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Ron's Big Mission Hardcover – January 22, 2009

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 440L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (January 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525478493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525478492
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.4 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 19 customer reviews
Afterwards, she checks the book out.
Steven C. Thedford
The character in this book depicted true bravery and courage these are traits I want to pass on to my children.
Loving Parent
It was well written, easy to read, engaging, and very well illustrated.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Yana V. Rodgers on January 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Ron, a young boy from Lake City, South Carolina, grew up at a time when segregation laws and other institutionalized forms of racism prevented him from enjoying the privileges that came with having his own library card. Although the local librarian always greeted the library's most frequent patron with a smile and allowed him to read on site, Ron was not allowed to bring home the books he so loved to read. It took a courageous act of civil disobedience on young Ron's part to stand up for his rights, obtain a library card, and take a step toward the end of segregation in his home town.

Based loosely on actual events in the childhood of Ron McNair, Ron's Big Mission can inspire children to dream big about their future goals and also think about how they can, in big or small ways, work toward social justice in their community. The name Ron McNair is familiar to many, as Ron grew up to become the talented scientist and astronaut who, sadly, perished in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger shortly after take-off in 1986. This background adds an even deeper layer of poignancy and meaning to the powerful story.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By goodmusicman on January 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This little book tells the story of a young Ron McNair's (later famous as an astronaut who died in the 1986 explosion of the Challenger space shuttle) determination to check out library books for himself in a Southern down which denied that privilege to people whose skin color was not white. The book does not directly address the issue of racism. The message can be inferred from the events, dialogue, and pictures but it is a subtle message, not overtly spelled out. Most kids will see it as a matter of fairness: it is not fair that they wouldn't let Ron check out the books just because of the color of his skin. The story is also well-told, with a heroic Ron giving a smile to light up a room when things work out in the end. This story is as uplifting for adults as it is for kids.

I do not agree with the two one-star reviews here who state that children shouldn't be exposed to the issue of skin color because it isn't relevant anymore. If only that were true! Racism is still alive and well and children need to know from a young age that any kind of discrimination on the basis of skin color, or anything arbitrary, is wrong and "unfair." If the proper lessons are not taught at a young age, the wrong lessons may be "taught" to kids when they grow up from sources that parents would never want their kids to get their values from. I therefore recommend this book as highly as possible.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Melissa on February 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
My daughter picked this book from the Scholastic book order form from school because the description sounded interesting. We read it as soon as it arrived and both my 5 and 7-year-old children listened intently. My kids are white and it floored them to think that this nice black child was denied a service that they so frequently use themselves. I especially like the author's note at the end, which indicates that this is a fictionalized story based on a real event involving Ron McNair, who later became one of the astronauts who perished on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. I read the author's note to my children and we ended up online watching videos of the Challenger explosion and reading up on why that explosion happened and what has been done to prevent that from happening in the future. I believe this story opened up a lot of learning opportunities for my children. There is great value in choosing literature that puts your children in other people's shoes, other people who are different than themselves.

The reason I give it 4 and not 5 is because I think some people may feel that the way that Ron choose to make a scene in the library as not a good example for young children. However, I simply explained to my children why he did this and why they do not need to do this themselves.

I highly recommend this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amber on August 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I must say I was shocked to see that some reviewers found it "inappropriate". I don't understand that thinking. Ignoring the history of racism doesn't make it go away, nor does pretending your child doesn't see people of different size, shape, ability, and color around him/her.

My son brought this home from school today. What a great book! Even the older girls came in to listen. This spurred a short discussion on history, race, and the Challenger accident.

It was well written, easy to read, engaging, and very well illustrated.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Heiss on April 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I read the one-star reviews. I agree that this book makes a BIG issue of skin color, and many families in America have never been slapped with the skin color issue while the children are in their preschool years (the illustrations are appealing for preschoolers/early elementary.)

Skin color WAS a big issue at that time in America and in Ron McNair's life, even though it is far less of an issue now.

I love this book for the illustrations, the sense of mission, and that little boy's courage, because it would take guts to stand there and not cry.

Parents should pre-read. Parents are the best judge of material for their children.

Another interesting book is More Than Anything Else, about Booker T. Washington's pursuit of reading. More Than Anything Else
Also Richard Wright and the Library Card. Richard Wright and the Library Card
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