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. Copyright 2001 BookPage Reviews
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2002 Spring
This is the story of a child facing a difficult time sustained by the support of the adults in her life. Going alone for the first time, 'Tricia Ann is off to Someplace Special--the public library where ""All Are Welcome."" The journey isn't easy: she must face the indignities of life in the Jim Crow South. The text and art strike just the right balance: informative without being preachy; hopeful without being sentimental. Copyright 2002 Horn Book Guide Reviews
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2001 #6
Young 'Tricia Ann is off to Someplace Special-and about to "burst with excitement" because her grandmother is letting her go there alone for the very first time. The journey is not an easy one: she must face the indignities of life in the Jim Crow South. She has to sit behind the sign on the bus that says "COLORED SECTION." She is not allowed to sit in the park by the Peace Fountain her stonemason grandfather helped build. She visits her friend the doorman at the elegant Southland Hotel and is asked to leave. "What makes you think you can come inside? No colored people are allowed!" the manager says. Despite these humiliations, 'Tricia Ann is strengthened at every turn by people who care about her and who bolster her with reminders to "Carry yo'self proud" and "Don't let those signs steal yo' happiness." Soon she reaches her beloved Someplace Special-the public library. The words carved in stone proclaim: "Public Library: All Are Welcome." Jerry Pinkney's illustrations place 'Tricia Ann at the center of each page, willing to face the challenges the outside world throws at her. Whether 'Tricia Ann is in her grandmother's kitchen (surrounded by bountiful fresh fruits and vegetables and the love they symbolize) or fearfully looking over her shoulder on the bus, Pinkney makes it clear that she will triumph. Though this story takes place in an unnamed Southern city, the helpful author's note states that McKissack was raised in Nashville, where, unlike many other Southern cities of the 1950s, the public libraries welcomed African Americans. The library pictured on the final pages, bathed in hopeful lemon sunshine, is the downtown library of 1950s Nashville. There are many books about a child's first trip alone, and many books about racism and the struggle for civil rights, but this book is about more than either: it is the story of a child facing a difficult time sustained by the support of the adults in her life. McKissack and Pinkney strike just the right balance in a picture book for young readers and listeners: informative without being preachy; hopeful without being sentimental. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Magazine Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 2001 September #2
In a story that will endear itself to children's librarians and, for that matter, all library lovers, 'Tricia Ann begs her grandmother to be allowed to go alone to Someplace Special. Mama Frances acquiesces, sending her off with instructions: " ‘And no matter what, hold yo' head up and act like you b'long to somebody.' " 'Tricia Ann's special place is not revealed until the end, but on the way there, the humiliating racism she encounters on the city bus, in the park, and in a downtown hotel almost causes her to give up. " ‘Getting to Someplace Special isn't worth it,' she sobbed." When she recalls her grandmother's words: " ‘You are somebody, a human being-no better, no worse than anybody else in this world,' " she regains the determination to continue her journey, in spite of blatant segregation and harsh Jim Crow laws. " Public Library: All Are Welcome" reads the sign above the front door of Someplace Special; Mama Frances calls it "a doorway to freedom." Every plot element contributes to the theme, leaving McKissack's autobiographical work open to charges of didacticism. But no one can argue with its main themes: segregation is bad, learning and libraries are good. Pinkney's trademark watercolors teem with realistically drawn people, lush city scenes, and a spunky main character whose turquoise dress, enlivened with yellow flowers and trim, jumps out of every picture. A lengthy author's endnote fills in the background for adults on McKissack's childhood experiences with the Nashville Public Library. This library quietly integrated all of its facilities in the late 1950s, and provided her with the story's inspiration. A natural for group sharing; leave plenty of time for the questions and discussion that are sure to follow. (Picture book. 5-9) Copyright Kirkus 2001 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2001 August #1
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. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2001 September
Gr 3-5-'Tricia Ann's first solo trip out of her neighborhood reveals the segregation of 1950s' Nashville and the pride a young African-American girl takes in her heritage and her sense of self-worth. In an eye-opening journey, McKissack takes the child through an experience based upon her own personal history and the multiple indignities of the period. She experiences a city bus ride and segregated parks, restaurants, hotels, and theaters and travels toward "Someplace Special." In the end, readers see that 'Tricia Ann's destination is the integrated public library, a haven for all in a historical era of courage and change. Dialogue illustrates her confidence and intelligence as she bravely searches for truth in a city of Jim Crow signs. Pinkney re-creates the city in detailed pencil-and-watercolor art angled over full-page spreads, highlighting the young girl with vibrant color in each illustration. A thought-provoking story for group sharing and independent readers.-Mary Elam, Forman Elementary School, Plano, TX Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.