Seeing the Jim Crow world through a child's eyes
Every once in a while a special picture book comes along. On the shelf it calls out to you immediately. The moment you hold it in your hands you know it's a treasure you will want to read and share for years to come. Goin' Someplace Special is just such a book.
Patricia C. McKissack is one of our foremost authors for young people. Here, she tells her own story of growing up in Nashville in the segregated 1950s. Lovingly illustrated in pencil and watercolors by award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney, Goin' Someplace Special follows a girl named 'Tricia Ann as she leaves the protective comfort of her grandmother, Mama Frances, to take a big step. She is going downtown alone, to Someplace Special.
In Goin' Someplace Special we see the Jim Crow world through 'Tricia Ann's eyes. There's the sign on the bus that says Colored Section, the bench by the Peace Fountain that reads, For Whites Only and the Southland Hotel's grand lobby, where 'Tricia Ann wanders in by mistake, only to be yelled at and ousted by the manager. This journey away from her grandmother's loving arms is frightening indeed. But throughout, 'Tricia Ann is supported by friends and neighbors. In the bus, Mrs. Gannell tells her, Carry yo'self proud. And Jimmy Lee, a street vendor, helps keep her spirits up. Don't let those signs steal yo' happiness, he tells her.
In the end, 'Tricia Ann reaches her destination. And it is only then that the reader learns that Someplace Special is the Nashville Public Library, which in the late 1950s quietly voted to integrate its facilities.
Recently I asked Patricia McKissack if she had been thinking of writing this book for a long time. She responded, For years and years. But I did not want to write an angry book. I wanted children to feel they can make it to whatever destination they are trying to reach. I wanted this to be a book of triumph. A book of triumph it is. With the love of family and the support of community, young Patricia McKissack did reach her destination and fulfill her dreams of becoming all she knew she could be. Children who read this beautiful, poignant story will be inspired to do the same.
Deborah Hopkinson is the author of A Band of Angels, a story about Nashville's Fisk University Jubilee Singers.