Did you think I meant that Gage went to steamboat school? Nah, but he did read a book that was inspired by the true story of the Freedom Floating School in 1847 Missouri.
Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson. Illustrated by Ron Husband
“I always thought being brave
was for grown-up heroes doing big, daring deeds.
But Mama says that sometimes courage
is just an ordinary boy like me
doing a small thing, as small as picking up a pencil.”
These opening words let me know that this book would reinforce much of what I’m trying to instill in Gage’s mind. Be brave, do the little things that can make big changes. When Gage is older and can hear that mama voice in his head I always want it encouraging him to be the best person he can be and to look for ways to make a positive change in the world. Sometimes I think I push him too much, but tonight he told me I was the best loving mother, (I’ve never heard him use the word loving before, yay!) so I must be doing okay.
The book is the story of Reverend John (Berry Meachum) who worked hard to free himself and then his family from slavery. He taught African-American children in the basement of his church until the state of Missouri made it illegal for him to continue teaching them to read and write. He found a way around that by building a steamboat in the Mississippi River where he could continue to teach children. Missouri law had no say in federal waters. What an ingenious way around the law!
So, the discussion about race was harder to discuss in this book than in the Martin Luther King Jr. book a few weeks ago. It is essentially about kids, like Gage, being told they didn’t have a right to learn. How can you explain something so hateful and ridiculous to a six-year-old? By his questions I know that he doesn’t really ‘get’ it and why should he, I guess. I’m not even sure I understand how people can be so full of hate and fear.
I loved the story and the illustrations enough that I’d like to buy this one to have as a part of Gage’s library. Highly recommend it. Thanks for the recommendation Jill 🙂