Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kizzy Ann Stamps by Jeri Watts

Kizzy Ann Stamps in nervous about school starting.  For the first time, school will be integrated and Kizzy Ann will be going to what once was the all-white school. Fitting in would be hard enough anyway, but Kizzy Ann was in an accident that left a long scar on her face.  Luckily she has her loyal border collie, Shag, who always knows how to comfort her. 

The story is told through what start out as letters Kizzy Ann writes to her new teacher, and then turn into journal entries once she gets to school and her teacher gives her a journal.  Kizzy Ann is a smart, sharp girl who sees the injustices and unfairness around her, but doesn't know how things will ever get better.

This is a middle grade book that doesn't get too deep into issues of race and segregation.  There are no screaming white people outside of Kizzy Ann's school, although she does mention that a bunch of the white teachers quit rather than teach a black student.  Kizzy Ann and her Black classmates don't need government protection to attend school.  All the white kids do not get pulled out of the class by their parents.  It's clear there are race issues, but it never gets too violent or dark.

Kizzy Ann has a changing relationship with a white boy, Frank Charles, who is also the boy who gave her her scar, although it was an accident.  Frank Charles lives near Kizzy Ann and they are in the same class.  He loves Shag, and is always trying to play with her.  Kizzy Ann doesn't know what to make of Frank Charles, who seems nice enough, but his father is actively mean.  Mr. Feagans once had Kizzy Ann publicly whipped for talking back to Frank Charles.  Mr. Feagans, however, has a dramatic change of heart after seeing Kizzy Ann help his wife while having a seizure.  Then he goes from yelling terrible things at her to helping her and Shag compete in a sheep herding competition.  I found that very unlikely and unrealistic, but I understood why it was done.  This was not a book that delved too deeply into why people acted the way they did.  It was a book about how you should always try and good things can happen, even when it seems hard.

What was more realistic was the other white children in Kizzy Anna's classes growing more and more use to her and the other Black kids over time and by the end of the year, she was even sort of friends with a few of them.  That seemed real, the changing natures of the younger generations, and the determined holdouts of the older generations.

This is also a book for dog-lovers.  Oh how Kizzy Ann loves her dog, which never left her side when she was injured.  Shag, to Kizzy Ann, is the smartest, best dog there possibly could be, and she talks about Shag a lot.  Shag helps Kizzy Ann to move ahead when she gets stuck, and it's through training Shag that Kizzy Ann is able to make new friends and take steps for change.

Kizzy Ann Stamps comes out August 14, 2012.


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