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White Socks Only

White Socks Only

4.0 1
by Evelyn Coleman, Tyrone Geter (Illustrator)

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In the segregated south, a young girl thinks that she can drink from a fountain marked "Whites Only" because she is wearing her white socks.


In the segregated south, a young girl thinks that she can drink from a fountain marked "Whites Only" because she is wearing her white socks.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The most outstanding title for 1996."

Smithsonian Magazine

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Subtle and stirring, this tale-within-a-tale begins with an affectionate exchange between an African American girl and her grandmother, then telescopes to encompass an electrifying moment fraught with personal and political significance. Grandma tells of sneaking off to town one sizzling summer day when she was a child, "planning on doing no good." Approaching a water fountain, the thirsty girl mistakes its "Whites Only" sign to mean that she should take off her shoes so that only her white socks will touch the step stool. A "big white man" grabs her and removes his belt to whip her-prompting African American bystanders to remove their shoes, too, and defiantly drink from the fountain. At home, the narrator's mother proclaims she can now go to town by herself, " 'cause you're old enough to do some good"; in town, "the `Whites Only' sign was gone from that water fountain forever." Though Coleman (The Footwarmer and the Black Crow) complicates the story with some unnecessary subplots, the impact is strong. Geter's (Dawn and the Round-to-it) full- and double-page paintings can be hazy, but they conduct the story's considerable emotional charge. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Judy Katsh
The actions of a young girl confused by the "Whites Only" sign hanging from the town water fountain spark a confrontation that ultimately involves the whole town. The young girl's confusion while shared by the readers who may have as much trouble understanding the actual problem as they do understanding the laws of segregation themselves. Even though this story might require some explaining by adult reading partners, it's an important one that will help young children start thinking and talking about race relations in this country both historically and in the present.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Evelyn Coleman, a new and powerful voice in children's books, blends themes of injustice and magic with her special storytelling gift. During the Civil Rights era, a young black girl dresses up in her white Sunday best and, for the first time, she ventures into town alone to find out if you really can fry an egg on a sidewalk. She walks timidly past the Chicken Man, who's learned African magic from his grandmother, and might turn someone "who's not doing right" into a chicken. Mission accomplished, the parched child spots a drinking fountain that bears the sign, "Whites Only". She takes off her black shoes, and now, dressed only in white, begins to drink. When a white man begins to whip the young girl, her innocence inspires those around her to remove their shoes and drink from the fountain as well, including the Chicken Man who tells her she "done good."
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4In this story, a grandmother relates an incident from her childhood to her granddaughter. On a scorching hot Mississippi day, a little girl walks into town by herself to learn whether it really is possible to fry an egg on the sidewalk. Mission accomplished, she is on her way home when she stops for a drink of water. Interpreting the "whites only" sign on the water fountain to refer to socks, the African American child takes off her patent-leather shoes and has just begun to drink when an angry white man grabs her and pushes her to the ground. He threatens to "whup" her, but the black townspeople come to the girl's aid by taking off their shoes and drinking from the same fountain. The angry bigot then receives punishment at the hands of a local conjure man. Atmospheric paintings, smudged and moody, will draw readers into this gripping tale. However, the story has some unsettling elements. The protagonist is old enough to go into town alone, yet she is oblivious to the meaning of the "whites only" sign. Her certainty that the sign refers to white socks is also curious; knowing that is what it means implies some prior knowledge, but she clearly does not have the facts straight.Anna DeWind, Milwaukee Public Library

Product Details

Whitman, Albert & Company
Publication date:
Prairie Paperback Books Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.10(d)
AD630L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Read an Excerpt

White Socks Only

By Evelyn Coleman, Tyrone Geter


Copyright © 1996 Evelyn Coleman
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8075-8956-4


Grandma, can I walk into town by myself?" I asked, one hot summer's day. I knew what she was going to say. She was going to tell a story. Not just any story, but my favorite story.

I watched her turn toward her spit can. Ping! The snuff juice hit the bottom, sounding like a chime. She rocked one or two times, her eyes closed, and then she looked up at me.

"You know you ain't big enough to walk into no town alone, girl. I sho' don't know why you asking me that. You ain't big enough 'til you gon' do some good there."

I smiled and plopped down on the step. She was about to begin the story.

Grandma laughed.

YOU KNOW ... when I was a little girl, like your-self, I sneaked into town once. Yep, all by myself. Wasn't planning on doing no good. Had just been waiting for a scorching hot day. I had two eggs hid in my pockets. Not to eat, mind you. But to see if what folk said was true.

I slipped on my finest Sunday dress and my shiny black patent-leather shoes and my clean white socks. I pulled my plaits back with a bow. Why, I though I looked pretty grown-up. Lord, you should a'seen me strutting, the dust flying behind me! I had to hold my arms steady on account of them eggs, though. Now that I think about it, I must'a been a mighty funny sight.

I sneaked on up that road a'singing, "Jump back Sally, Sally, Sally. Walking up the alley, alley, alley" to nobody but myself. And child, was it hot! On that kind of day a firecracker might light up by itself.

I was feeling pretty fine until I spotted that old Chicken Man, sitting on his porch, with his mouth like a smile. I just looked down at the dirt.

My mama had told me how the Chicken Man still did things he knowed all the way from Africa. Stuff that his grandmother done taught him. Mama also had told me he could heal the sick by the laying on of his hands. And that one time he made a blind man see just by looking deep into his eyes. And folk said he turned people into chickens if he didn't feel what they were doing was right. That's why he was called the Chicken Man.

I was kinda scared he might think I wasn't doing right, so I started walking faster. I still held my arms out steady, though, so I wouldn't break the eggs.

Anyway, when I got to town, I didn't see many folk that I knew. I wandered around, with my mouth gaped open, looking at the white women in their fancy hats. That's when I saw Mama's friend Miss Nancy turning the corner. I was going to sho nuff be in trouble if she saw me. She told Mama everything. So I took off running toward the first big tree I saw and hid behind it.

I stayed there for a minute, panting, until I saw Miss Nancy walk out of sight. Then I tiptoed out. But in my rush I'd burst one of my eggs, and it was slinking down my dress and legs.

I figured I'd better do what I come to do and get back home. I was standing in front of this big old building where there was a statue of a soldier sitting up on a horse. I read what it said on the building: "Cole County Court-house, Mississippi."


Excerpted from White Socks Only by Evelyn Coleman, Tyrone Geter. Copyright © 1996 Evelyn Coleman. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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White Socks Only 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
A_plus_Teacher More than 1 year ago
This is a story about a little girl who mistakes a sign at a water fountain reading "White Only" to mean 'white socks only'. The girl is endearing and the reader feels for the child as she loses her innocence believing the world around her is fair. Great for classrooms and families to initiate talk of prejudice and equity.