Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sit-In

I was very moved by the nonfiction picture book, Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down. It was written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney. They are both very talented in their own right, but this book shows the genius of their collaboration.

Sit-In is a story about a very famous moment in time. It starts on Feb. 1, 1960, when four Negro college students decided to sit down and try to order at the Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. They chose to ignore the "Whites Only" sign and planned to peacefully sit there until they got their order.

Their peaceful act of defiance caught on like wildfire around the country, and soon there were many Negro people sitting at lunch counters, waiting to be served.

This book is so striking because it is true. Andrea Davis Pinkney even found out what the four students in Greensboro actually ordered: doughnuts and coffee. In fact the phrase that repeats itself several times throughout the story is, "... a doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side." Such a simple request, but what a monumental task to undertake.

Most of the story is written as a metaphor for eating, especially the parts about equality, peace, and integration. That metaphor works so well with a story about people sitting at a lunch counter, which eventually leads to something much greater than "a doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side."

Brian Pinkney's illustrations are wonderful. I think my favorite page is the one where the words tell about all the horrible things that were done to the people at the lunch counter by angry people, full of hatred. The words tell of "coffee poured down their backs, milkshakes flung in their faces, pepper thrown in their eyes, ketchup - not on the fries, but dumped on their heads." The words are pretty descriptive, and the illustrations hint at the anger of the people doing these acts in the background.

I was recently in Washington D.C., and while visiting the Smithsonian Museum of American History, I had the opportunity to see the actual counter with the four stools from the Greensboro Woolworths. It's an amazing piece of our country's history, and one we shouldn't forget.

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down will be one of my first read alouds of the year as we begin to build community. It will be important to look at all the ways we can stand up for each other and for what's right, no matter what the color of our skin or our ethnicity. This particular event happened 40 years ago, and our classroom community will be a place where it still happens today.

1 comment:

  1. Karen, what a thoughtful reflection of this book by Andrea Davis Pinkney. I hadn't thought about the significance of the metaphor in this book. (I loved the connections to your trip!) You gave me much to think about.

    There is a growing collection of picture books that speak well to children about this time in our history we cannot forget. This story would work well with Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles in which the boys look forward to the ability to swim in the public pool and the ending in which they both go into the store for a popsicle. Taking a stand. What an important message for children.

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