An Inappropriate Book?

Bubba and I read a book the other day called Ron’s Big Mission (by Rose Blue and Corinne Naden), and I liked it well enough that I wanted to share it with all of you.

It’s about a nine-year-old boy in the 1950s who wanted to check out a book at the library, but wasn’t allowed to because of his skin color.  The boy’s mother and the police were called, but the boy refused to back down.  People told the boy to just let a white person check out the book for him, but he persisted. In the end, he walked out of the library with the book he wanted checked out in his name.

It was the last page that really got me, though.  On that page, it tells how the story is a fictionalized account of a real incident from Ron McNair’s life (for those who might not know, Ron McNair was one of the astronauts who perished in the 1986 Challenger explosion).

Needless to say, this is one of those stories I definitely want Bubba to hear again when he gets older… the courage McNair must have had to face this injustice head-on is absolutely inspiring!

I even thought about using it in my classroom, but then I read some of the reviews on Amazon.  More than 25% of the people who rated the book said it was one-star because they felt it was “inappropriate” for children! One even said:

“my child never saw people as a “color” before this book. people were just people until this book was read to him. i have now spent 3 weeks trying to undo what this book has done.” 

Seriously?!  Are parents really going that far to shelter their children from the realities of the past?  Should I be worried about what the parents will say/do if I read it to my first graders at school this year?  What do you think?  Let me know by leaving a comment.


Filed under Classroom Connections, Great Books, Reading the Library, Special Stuff

11 responses to “An Inappropriate Book?

  1. I say READ IT and/or show

    StoryCorps: McNair’s brother tells the story

  2. Angelica Van Iperen

    Read it, and explain to parents that their children will benefit from learning history from multiple racial perspectives, that they’ll become critical thinkers. Do we not want our children to learn from past events instead of continuing to be “color blind” and unconsciously repeating the harmful effects of racism? What would be inappropriate is to try to erase history by pretending nothing happened to an entire race of people.

  3. Michael, I posted this on my Mississippi ReMixed Facebook page tonight:

    Myra Williams Ottewell
    Just read the post below by Michael Carton. It made me want to post about an incident I had at the Canadian border on the way home from getting gas in the USA last night.

    I have a Nexus card, a higher level of security for people who go across the border often. I pulled up to the checkpoint, and just like many other times, the young officer said, “Thanks” and I started to drive away. Then he yelled “Stop!”. I slammed on the brakes. I said to him, “I thought you said, ‘Thanks'”. He stepped out of the security hut and barked for me to “Pop the trunk.” I accidentally popped the hood. He wasn’t happy about that. I got out of the car and opened the trunk with the key. “Step back in the car,” he commanded. I asked him if I could shut the hood, but I stopped myself mid-sentence, because that might seem to be challenging him. He shut my trunk, walked around and shut the hood and then said to me very sternly, “If you fail to stop, you could be fined $1,000 and your Nexus card taken. Do not move forward unless you have a very clear, ‘Go ahead’.”

    I was angry. The adrenaline was pumping. I hesitated, put my head out a bit to tell him that he was overreacting, should have said whatever he said more clearly, and that I have had hundreds of interactions at the Nexus lane where the officer said, “Thanks” and all sorts of things other than “Go ahead.” – but, I didn’t. As Archie Bunker used to say, I stifled it. Why? Because I valued my Nexus pass more than I wanted to argue with this one border guard. With Nexus, I avoid long lineups and that is pure gold to a frequent US/Canadian border-crosser.

    On the way home, I started to think about young black men and how often many of them have been stopped, assumed to be “trouble” and had to stiffle it. I thought about the feelings I had toward that young man who happened to be of another ethnicity and how easy it would be to transfer my anger toward his group.

    Sometimes God gives us a little taste of another person’s experience to have the opportunity to empathize with them. Experience is so much powerful than abstract thoughts. I had a rare experience. Many people face much worse – much more often.

    Michaels Read
    Father and Son Reading Every Book in the Library Together

  4. We as teachers need to read those books that may be controversial. It opens the door for critical thinking and questioning. Those are the things we want from our children if we want them to be well rounded. As teachers we know that many kids come to school with very little background knowledge of what goes on or has gone on in the world. I say read it. I want to thank you because I am getting it for my second grade grand-daughter.

  5. Marsha McGill

    I think read with a class with appropriate guidance will be fine. Do people not go see the movie 42 because of racism? I think there needs to be discussion with the book and it will be fine.

  6. I am totally okay with reading stories like this. I teach Gr. 3 and this year we read Number the Stars in our Gr. 3 book club. We had one parent email saying they thought this wasn’t an appropriate topic for children this age (it’s about secretly taking Jews to Sweden from Denmark to avoid being rounded up). I was a little nervous about this parent being upset. My principal read the book. I was so grateful when her response was, “Bring it on! I’d love to have a discussion with a parent who thinks this book is inappropriate.”

  7. Read it! Working in a school that is almost all African American students – we are reading books that show us the past all the time. All students need to know our/everyone’s history. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention. I was not familiar with it.

    What a great project – I love the idea of read the library!

  8. Mom of Boys

    First grade, totally appropriate. Pre-K, I would say too young. I’m so happy to have found your blog!

  9. I say read it! We shouldn’t sugar coat our history. I just finished “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” that dealt with race and treatment of different races. It used the “n” word a lot and in my review of the book I stated that if that bothered you, don’t read it. It bothers me, but kids need to know that those things happened and weren’t ok.

    See if you can tie it back to a state standard and then you have even more reason to read it to them!

  10. I was lucky to get my own copy of Ron’s Big Mission when Don Tate visited our school (he’s the illustrator). I read it to my fourth graders every year. It’s a great story about standing up for something you think is wrong, and that lesson can never be repeated enough in our own classrooms. And the person who said that their child “never saw people as a ‘color’ before” is either lying or living in ignorant bliss, because our children (and we know this as teachers) are so much more aware of things than we think. Keep reading the books that cause controversy because if they’re causing controversy, they’re making people think (and isn’t that what it’s all about sometimes- making people think).

  11. Shannon

    How is it inappropriate? We read The Other Side as part of our 1st grade curriculum and have great discussions. We also celebrate MLK and discuss what he went through for equality.

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