|Marching for Freedom
by Elizabeth Partridge
|Tales from Outer Suburbia
by Shaun Tan
Arthur A. Levine Books
Judged by Walter Dean Myers
Shaun Tan invites the reader to go along with him on a journey full of surprises. It is soon clear as we go through these very brief stories, illustrated by Tan with intelligence and humor, that we are not likely to end up anywhere we would expect. In ‘Stick Figures’, for example, he gives life to the imagined reality of the fallen tree branches we see around us and the reactions to those sometimes human like figures. In another story a deer appears on a roof and, in a reversal of the Clement Moore story, takes gifts instead of bringing them. A story which encapsulates both the wit and weakness of the book is called ‘Our Expedition.’ In this story Tan tells of two brothers who find a directory in which one of the maps ends abruptly. A debate ensues as to whether a page has fallen out of the book and the two brothers decide to follow the map to find out exactly what should have been included. They discover that the landscape is exactly as the map indicates, a sheer cliff beyond which there is nothing. A different approach to a story? Absolutely! An interesting approach? Mildly. Compelling? No. After The Arrival I expected great things from Shaun Tan. I still do.
Although billed as a book which emphasizes the role of children in the Civil Rights struggle, in my mind the outstanding aspect of Marching for Freedom is the way, through words and images, the author puts a human face on the participants. Most books are content to show the marchers/protesters as either openly defiant or aloof from the dangers involved as they sing hymns and hold hands. In this carefully compiled collection of photographs and precise text, the author revisits people who were clearly worried about their safety, who knew they might be beaten or even killed, bringing the real experience of the marches into sharp focus.
I’m often told by young people who have always lived in northern schools that they would have done things different had they lived in the South of the sixties. What they don’t realize that it was in the South, in places like Selma and Montgomery, that the depths of individual courage was most sorely tested. Elizabeth Partridge brings that courage to these pages.
The Winner of Round 3 Match 2 Is…
It’s odd how the books with the strongest visual aspects ended up in this bottom bracket, and how they keep bumping in to each other. To be sure, LIPS TOUCH and CLAUDETTE COLVIN have striking visual elements, but they didn’t seem to be an issue in either decision, whereas in MARCHING FOR FREEDOM, THE STORM IN THE BARN, SWEETHEARTS OF RHYTHM, and TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA the visual elements have been mentioned in every single decision. It took me a second read to warm up to TALES FROM OUTER SUB URBIA, so I figured it was only a matter of time until its odd quirkiness didn’t resonate with a judge. Then, too, MARCHING FOR FREEDOM has that accumulation of story that Gary mentioned (and that Tobin mentioned in relation to CHARLES AND EMMA), while Chris and Walter have mentioned the wonderful humanizing quality of Partridge’s story. So we now know two of our finalists—THE LOST CONSPIRACY and MARCHING FOR FREEDOM. Which book will join them in the finals? Hmmm.
– Commentator Jonathan Hunt