The Barnes & Noble Review
Author Patricia McKissack uses childhood memories of growing up in the segregated South to create this enlightening and touching story of one very special place. Young 'Tricia can't wait to make her very own journey to Someplace Special (her destination is revealed only at the end of the story). Her grandmother reluctantly lets her baby out on her own, but not without some words of advice. "Hold yo' head up and act like you b'long to somebody."
As we soon find out, these powerful words will sustain Tricia during a rather disheartening journey through her native city as she encounters the harsh reality of segregation. As she enters the bus, she is forced to sit in the COLORED SECTION of seats in the back. When she spots a friend of her Grandmother, Tricia voices her anger. "It's not fair," she asserts. But as Mrs. Grannel points out, it's just the way it is. When Tricia gets off in downtown Nashville, she admires the Peace Fountain and looks to rest on a nearby bench. She quickly jumps up, as the bench graphically reads: FOR WHITES ONLY. As she makes her way through town she bumps into Mr. John Willis, the doorman at Southland Hotel. As he bestows compliments on the lovely girl, she is accidentally pushed into the lobby. Amidst all the hustle and bustle, Tricia can't get out. And the manager yells at her in front of every one, "No colored people allowed!". Just as Tricia is about to give up her voyage to Someplace Special, she runs into Blooming Mary, an older woman who tends to the Mission Church garden. Mary reminds here that Tricia can find strength in the words of her grandmother. Tricia takes heart from this encouragement and feels able to go on. But one more battle lies ahead. As Tricia passes a theater, a young white boy casually asks her if she's going to the show. Before she can reply, the boy's older sister angrily says, "Colored people can't come in the front door. They got to go 'round back and sit up in the Buzzard's Roost." Tricia keeps her head high, announcing that she'd never sit there -- she's headed someplace special. Readers finally learn where Tricia's journey has led her -- the library. The glorious building is large and imposing, its steps overflowing with people of all colors. And Tricia excitedly reads these special words: PUBLIC LIBRARY: ALL ARE WELCOME.
McKissack's author note at the end of the book explains just how close this tale is to her heart and her life. When Nashville's public library board quietly decided to integrate the facilities, it became one of very few places that did not feature Jim Crow signs. This touching story provides personal insight into a time that might be hard to understand for young readers. The text is beautifully written, with the perfect amount of dialogue on each page. Adding to the brilliant words of McKissack are the outstanding pencil and watercolor illustrations from the talented Jerry Pinkney. Each spread comes alive with the sights of the 1950s. The details of Tricia's face, and the family friends she encounters on her journey, speak volumes about the joy and suffering of life in segregated America. Tricia's dress, like Tricia herself, is bursting with life and optimism, providing a visual thread throughout the story.
This dynamic offering from the outstanding talents of McKissack and Pinkney is more than a springboard for conversation; it's also a stunning portrait of strength and beauty for every reader. (Amy Barkat)
Bursting with excitement, 'Tricia Ann pleads with her grandmother to let her go to a place she calls Someplace Special. Mama Frances cautions,"Hold yo' head up and act like you b'long to somebody." When 'Tricia Ann boards a bus and has to walk back to the colored section, readers see why her grandmother was worried. The girl faces several incidents of racism before she finally reaches the sign outside her Someplace Special: "Public Library: All Are Welcome." Luminous watercolors convey 'Tricia Ann's emotional journey in this autobiographical story.
McKissack draws from her childhood in Nashville for this instructive picture book. "I don't know if I'm ready to turn you loose in the world," Mama Frances tells her granddaughter when she asks if she can go by herself to "Someplace Special" (the destination remains unidentified until the end of the story). 'Tricia Ann does obtain permission, and begins a bittersweet journey downtown, her pride battered by the indignities of Jim Crow laws. She's ejected from a hotel lobby and snubbed as she walks by a movie theater ("Colored people can't come in the front door," she hears a girl explaining to her brother. "They got to go 'round back and sit up in the Buzzard's Roost"). She almost gives up, but, buoyed by the encouragement of adult acquaintances ("Carry yo'self proud," one of her grandmother's friends tells her from the Colored section on the bus), she finally arrives at Someplace Special a place Mama Frances calls "a doorway to freedom" the public library. An afterword explains McKissack's connection to the tale, and by putting such a personal face on segregation she makes its injustices painfully real for her audience. Pinkney's (previously paired with McKissack for Mirandy and Brother Wind) luminescent watercolors evoke the '50s, from fashions to finned cars, and he captures every ounce of 'Tricia Ann's eagerness, humiliation and quiet triumph at the end. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Gr 3-5-'Tricia Ann's first solo trip out of her neighborhood reveals the segregation of 1950s' Nashville and the pride a young African-American girl takes in her heritage and her sense of self-worth. In an eye-opening journey, McKissack takes the child through an experience based upon her own personal history and the multiple indignities of the period. She experiences a city bus ride and segregated parks, restaurants, hotels, and theaters and travels toward "Someplace Special." In the end, readers see that 'Tricia Ann's destination is the integrated public library, a haven for all in a historical era of courage and change. Dialogue illustrates her confidence and intelligence as she bravely searches for truth in a city of Jim Crow signs. Pinkney re-creates the city in detailed pencil-and-watercolor art angled over full-page spreads, highlighting the young girl with vibrant color in each illustration. A thought-provoking story for group sharing and independent readers.-Mary Elam, Forman Elementary School, Plano, TX Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In a story that will endear itself to children's librarians and, for that matter, all library lovers, 'Tricia Ann begs her grandmother to be allowed to go alone to Someplace Special. Mama Frances acquiesces, sending her off with instructions: " ‘And no matter what, hold yo' head up and act like you b'long to somebody.' " 'Tricia Ann's special place is not revealed until the end, but on the way there, the humiliating racism she encounters on the city bus, in the park, and in a downtown hotel almost causes her to give up. " ‘Getting to Someplace Special isn't worth it,' she sobbed." When she recalls her grandmother's words: " ‘You are somebody, a human being-no better, no worse than anybody else in this world,' " she regains the determination to continue her journey, in spite of blatant segregation and harsh Jim Crow laws. " Public Library: All Are Welcome" reads the sign above the front door of Someplace Special; Mama Frances calls it "a doorway to freedom." Every plot element contributes to the theme, leaving McKissack's autobiographical work open to charges of didacticism. But no one can argue with its main themes: segregation is bad, learning and libraries are good. Pinkney's trademark watercolors teem with realistically drawn people, lush city scenes, and a spunky main character whose turquoise dress, enlivened with yellow flowers and trim, jumps out of every picture. A lengthy author's endnote fills in the background for adults on McKissack's childhood experiences with the Nashville Public Library. This library quietly integrated all of its facilities in the late 1950s, and provided her with the story's inspiration. A natural for group sharing; leave plenty of time for the questionsand discussion that are sure to follow. (Picture book. 5-9)