Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review - As fast As Words Could Fly

As Fast as Words Could FlyAs Fast as Words Could Fly by Pamela M. Tuck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Somebody’s got to make a change.

This is the theme brought to life in As Fast As Words Could Fly, a MG picture book about fourteen-year-old Mason Steele, his family, the American Civil Rights movement, and a typewriter. The art beautiful, realistic, the perfect complement to the simple, heartfelt story. The story begins by showing a handsome, well-groomed, baseball and football loving young man bent over his studies. I wanted him for my son. Seriously. On every page we see Mason's world, loving parents, anxiety, and the power of change.

Mason helps his father’s civil rights group. His skill with pencil and paper helps him create business letters used to advance the cause. The group gives him a manual typewriter (the pictures really help since too few people today even remember those things, much less have seen one). He teaches himself to type over the summer and his words and abilities expand.

Life changes when school resumes. Mason's efforts have helped the civil rights group desegregate the local school. Instead of the daily thirteen mile trip to the black school, Mason and his brothers begin the even harder journey to the formerly all-white school. At first the bus driver refuses to stop to pick them up. When they get to school, they are met at the door by officials who do not want them to enter. White students, even the few who had been friendly before, now shun the black boys. But Mason excels in typing class, earning a job with the school librarian (does anyone remember actual card catalogues) and the right to represent his school at a typing tournament where he wins because he remembers where he came from. The pictures show the stunned surprise on the faces of the other competitors. No one cheers for Mason. But his words speak for him, "loud and clear."

In the end we feel hopeful for Mason and for his family's future. And we know that future will involve writing. The book includes an author's note about her father and his own life during this time period, her inspiration for the book.

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