From School Library Journal
Grade 1–4—When nine-year-old Ron tries to take library books home instead of just looking at them, he knowingly challenges the rule that "only white people can check out books." The boy does not back down, even when his mother and the police arrive. The librarian finally relents and creates a library card for Ron, who proudly checks out the airplane books he loves to read. The purpose of Ron's "mission" is revealed with dramatic subtlety. There's no hint of racism as he walks through his 1950s South Carolina town on the way to the library where he is its "best customer." The truth emerges when a white patron offers to check out his books for him as the clerk blatantly ignores the boy. Stylized cartoon illustrations convey the town's benign facade while revealing tension through Ron's expressions of determination mixed with fear. The impact of his actions shows in the confusion and anger of onlookers. Readers do not learn if the library will change the rules for everyone, or just for Ron, but the final scene resonates as the child eagerly opens his book to page one. An author's note explains that this is a fictionalized account of a real incident from the childhood of astronaut Ron McNair, who died in the 1986 Challenger
explosion. This context lends power and poignancy to the event and adds to the book's value as an introduction and discussion starter for concepts of racism and individual courage.—Steven Engelfried, Multnomah County Library, OR
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In this story based on an incident from the life of astronaut Ron McNair, nine-year-old Ron walks into his local public library with a mission—to secure a library card for himself so that he can take books home to read. Because it’s 1959 and segregation laws prohibit African Americans from borrowing books, Ron is at first declined. The police arrive, but Ron refuses to be deterred; finally the head librarian agrees to bend the rules—Ron is her best patron, after all—and a very happy Ron leaves, books in hand. Based on interviews with Ron’s mother and a South Carolinian librarian, the story emphasizes McNair’s focus and determination to succeed, even if it means pointing out injustices along the way. Vibrant illustrations portray a cozy small town where rules are obeyed, mostly without thinking. Tate’s figures feature oversized heads with very expressive faces that vividly convey well-meant kindness and the frustrations of injustice. Appended with a note on McNair’s adult life, this will make a good choice for reading aloud and discussing. Grades K-2. --Kay Weisman