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Richard Wright and the Library Card Paperback – October 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 7 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 1 and up
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books (October 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1880000881
  • ISBN-13: 978-1880000885
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 8.5 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Richard Wright, African American author of Black Boy and Native Son, grew up in the segregated South of the 1920s. His formal education ended after he completed the ninth grade, but gaining access to the public library with the help of a white coworker opened up a new world of books for him, eventually inspiring him to become a writer. Richard Wright and the Library Card is a fictionalized account of this powerful story, deftly adapted by William Miller from a scene in Black Boy.

Miller--a professor of African American literature and author of the critically acclaimed Frederick Douglass: The Last Day of Slavery, A House by the River, and Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree-- masterfully builds suspense, as readers wonder how the young African American will quench his thirst for books without being busted by the local white librarian. Wright's story is perfectly complemented by the work of Gregory Christie, winner of the 1997 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award for Palm of My Heart. (Ages 5 to 9) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 2-5?In Memphis in the 1920s, public library borrowing privileges did not extend to blacks. Yet, 17-year-old Richard Wright's hunger to read inspires him to take a dangerous risk. He borrows the library card of a white co-worker and goes to the library with a forged note requesting permission to check out books for the man. The librarian treats him with suspicion, until Richard claims to be illiterate. This final act of self-deprecation elicits laughs from the librarian and other patrons. While the author's note acknowledges that this story is based on a scene from Wright's autobiography Black Boy, Miller takes significant liberties with the fictionalization. A comparison with the original shows that although the librarian questioned the note, she did not laugh at Richard. The harsh portrayal is reinforced through Christie's impressionistic illustrations done in acrylic and colored pencil. While this book is written in a straightforward, easily comprehensible manner, titles such as Marie Bradby's More Than Anything Else (Orchard, 1995) and Robert Coles's The Story of Ruby Bridges (Scholastic, 1995) describe a love of learning hindered by racism in a more inspiring way.?Jackie Hechtkopf, Talent House School, Fairfax, VA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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I have read this book many times to children.
J.Marie
Everyone MUST see the portrait of Wright on the cover of "HAIKU, This Other World" and be moved by that handsome face which reflects such great strength of character.
mcHaiku
Richard Wright grew into a writer and was able to use words and writing not because he learned phonics or took tests but because he had books to read.
Lynn Ellingwood

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance M. Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on April 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
Richard Wright is an African American author best known for his novel "Native Son" and his autobiographical work "Black Boy." In "Richard Wright and the Library Card" author William Miller fictionalizes a story from the latter work that tells of how Wright was inspired to become a writer. Growing up in the Mississippi of the segregated South of the 1920s, Wright was only allowed to go to school through the 9th grade. His mother had taught him to read by using the newspaper and Richard read everything he could find. At the age of 17 Wright traveled north to Memphis, where he got a job sweeping the floors and doing other jobs in the office of an optician. Wanting to check out books at the local library Wright is told he cannot do so because he is black. The only things he can read are old books and newspapers that he finds in the trash. But then, with the help of a white co-worker, Wright is able to come up with a strategy for circumventing the rules.

Miller takes some liberties with Wright's original description of these events in his life, but for the most part these changes simply reinforce the elements of the story; for example, the librarian is suspicious of Richard until he lies and says that he cannot read, at which point the librarian laughs. The detail is not in "Black Boy," but certainly having the librarian laugh reinforces both the irony and the injustice of Wright have to lie in order to gain access to books to read. For that matter the language in the story is made appropriate for young readers, who do not need to hear the epithets in use at the time to understand the prejudice Wright and other African-Americans faced in the segregated South.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Ellingwood VINE VOICE on March 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
With all this obession over testing in school and phonics, researchers have repeatedly found that access to books and libraries are really the key to literacy for a people. Apparently segregationists understood this and tried to limit the accessibility of books to African-Americans in the South. William Miller's fictional account of Richard Wright's attempt to access a library and books illustrates how reading can change lives and help people to grow. Richard Wright grew into a writer and was able to use words and writing not because he learned phonics or took tests but because he had books to read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By mcHaiku on April 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
Richard Wright grew up in the early 1930s . . . thinking that a library card was the TICKET TO FREEDOM. His mother used 'funny papers' to teach him to read but his formal education went only through 9th grade. A chance for a job took him to Memphis, Tennessee, and there he continued to yearn for books.

How difficult it is now to imagine not being allowed a library card because of race. Thousands of books, but only white folks could check them out! At work Richard finally approached one white man who was willing to loan his library card. Bending the truth a bit to use the card, young Richard found a new life spread out before him.

This 5 STAR story was drawn from an incident that Richard Wright wrote about in his famous 1945 autobiography. The books he read inspired his own talent. He worked with words all his life to express his beliefs in freedom and equality. Everyone MUST see the portrait of Wright on the cover of "HAIKU, This Other World" and be moved by that handsome face which reflects such great strength of character.

Libraries are more than symbols, and books are treasures that never stop 'giving back'. Parents & Teachers: Encourage children to tell about their first library experiences.

REVIEWER mcHAIKU believes fervently that their memories are also treasures.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By L. Looper on July 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed reading this fictionalised slice of history, with it's lesson of sheer determination and a love of learning. It made me want to use my library card to check out Native Son.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Richard Wright and the Library Card is a fictionalized account of a scene from Wright's life. As a seventeen-year-old black male living in Memphesis, Tennessee in the 1920s, Richard Wright did not have access to the same opportunities--such as borrowing books from the library--as his white counterparts. Convinced that education was his ticket to freedom, Wright desperately wanted to gain access, and with the aid of a white co-worker he was able to do just that. Christie's impressionistic illustrations in acrylic and colored pencil enhance Miller's portrayal of this young man's struggle to acquire knowledge in the face of segregation. Even though this depiction is not strictly accurate, it captures the spirit of the encounter. Moreover, this picturebook would pair nicely with Wright's autobiography, Black Boy, and the discrepancies can fuel a discussion regarding writer's craft. CHRISTINA E. TAYLOR
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