Historical Fiction emphasizes hope

Kizzy Ann Stamps - Jeri Watts


I never thought I'd write to the teacher at the white school. I don't know as I've ever thought about the white school, really, before all this integration business got started. But here I am, fixing to go there come September.

--Chapter 1


This historical fiction novel tells the story of integration in a small town and how a young girl sees things. Kizzy Ann Stamps is a young girl of color who doesn't really want to go to the "white school". The book is set up as letters Kizzy writes to her new teacher and once school starts, a journal. Each chapter is a letter and later a journal entry. Kizzy loves to write and enjoys telling Miss Anderson all about her and her dog Shag in her letters.


Kizzy is very honest in her letters and expresses what she is feeling about whatever is going on in her life. As the story progresses, we see that Kizzy has a strong personality and sometimes speaks when she shouldn't and it gets her in trouble. But, Kizzy is also very smart, very determined and very resilient.


The author writes beautifully and really captures the voice of a young black girl during the time of segregation. At least as far as I can tell, being pretty far removed from that myself. I guess what I'm saying is, Kizzy is a compelling character and she seems real. Kizzy goes through some highs and lows. She is kept from doing some things because of the color of her skin, but she does break some barriers.


To me, this novel speaks of hope. How even though things seem set in concrete, there are always people with open minds who are willing to see the benefits of change. Of course there  are those who are dead set against change, but that doesn't mean we stop trying to make life better.


Enough preaching. Here are some quotes that I especially liked.

I cannot believe the upside-downness of the world. One day your biggest problem is whether you feel like you can work with a man whose eyebrows are alive, and the next minute your problem is that your country's president is dead.

How can one man dying make the whole world hush?


He's my daddy, you know. But sometimes, I just don't know what's right. He'll do something and it feels, um, ugly or mean or something. I get mixed up then. I just don't always know what's right. You know what I mean?


The makeup didn't bring back the old me. It wasn't the old Kizzy Ann. It was just some other girl, someone I didn't know. It was a disguise, just a disguise.


I was not amazed at the hug from you -- I know by now that you really do love me even if you are white and I am not -- but when the crowd gasped, I thought we were in trouble.


I looked to my friends, my friends who were there for me, there with me, this finest moment in my life. I knew that it didn't matter whether we won any place at all. For that experience, on that course, I was an equal.

I enjoyed this book very much. Historical fiction seems to be growing on me. I used to think I didn't like this genre much. But, recently I've read several historical fiction books that touched me. It's always fun to discover something new that you enjoy.


Recommended to:

Readers in grades 3-5 that enjoy historical stories or stories about young girls overcoming odds.