Kizzy Ann Stamps, by Jeri Watts;
Candlewick Press: New York, 2012; $15.99
Kizzy Ann Stamps is a normal girl. She has a dog named Shag. She lives on a farm with her mother, father, and brother. But there’s one catch to this whole “normal girl” business: Kizzy Ann is black.
Today, that wouldn’t be a problem. However, in Kizzy’s time of 1963, being black would have been a huge deal. Discrimination was everywhere back then. If you were a black kid, you wouldn’t be allowed to use public restrooms. Trying on clothes at a store? The owners would’ve required you to put on gloves and cover up any body part that might be exposed to the fabric.
Nowadays, we don’t have those types of problems. Black kids have the same rights as any other kids. But discrimination hasn’t left.
Some types of discrimination people don’t really realize. For example, how many times have you been told you’re too young to hang out with the big kids? Or that you can’t play in the football game the neighborhood boys are organizing because you’re a girl? Both of these situations are forms of discrimination.
One time, I was backstage at my dance recital. I was in first grade, and one of my friends was in second grade. We were in different classes, and each class had a backstage craft/snack table. I walked over to her table to say hi and a girl at my friend’s table said, “You can’t come over here. You’re a first grader.”
We have a choice: we can join discrimination or rebel against it.
Several characters in this book rebel against it. After Kizzy Ann is integrated into a “white” school, her new teacher, Miss Anderson, chooses to ditch discrimination and teach Kizzy like she was teaching a white kid.
However, some characters join forces with discrimination. Kizzy Ann’s older brother, James, also attends a white school. But his teachers don’t hand out books to the black kids so they can learn alongside the white kids. And sports? None of the black kids played varsity regardless of their ability because varsity was for white kids only.
Kizzy Ann and her family yearned to be treated normally. No negative attention, no special attention—just normal. When Kizzy and Shag sign themselves up for some dog training, their instructor, Mr. McKenna, treats them just like that: normal. He’s there for them through thick and thin, not trying to force their relationship but not wanting to hurt it either, even if he has trouble expressing it. This trio, plus the addition of the white neighbor boy, Frank Charles, eventually makes it to a real dog show after a fair share of troubles. Then discrimination butts in again—the man at the sign-in desk tries to eliminate her from the competition because of the color of her skin.
This book reveals exactly what it might have felt like to be a black child back in 1963. It’s a book filled with excitement, heartbreak, and truth. I would recommend it to anyone in a fraction of a heartbeat.
Discrimination is everywhere. We can ignore it, or we can destroy it.
Which will you do?