Review Blog

Jan 12 2013

Kizzy Ann Stamps by Jeri Watts

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Candlewick, 2012. ISBN 978 07636 5895 3.
(Age: 9+) Warmly recommended. Integration (USA History). Racism. Dogs. It is Kizzy's first time in a white school after years in a black school where all students sat together under the watchful eye of one teacher, a woman beloved by her community. But it is 1963 and integration is now law and Kizzy, worried about what may happen, writes to her new teacher to introduce herself. Surprisingly her new teacher writes back and through Kizzy's letters to her we see her life and times laid out for us. For readers in 2013, Kizzy's is an astonishing life, one richly detailed, but one confined by segregation and racism. The hopes she and her teachers express for the future are like beacons of light, ones readers think on as they read this story. This is an astounding tale, engaging, often amusing and a sobering story of one young girl, one which reveals life as it was and impels us to question life as it was then for millions of people.
But these are not Kizzy's concerns, she is more worried that the awful scar running across her face will cause embarrassment and teasing, she is worried that her outspoken nature will upset her new teacher, she is concerned that the boy who bullied her before will do so again - grass roots concerns set against a momentous time in the history of the USA and its call for equality.
This story is worth searching for. I had initially put it aside but reading it was a pleasure. The letter format makes it most accessible, and readers will become embroiled in the life of Kizzy, marvelling at her tenacity and loving her dog, as we read of the inseparable pair. The dog becomes the impetus for some sort of communication between the groups in her town and the reader is left with the hope that this will have a wider reach.
Fran Knight

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