Two children’s picture books that would be banned in Florida — each one powerful and important

Perhaps the threat of certain books being banned makes it even more important that those books be shared and read. Two books that certainly fit the bill are “That Flag” by Tameka Fryer Brown and Nikkolas Smith and “Love is Loud: How Diane Nash Led the Civil Rights Movement” by Sandra Neil Wallace and Bryan Collier. While the books are very different—one is a very touching story about the Confederate flag and its effect on the friendship of two girls, while the other is a nonfiction account of a valiant woman whom few have heard of. Both are books about topics that would certainly damage the fragile sensibilities of those who cringe at any reference to our racist past and our often-uncomfortable current racist reality.

“That Flag” brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. It’s an emotional story about two girls, best friends, who live on the same block in an unnamed Southern location. Keira and Bianca are “almost twins,” as Keira narrates. She explains all the things they have in common: they wear their hair in braids, they love to read, they are both great at playing four square at recess. But in spite of their true affection for each other, Keira is not allowed to go to Bianca’s house. Keira tells us she knows why. “It’s because of that flag.” Her parents call the Confederate flag a hate flag and tell her it’s a symbol of violence and oppression. But we read that “Bianca’s parents told her it’s a heritage flag. A celebration of courage and pride.” Keira’s eyes are opened when their class visits the Southern Legacy Museum, and Keira sees exactly what her parents are talking about. But Bianca doesn’t seem to understand, which saddens Keira immeasurably. But the catalyst is a tragic event that, because it is becoming a commonplace horror in our society, brought tears to my eyes. What’s also tragic is that in places where this book NEEDS to be read, it will definitely be banned — because it’s about difficult topics. It will make hearts ache and minds think. It will force children to consider the prejudice they see around them — and that may even have infected their own psyches. Critical thinking is anathema to racism, and that’s what book banning is all about. (Harper)

In “Love is Loud” we meet Diane Nash. She was born in Chicago, where her parents had moved so she wouldn’t grow up in the segregated South. They admit that Chicago “has sides,” but in her high school, there were students of all colors. Wallace’s brilliant narrative combines prose with poetry as she writes about those years in Chicago, “In books, you see signs of separation, but you don’t feel it. For teenage you, beauty contests are cool, even if charm school won’t accept Negroes. REFUSING is CONFUSING, but you don’t let segregation touch you.” But that all changes when Diane moves to Tennessee where her grandmother was born and raised, to attend Fisk University. She goes out with her friends and confronts the humiliating reality of segregation. Bathrooms, water fountains, schools. Prohibited from eating at the lunch counter and in restaurants. She joins a group of students in church and they practice peaceful protests. Sit-ins at Nashville lunch counters, marches, meets the mayor. And while Martin Luther King Jr. congratulated her on her helping to end the segregation in Nashville, during the freedom march in 1963 in Washington, DC, Diane was not on the podium with the men, even though her contributions to the cause were equally — or perhaps more — important. In the Author’s Note at the end, Wallace points out that “Black women activists faced both racial and gender discrimination.” In the Illustrator’s Note, Collier writes, “Her life is a testimony that positive change can be made with a strong and powerful love for humankind, and that love must be loud.” Because of courageous people like Diane Nash, who weren’t afraid to be loud and strong and brave, segregation ended. Reading books like this one will (I hope) ensure that the next generation realizes that freedom and equality are things worth fighting for. (Simon & Schuster)

There is another kind of segregation happening right now in America. It’s the banning of books that shine a light on a history that America isn’t proud of. Slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination, church shootings, lynching, segregation, Emmet Till. We must not allow the shameful history of our county to be hidden. We must learn from the past and not repeat the mistakes and abuses that were perpetrated. Books are powerful, and those who would hide our past know that. How do we make sure that those who might most need to read these books have access to them?

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by the publishers for review purposes.