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Freedom Summer Paperback – January 1, 2005


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Aladdin; Reprint edition (January 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068987829X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689878299
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in Mississippi during the summer of 1964, Wiles's affecting debut children's book about two boysAone white and the other African-AmericanAunderscores the bittersweet aftermath of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Rather than opening public pools, roller rinks and shops to African-Americans, many towns and private owners boarded up the doors. Wiles delivers her message incisively through the credible voices of her young characters, narrator Joe and his best friend, John Henry, whose mother works as housekeeper for Joe's family. Joe and John spend many hours swimming together in the creek because John is not allowed in the public pool, so on the day the Civil Rights Act is enacted, they visit the town pool together, excited about diving for nickels in the clear water. Instead they find a work crewAincluding John Henry's older brotherAfilling in the pool with asphalt. "John Henry's voice shakes. 'White folks don't want colored folks in their pool.' " The tale ends on an upbeat if tenuous note, as the boys walk together through the front door of a once-segregated shop to buy ice pops. Lagarrigue's (My Man Blue) softly focused, impressionistic paintings capture the lazy feel of summer days and affirm the bond between the two boys. The artist's close-up portraits of the boys' faces, as well as the body language of other characters, reinforce the narrative's powerful emotional pitch. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Ages 5-8. "John Henry Waddell is my best friend," begins the narrator of this story, set during a summer of desegregation in the South. John Henry is black and the narrator is white, so the boys swim together at the creek, rather than at the whites-only town pool, and the narrator buys the ice-cream at the segregated store. When new laws mandate that the pool, and everything else, must desegregate, the boys rejoice, until the town fills the pool with tar in protest and the narrator tries to see this town, "through John Henry's eyes." The boy's voice, presented in punchy, almost poetic sentences, feels overly romanticized, even contrived in places. It's the illustrations that stun. In vibrantly colored, broad strokes, Lagarrigue, who illustrated Nikki Grimes' My Man Blue (1999), paints riveting portraits of the boys, particularly of John Henry, that greatly increase the story's emotional power. Beautiful work by an illustrator to watch. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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The story and illustrations are absolutely beautiful.
pirateteacher
Freedom Summer is a story of racism, friendship and the triumph of the human spirit, told with great insight and wisdom.
Roz Levine
I cry every time I read it: tears of anger, frustration and respect.
Laila Ibrahim

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Ulyyf on July 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very evocative book about racism and hatred. Here's this boy, excited to play in the pool for the first time - and he can't. The city was so upset about integration that they filled the pool with concrete rather than let black people swim there. Terrible.

This book is realistic, and we can always use more books about history. It's well-written, I like the artwork.

But...

See, now, I have to ask this. Here's this book about integration, about hatred, about racism. It features a white boy and his black best friend. Best friend's big brother makes an appearance, too. The best friend is the one who feels heartbroken, he's the one who's suffering here...

So why is the white kid the narrator?

Is this story of friendship, and of hatred, really his story to tell? Why couldn't John Henry have told his own story?
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Roz Levine on May 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Joe and John Henry are best friends. They both love to play marbles, eat ice pops and swim in Fiddler's Creek. And, when they grow up, they're both planning to be firemen. But as Joe tells it there is one big difference between them... "John Henry's skin is the color of browned butter" and "my skin is the color of the pale moths that dance around the porch light at night." In the early 1960's, there are some things they just can't do together. John Henry's not allowed to swim in the town pool or buy his ice pops at Mr Mason's General Store. But all that is about to change. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act becomes law and segregation has to end. The town's swimming pool will be open to everyone, together and John Henry and his family will be able to shop at Mr Masons. The boys are so excited they can hardly sleep and race to the town pool extra early so that they can be there when it opens. But instead of cool blue water, they find workmen filling the pool with asphalt..... Deborah Wiles has written a gentle, yet powerful story of one small southern town's struggle with integration, as seen through the eyes of her white narrator, Joe. Her beautiful, heart-felt text, combined with Jerome Lagarrigue's stunning artwork will pull your children into the story and let them become part of Joe and John Henry's experience. Freedom Summer is a story of racism, friendship and the triumph of the human spirit, told with great insight and wisdom. A story you won't soon forget.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
History comes alive in this book. Freedom Summer puts names and faces to one of the most intense struggles our country has ever faced. It tells of two young boys who go against the flow and dare to be friends. The language is poetic and moving. Before you know it you're walking down the street with the characters. You see what they see and you feel what they feel. This book is something I will read to my children and I hope that one day they pull it off the shelf and read it to their children because it is a story of enduring quality, and it is a story that needs to be told and remembered.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
FREEDOM SUMMER is an amazing picture book. It's warm, child-centered, but also serious and meaningful. When I showed it recently to a children's librarian her comment was simply, "Wow!" This is a book to treasure, to read to your children, to share with students. It's a reminder that racism affects all children and that friendship is to be treasured.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Heiss on April 14, 2014
Format: Paperback
Look, I don't want to stir a whole pot here, but this story should have been told by John Henry, the black friend.

Instead this is a book that notices suffering through whites' perspective. I mean, it's great that they are friends and get along so well, but how well does Joe really understand his BEST FRIEND John Henry's world? Because he only just realized how important it was to be equal -- he never noticed it before?

I am sorry, because I wanted more from this book. Love the illustrations.

** update **

I note that I am not the first commenter to point this out. This is a great book, but I think it is told from the wrong perspective.

Ulyyf "connie" made a similar observation in her review before I wrote my own.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book about friendship and unfairness, beautifully told, emotionally illustrated, completely accessible--and about a subject important for us to remember and our kids to learn. The story and pictures are perfectly matched. I cry every time I read this book, and also feel hopeful. Don't miss it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on June 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Truman's Fifth Grade Class

Mostly life takes you places, yet sometimes it takes you down. John Henry and Joe cannot go swimming in the public pool because of the segregation law. John Henry couldn't go into the store either.Friendship cannot separate the two of them and when the law changes, Joe and John Henry go into the store together.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on May 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Freedom Summer, written by Deborah Wiles and illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue, is a wonderful book for all ages. Children can understand it, and adults will appreciate the message this book is trying to send. It is about a white boy whose name is Joe, and his best friend, John Henry, who is black. The book takes place in 1964 when there was still segregation, and Joe and John Henry live in the Deep South. They do everything together. When they go to get something from the store John Henry has to stay outside because he isn't allowed inside. One day when Joe and John Henry were at Joe's house they overheard his mom talking about the new law that was passed that made segregation illegal. They were so happy that they ran down to the town pool because now, finally, John Henry will be allowed to swim in it. They find out that some people aren't ready to change what they think just because of a new law. The people who own the pool have filled it with asphalt. They don't want black people to be able to swim in it. Joe and John Henry are so disappointed, but they decide to go enjoy whatever they can together. In the book the artwork is beautiful! I love all of the different colors that the artist uses. The pictures really help tell the story. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I do!
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