an Excerpt
Under the Picnic Table
My best friend, Frita Wilson, once told me that some people were born chicken.
“Ain’t nothing gonna make them brave,” she’d said. “But others, they just need a little liberatin’, that’s all.” Least that’s how Frita told it.
If you’d asked me before the summer of 1976, I would have told you I was one of the chicken ones. If you could count on anything, it was that I, Gabriel Allen King, didn’t do anything scary. I didn’t climb out too far on the branches of the pecan trees or ride my bike on the same dirt road the truckers used. I didn’t pick up ugly-looking bugs that might have pinchers or walk too close to the cotton fields if anyone even hinted that the cows might be loose. Most of all, I didn’t intend on going to the fifth grade, ever.But things don’t always work out the way you plan, and what I didn’t count on was Frita. I didn’t expect she’d decide I was one of the ones needed liberatin’, or that the best way to do it would be to overcome all our fears. I didn’t expect a lot of things, and I guess if I’m going to tell you about them, I best start at the beginning.
It was the morning of our fourth-grade Moving-Up Day, and me and Frita were under the picnic table beside the elementary school. That’s where we used to hide out during recess so nobody could find us. Only today wasn’t a school day. It was a graduation day.We could hear all the noise coming from the school yard just around the corner. Hollowell Elementary ain’t that big, but the yard was packed with a stage, rows of folding chairs, extra-tall bleachers we used for special occasions, and lots of folks who were crowding in. But all that commotion was a distant buzz because me and Frita were lying on our backs in the shade, listing all the things that made the day great.“Number one,” Frita said, “today is a momentous occasion.”Frita liked to use big words like that. Most of the time I could figure them out by how she was talking, but other times I just pretended to know. I said, “Mmm-hmm. Mooo-men-tus.”“We’re fourth-grade graduates,” Frita said. “That’s pretty great.”“Yup,” I agreed, “because now we’ve got no more school for the whole summer.”Frita pretended to write no school on the bottom of the picnic table. Then she took a big bite of a chocolate sprinkly cookie she’d gotten from the party table. The cookie crumbled all over her chin, but you could hardly notice. Frita’s got dark chocolate skin, so the cookie crumbs blended right in.“Starting today,” Frita said with her mouth full, “we’ll be upperclassmen. No more East Wing with the babies. We’ll be West Wing fifth-graders.”
Frita pretended to write west wing on the bottom of the picnic table, but I made an imaginary line through it.
“Now, why’d you go and cross that off?” Frita asked, pretending to write it back on again. Then she gave me that look she saved for when she was trying to be all innocent. Frita knew dang well that moving to the West Wing wasn’t on my list of great things.
“You’re going to love it,” she told me. “You’ll see. We’ll have our own playing field and we won’t have to eat in the cafeteria with the kindergarteners. We’ll have outside gym every day—”
“Yeah,” I said. “Outside gym with the sixth-graders. Cafeteria time with the sixth-graders and recess with the sixth-graders.”Sixth-graders meant Duke Evans and Frankie Carmen. I’d had a whole year free from torment since they’d moved to the West Wing ahead of us, but one year was definitely not enough.
“All the teachers in the West Wing are super mean,” I added, settling myself into being stubborn. “Everybody says it, so you know it’s true. And I’ll be the shortest kid there.”
“I won’t let anyone get you,” Frita told me, real solemn. “Besides, fifth grade is a whole summer away. Maybe you’ll grow taller by then.”I figured there was as much chance of me growing an entire foot over the summer as there was of snow in Georgia in June.
“Maybe,” I said.
Frita grinned. “It’ll be great,” she said. “You’ll see.” Then she sat up. “Hey, I thought up numbers three and four for our list of great things. Graduation certificates and class pictures. Where do you think I should hang my picture? Above my bed, next to the mirror, or over the dresser?”Frita’d been thinking about this ever since she got a picture frame with smiley faces on it for her birthday.
“You can hang yours up too, and then we’ll match,” she told me.
“Except I don’t have a picture frame, and there’s no way Momma can buy me one after she already bought me this outfit for Moving-Up Day. Sure would’ve rather had the picture frame.”Frita shrugged. “Then we’ll just have to make you one. That’ll be number five—starting today, we’ll do projects all summer.”
“And go swimming in the catfish pond . . .”
“And sleep in your tent . . .”
“And race our bikes . . .”Frita looked at me.
“Gabe,” she said, “I’m glad we’re friends. Good thing Daddy made me do the integrating.”Integrating was one word I knew the meaning of. Frita’d said it lots of times and I used to think it meant visiting. Turns out it really means to make something whole again. Putting the parts back together. That made pretty good sense because before the Wilsons moved here, there was a Frita-sized hole right next to me.“Wish we could sit next to each other at the ceremony,” I said. “But I’ll whistle extra loud when you get your certificate. I’ll cheer enough for ten other people and I’ll stand up and wave so you can see me from the stage.”
“Promise?” Frita asked.
“Promise.”Frita stuck out her pinky and linked it with mine. We didn’t say nothing, but I reckon Frita was thinking the same thing I was. Sure was perfect down here. I could’ve stayed there forever, only right then we heard our teacher, Ms. Murray, calling people to line up.
