Ron's Big Mission

( 1 )

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Heidi Hauser Green
I was at the library so often as a child that my mother sometimes joked I lived there. In truth, my visits were brief. I would run in, snatch the books I wanted from the shelf, cram them into an overflowing book bag, and head for home (often with a book open in-hand as I walked). There I would find a quiet place to enjoy my selections at my own pace. As authors Blue and Naden recount, Ron McNair had no such freedom. As a black child growing up during the 1950s in a small town in South Carolina, Ron was allowed to read a book at the library but not to take it home. At the age of nine, he decided to take a stand against this injustice—literally. As the authors tell it, Ron approaches the check-out desk with his books and makes his wishes known. When the desk clerk fails to respond, Ron respectfully but deliberately steps onto the counter. The library staff, the police, and his mother ask Ron to step down, but the boy stands firm. Ultimately, the boy is triumphant. Turning to page one of a beloved airplane book while stretched out on his bedroom floor is a sweet victory indeed. Don Tate's illustrations are richly colored and vividly expressive. The town's wide-eyed citizens are foolish but well-intentioned; Tate conveys their lack of aggression through the use of sloped, curved lines and quizzical expressions. Blue and Naden point out in the author's note that their work is a fictionalized account of a real event and include a biographical note about Ron McNair's success as an astronaut before he lost his life in the Challenger explosion. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green
School Library Journal

Gr 1-4

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

Kirkus Reviews
Deftly told and warmly illustrated, this fictional account of an incident in the Civil Rights-era childhood of Challenger astronaut Ron McNair tells a powerful story. Skipping breakfast, a doughnut and a basketball game with friends, nine-year-old Ron hurries to the public library, where he is warmly welcomed. After searching in vain for books about black children like himself, he selects books about airplanes, a recurring motif. An elderly white lady offers to check the books out for him, but Ron decides to do it on his own. It is only then that readers discover that only whites can take books out. In a painful illustration, Ron stands before the clerk, who ignores his request, her eyes downcast. Ron then leaps onto the desk and, with all eyes upon him, refuses to budge, even after the arrival of the police and his mother, until the librarian decides to break the law. Blue and Naden provide just enough text to let the story speak for itself; Tate's exaggerated, big heads are perfect for showing the strongly felt emotions of each character. A winner. (biographical note) (Picture book. 6-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525478492
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/22/2009
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 180,243
  • Age range: 6 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 440L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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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