As Fast As Words Could Fly by Pamela M. Tuck, illustrated by Eric Velasquez
In segregated Greenville, North Carolina, 14-year-old Mason Steele has the rare talent to transcribe his father’s impassioned descriptions of civil rights incidents into effective business letters determined to educate and change people’s minds. His father’s civil rights group rewards young Mason’s efforts with a typewriter. With patience and dedication, Mason learns every letter and symbol of the shiny machine.
That fall, local school segregation ends – at least by law. But when Mason and his brothers begin at Belvoir High, the bus will not stop to pick them up. Even their summer friends warn, “‘You Steele boys are asking for trouble.'” Mason proves to be a good student, regardless of the rude principal, the unfriendly teachers who call him ‘boy,’ the unwelcoming students. He is especially adept at typing, so much so that he is grudgingly allowed to represent Belvoir at a county typing competition. Under Mason’s fingers, the keys move as fast as words could fly …
Pamela M. Tuck‘s ending “Author’s Note” reveals her book is “based on the real-life experiences of my father, Moses Teel Jr., during the 1960s.” As her father provided the words for his own father, Tuck does the same for her father, transcribing his memories into this inspiring book, richly enhanced by Eric Velasquez‘s evocative, detailed illustrations. Father and daughter’s multi-generational accomplishment is an effective reminder that “ordinary people … played an integral part in moving our country in this direction [toward tolerance and the acceptance of diversity]. Their hard work, determination, and courage set an example for all who face challenges to their rights and freedoms.”
Although Tuck won favorite multi-culti children’s publisher Lee & Low’s New Voices Award in 2007, that her Words hit shelves earlier this year couldn’t be more timely. The reactions during this first week following the July 13, 2013 George Zimmerman verdict in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, including President Obama’s highly personal speech on Friday, July 19 [“Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago”], clearly show our society – a half-century after the events in Tuck’s title – still faces daily challenges to protecting rights and freedoms for all. Books like this remain as necessary as ever to teach our children, teach them early, teach them well. President Obama encourages: ” … we should also have confidence that kids these days, I think, have more sense than we did back then, and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did, and that along this long and difficult journey, you know, we’re becoming a more perfect union, not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.” That, indeed, is the audacity of hope for us all.