Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Kizzy Ann Stamps

Kizzy Ann Stamps

Fall 2012 Fiction
Ages: 9 - 12 yrs.
Author: Jeri Watts
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763658953
Hardcover Price: $15.99

Kizzy Ann is going to have to go to the white school in the fall (though she guesses she should call it the "integrated school"). To her surprise, her new teacher Mrs. Anderson has written all of her incoming students welcome letters, and has asked them all to write back before the start of the school year. Kizzy Ann likes the fact that Mrs. Anderson has written to everyone, because both she and her older brother James know that many of the white teachers and students don't welcome them. She writes to Mrs. Anderson about how unwelcome they feel sometimes; but mostly, what Kizzy Ann wants to write about is her border collie, Shag, who is the most important friend in her life. Shag helped Kizzy Ann face the world when she first got her injury, the one that left a scar running down her face, and she protects Kizzy Ann from anything or anyone that would hurt her. Kizzy Ann would like Shag to be able to train and compete in herding competitions, but to do that, she'll need help training and registering her dog-and she'll need to learn to trust the white boy next door who injured her in a farming accident years ago.

This novel nicely weaves together three common tale types, offering a fresh combination of stories about a girl and her dog, about the historical struggle for school desegregation, and about coming to terms with an injury. It is always a tricky and sensitive matter for a white author to adopt the voice of an African-American child, and there are times when Kizzy Ann's voice is unconvincing; for example, she thanks Mrs. Anderson a bit too effusively for not being racist in her teaching practices. Nevertheless, in many ways, Watts has done a good job of incorporating aspects of the desegregation story that are too seldom represented-like the fact that school desegregation was a one-way process that cost many black teachers their jobs. Moreover, her portrayal of the love between Kizzy Ann and her dog is appealing and well done, and is sure to be a hit with young readers.

Naomi Lesley   ©2012 Parents' Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

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