Historical Fiction

“Freedom Summer”

Written by Deborah Wiles

Illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue

Publisher: Antheneum Books for Young Readers

Copyright Date: 2001

Number of Pages: 32

Awards: John Steptoe Award & Ezra Jack Keats Award


Historical Fiction is a genre of trade books that are crucial to a literacy rich classroom. To be classified as historical fiction, a book must have characters and settings that take place in a time period of the past. “Freedom Summer” is a trade book that takes place in the rural South in the early 1960’s during the time of desegregation and Civil Rights Movement. The story follows two friends who are enjoying summertime. These friends don’t see each other as colored and white, but they see each other as friends. They both love to swim, but the colored child cannot swim in the city pool. During the story, a desegregation law is passed, and the boys rush to the city pool. However, what they find at the city pool is not what they expected. Read this award winning book and see what the boys discover at the city pool.

The illustrations in this book are a mix of sketches and pastels, and they set the story perfectly. Lagarrigue won awards for New Talent in 2002 for his illustrations in this book. The illustrations add to the genre of historical fiction because the the characters have clothes that are appropriate to the the time period. Also, the illustrations depict the setting of rural South very accurately with the general store and creek drawings. Lagarrigue does a phenomenal job at capturing the setting, emotion, and attire of the time period of the 60’s in the rural South.

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This particular genre can be used in many ways in a classroom. Also, this book can be used across a wide range of grades from third to sixth grade. Some activities that I use along side this particular book include a  introduction to Black History Month. Likewise, when my class covered Civil Rights Movement in History, I would use this book to depict the segregation of public places. The students could draw a cluster map from the places in the book, and they will add places that they think were segregated during this time. Finally, this book is a great depiction of acceptance and tolerance of differences. I would have the students write as if they were the characters in the story. The students would write about the characters feelings about being different and segregation. This award winning book can be incorporated in the classroom in a variety of ways.

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