McKissak, Patricia C. 2001. Goin' Someplace Special. Ill. by Jerry Pinkney. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN 0689808858
B. Plot Summary
It is the 1950s and segregation is still in place in many areas of the US. Still, that doesn't deter 'Tricia Ann form making a trip, alone for the first time, braving the ignorance of segregation, to the town's only non-segregated building: the public library.
C. Critical Analysis
Only after reading the book does the reader see a note at the end from the author explaining that the story is based upon an event in the author's own life. The story does portray painfully accurate events and attitudes of people in the 50s in the southern states. Jim Crow laws are evidenced in the story when 'Tricia Ann has to sit in the back of the bus, not sit on a bench in the town's park, or enter the front door of the movie theater. What is most disheartening is how the white girl tells her little brother that "Colored people can't come in the front door. They got to go 'round back and sit up in the Buzzard's Roost." The younger brother, only six years old, was the white person to speak kindly to 'Tricia Ann.
Cultural attitudes of the time are also voiced by the other Black characters in the book. Mama Frances tells 'Tricia Ann "...hold yo' head up and act like you b'long to somebody." Mrs. Grannell from the back of the bus told her to "Carry yo'self proud." Jimmy Lee told her "Don't let those signs steal yo' happiness."
Jerry Pinkney illustrates each page with rich colors filled with details of the 1950s. Clothing and cars are period as is 'Tricia Ann's straw hat she wears because she is going "out." African-American culture is not depicted in the illustrations beyond skin tone as most of the setting is the town's streets, transportation, and places of business.
D. Review Excerpts
Publishers Weekly McKissack draws from her childhood in Nashville for this instructive picture book. "I don't know if I'm ready to turn you loose in the world," Mama Frances tells her granddaughter when she asks if she can go by herself to "Someplace Special" (the destination remains unidentified until the end of the story). 'Tricia Ann does obtain permission, and begins a bittersweet journey downtown, her pride battered by the indignities of Jim Crow laws. She's ejected from a hotel lobby and snubbed as she walks by a movie theater ("Colored people can't come in the front door," she hears a girl explaining to her brother. "They got to go 'round back and sit up in the Buzzard's Roost"). She almost gives up, but, buoyed by the encouragement of adult acquaintances ("Carry yo'self proud," one of her grandmother's friends tells her from the Colored section on the bus), she finally arrives at Someplace Special a place Mama Frances calls "a doorway to freedom" the public library. An afterword explains McKissack's connection to the tale, and by putting such a personal face on segregation she makes its injustices painfully real for her audience. Pinkney's (previously paired with McKissack for Mirandy and Brother Wind) luminescent watercolors evoke the '50s, from fashions to finned cars, and he captures every ounce of 'Tricia Ann's eagerness, humiliation and quiet triumph at the end.
Old teens can research the Jim Crow laws to determine when they came into effect and when they were abolished. Research to see how many laws there were and what they restricted Afro-Americans from doing.