“Tyler Zach, Andrew Womack, Frita Wilson . . .”Frita handed me the last sprinkly cookie—the one with the most sprinkles.
“See you later,” she said, ducking out from under the picnic table.
“See ya,” I said, then I whistled one of my super-duper whistles so she’d hear just how loud I could be when I wanted. Frita turned back one more time and grinned before taking off in a cloud of dust.I lay back and thought how this was going to be the best summer ever. This was the year of the Bicentennial—the 200th birthday of the United States of America—and our very own governor, Jimmy Carter, was running for president. That meant there’d be parties, parades, and rallies. Not to mention the hugest fireworks we’d ever seen on the Fourth of July. The way I figured it, if me and Frita made a list of all the great things about the summer of 1976, it would be full to overflowing.
At least, that’s what I thought.
What People are Saying About This
It’s the summer of 1976 in a small town in Georgia. Gabriel King has just finished fourth grade and is scared about fifth. In fact, he’s scared of many things: spiders, alligators, falling into the toilet, killer robots, corpses, swinging off the rope swing, his neighbor Mr. Evans and bullies at school. His best friend Frita is out of to liberate Gabriel from his fears. She has him make a list of them and work through them one at a time. However, Frita, who is African-American, has fears of her own and the story becomes a study of standing up to fears and bullies, from the school yard to the Klu Klux Klan. Strong voice, lively dialogue, humor and important themes make this a winner. Readers will enjoy following the sometimes-tempestuous friendship of Gabriel and Frita, and they’ll be completely absorbed in watching the friends and their community come together to stand up against the evil within.
-Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Meet the Author
K. L. Going lives with her family in the Hudson Valley area of New York State. Since graduating from college she has worked as an adult literacy tutor, a ticket agent for a major airline, a front desk clerk at a resort hotel, and an assistant in a Manhattan literary agency. She has lived in Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and New York. K.L. is the author of many books, including Fat Kid Rules The World, The Liberation of Gabriel King, and Dog in Charge. Her first novel, Fat Kid Rules the World, was a YALSA Michael L. Printz honor book.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Frita and Gabe are likeable, believeable characters. K. L. Going does such a wonderful job with her writing. My students LOVE this novel, and it really helps them understand racial issues during the Civil Rights Movement.
I loved the Liberation of Gabriel king because it shows how friendship can over come anything no matter what your race is. It was recomended to my by my mother who is a librarian and I would definetly recomend it to anyone else who is in need of a good book.
i just finished this book and i love it. my friend told me to read it and i loved it. it really shows how friendship is important.i loved the whole story and would reccommend it to anyone! :)
This book was AwEsOmE! I would recomend this to everyone above the age of 12. It shows some great points of what life was like before the 1990's and what you sometimes have to do to make things change or put things in your own hands. I am so glad this book found me!
Gabriel King is afraid of just about everything. He even has a list to prove it. Number one on the list is 'fifth grade'. The reason being is that is when he will move to a new wing of the school and be reunited with number 2 and number 3 on the list! Bullies. So, it's understandible he does not want to move up to 5th grade. Fortunately for him he has a wise beyond her years best friend in Frita Wilson. She encourages Gabe to make a list of all his fears and she will help him conquer them over the course of the summer. The story takes a more serious turn as we learn that on the top of Frita's list is the KKK, and that the leader is none other than the father of Duke Evans, AKA #2. Frita's fear is very real as she and her family are African American. Yet it's not all heavy, there are lots of laughs, fun, and wonderful scenes bringing back fond memories of childhood. Even if one wasn't around during the summer of 1776, the time this story takes place. This is a book I could see in schools in the curriculum. It's uplifting and friendly and has a great lesson, yet that lesson doesn't take over the book, it's simply part of it. Wonderful.
This is a great book about a boy who has just finished 4th grade. He was born a chicken. He goes through the summer with his best friend 'Frita Wilson. P.S. His name is Gabriel King'and they make lists of everything they are afraid of. Then they go one by one and face their fears.
Best book ive ever read. im only 125 pages in and its awesome. I have to read it for a book club and so far my group loves it!
I am 12 years old and i am home schooled. I had to choose between 2 books for next year. I choose The Liberation of Gabriel king. I am not done with it yet but it is a great bookso far and i hope you get a chance to read it! If you love books then you will love this book! I recommend this book for all ages. If you read it, enjoy!!! :) By: Tatum Hodges*
I used this book for Literature Circles in my fourth grade classroom. My students loved the book, as did I. It has fabulous learning lessons and wonderful vocabulary.
This book is about a chicken who is afraid of everything. It's not really about a chicken, but you get my point. He makes a list about every thing he is afraid of, and it has about 100 things, not kidding! This book had a weak plot, and very weak ending. It was recomended to me by the SC Junior Book Award Nominee list. I was completely let down. It took me forever to finish because it was so boring, but in the end I finally got to the last page. But I do have one good thing to say about this book, it had a great example of how your parents can influence how you judge other people when growing up in a racest household.
I didn't enjoy this book very much. It's mostly about a boy would is afraid of some bullies in his nieghborhood and then Gabe(the boy) and his friend waste their summer trying stupidly face all of their fears.