Summary: This book tells the story of two best friends, a white boy Joe, and a black boy John Henry in the segregated south of 1964 America. The boys had many similar interests and hobbies, but were not allowed to publicly do many of those things, such as swimming in the neighborhood pool and buying freeze pops at the local store, because of segregation. The summer of 1964, also known as 'The Freedom Summer,' marked a pivotal change in history by passing laws that banned segregation. However, the boys soon find that laws passed and attitudes and actions still carried out do not always coincide.
My Opinion: This story is a great introduction for talking about segregation and civil rights. It explores the child-like innocence that exists while also exposing children to the unfair nature of a 'democratic' society. I think that it is well written and captures the youth experience. It makes you emphasize and want to change the unjust behavior. I also like the simple illustrations that depict hot summer days in the south.
Possible Topics: This book depicts the nature and emotions that exist with segregation. It also is a great way to introduce civil rights and laws passes in the 1960s. It also brings up the point of having laws passed did not mean that the way blacks were treated would change. It can also lead to discussions on what is fair and unfair and trying to see from the perspective of all races.
Literacy/ Social Studies Lessons:
- Students could write journal entries from the perspective of either John Henry or Joe concentrating on having the students relate to the characters feelings.
- The students could do character studies on either of the main characters and also compare and contrast the two boys using graphic organizers.
- Students could write letters to local elected officials from the perspective of a community member of the Mississippi town telling the officials how the new laws are being treated and carried out.
Math/ Social Studies Lessons:
- Students can calculate the wage differences between blacks and whites of various occupations in the1960s and compare the wage difference of whites and blacks today.
- Students can research and find out the racial breakdown of the United States in 1964 and what the breakdown of elected officials in 1964 and compare. Analyzing the misrepresentation.
Social Studies Lessons:
- Introduce and begin to analyze the Civil Rights Act. Do they agree with the laws? Do they think they were effective?
- Consider and discuss the disparity of law and practice.
- Discuss if they think that these unfair acts still occur today. Examples of unfair treatment and segregation that the children think of can lead to them writing proactive letters to the organizations or those in charge of the unfair acts.