Black History Month Kid Lit Review of “As Fast As Words Can Fly” by Pamela Tuck

This heart-warming story is fiction, but is based on the real-life experiences of the author’s father, Moses Teel, Jr., during the 1960’s in North Carolina.

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The boy in the story, Mason Steele, is a smart and hard-working boy of 14 who, in the 1960’s, helps his Civil Rights activist father write protest letters. He is so good at it that the local civil rights group decide to give him a typewriter. Each evening after his homework is done, he practices on it, loving the “ding” the manual makes as he finishes each line.

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One day his father tells Mason and his brothers:

Boys, I got some real important news for you…. We just won a case we’ve been fighting for a long time. It ain’t right for y’all to be bused twelve miles to Bethel Union High School when Belvoir High ain’t but three miles away.”

The boys aren’t exactly eager to face the hostile whites at Belvoir, but their dad says:

Like it or not, y’all’s going. .. Somebody’s got to make a change.”

Picture 3

So they stick it out, facing rejection and hostility from students and faculty alike. But Mason has an ace up his sleeve: he can out-type anyone, and he wins the school’s typing contest and the right to represent the school in the county typing tournament. Against all odds (he is the only one using a manual rather than an electric typewriter), he also wins the tournament! Not a single person applauded. But he wasn’t disappointed:

…Mason knew his words typed on paper had already spoken for him – loud and clear.”

Picture 4

Evaluation: The author’s father was one of the first African Americans to graduate from Belvoir-Falkland High School. What an inspirational story. And the illustrations painted by Eric Velasquez meet his usual high standards. Warm and lush, they reinforce the message of the love and support Mason receives from his family.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Lee & Low Books, Inc., 2013

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5 Responses

  1. Wow. This sounds like a powerful story. I’ve seen this book at the library but didn’t pick it up. I’ll be sure to do so next time. Thanks for spotlighting this book.

  2. Great review! I will look for this one too :)

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I didn’t realize it’s Black History Month. I just finished reading the memoir of Solomon Northup, now made into the Oscar nominated movie 12 Years A Slave. In case you’re interested, here’s my review of the book.

  4. I love the illustrations and the story! I’m so glad there are people willing to stand their ground on important issues like that.

  5. The illustrations are great.No one clapped when he won? That makes me sad (a different kind of sad than my last comment though!).

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