"I always thought being brave
was for grown-up heroes doing big, daring deeds.
But Mama says that sometimes courage
is just an ordinary boy like me
doing a small thing, as small as picking up a pencil."
James, narrator of Deborah Hopkinson's Steamboat School, is not
happy about attending the Tallow Candle School, convened in a dark
church basement. There's so much going on on the Mississippi River.
He's missing out on all the action.
Then the school is shut down. The sheriff announces that the
State of Mississippi has enacted a new law forbidding blacks, even
free blacks, from learning to read and write. To his surprise, James
misses the school.
"One morning my steps took me to the church.
I thought of our books and slates in that dark room.
Funny how something you don't care much about at first
Can end up becoming the most important part of you."
All is not lost however. Reverand John Berry Meachum (a real
person on whose life the story is based) just may be able to find a
way to carry on his teaching without breaking any laws.
The beginning lines of the book (quoted above) and the last ones
(below) perfectly bookend a stirring story.
"I won't forget
because now I know that being brave
can sometimes be a small thing
like lighting a candle, opening a book,
or dipping an oar into still, deep water."
Like More Than Anything Else which we looked at recently,
Steamboat School is a vibrant celebration of the importance of
literacy and the drive to overcome obstacles to achieve it.
On a personal note, in a couple of days I will have a special
announcement to make. Thursday you will learn the identity of my new
literary sidekick who will be sharing her opinions on some of the
books I review. You're gonna love her.
A great big shout out goes out to my readers and my new reading chum.
Sent from my iPod