Ron's Big Missionby Corinne Naden, Rose Blue, Don Tate (Illustrator)
Nine-year-old Ron loves going to the Lake City Public Library to look through all the books on airplanes and flight. Today, Ron is ready to take out books by himself. But in the segregated world of South Carolina in the 1950s, Ron?s obtaining his own library card is not just a small rite of passage?it is a young man?s fi rst courageous mission. Here is an inspiring story, based on Ron McNair?s life, of how a little boy, future scientist, and Challenger astronaut desegregated his library through peaceful resistance.
When nine-year-old Ron tries to take library books home instead of just looking at them, he knowingly challenges the rule that "only white people can check out books." The boy does not back down, even when his mother and the police arrive. The librarian finally relents and creates a library card for Ron, who proudly checks out the airplane books he loves to read. The purpose of Ron's "mission" is revealed with dramatic subtlety. There's no hint of racism as he walks through his 1950s South Carolina town on the way to the library where he is its "best customer." The truth emerges when a white patron offers to check out his books for him as the clerk blatantly ignores the boy. Stylized cartoon illustrations convey the town's benign facade while revealing tension through Ron's expressions of determination mixed with fear. The impact of his actions shows in the confusion and anger of onlookers. Readers do not learn if the library will change the rules for everyone, or just for Ron, but the final scene resonates as the child eagerly opens his book to page one. An author's note explains that this is a fictionalized account of a real incident from the childhood of astronaut Ron McNair, who died in the 1986 Challenger explosion. This context lends power and poignancy to the event and adds to the book's value as an introduction and discussion starter for concepts of racism and individual courage.-Steven Engelfried, Multnomah County Library, OR
Meet the Author
Corinne Naden has written many books for children. She lives in Westchester, New York and Sarasota, Florida.
Rose Blue had a long career as a writer and teacher. Ms. Blue died in 2004. Don Tate is the award-winning illustrator of Summer Sun Risin', by W. Nikola-Lisa. He lives in Austin, Texas.
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