Allison's Book Bag

As Fast As Words Could Fly by Pamela Tuck

Posted on: January 29, 2014

Tales which are written as tributes to a family member or a friend are always special, whether or not they are of excellent quality. As Fast As Words Could Fly by Pamela Tuck is based on the memories of her father. What’s more, it has a strong plot, positive characters, and an inspiring message. That makes it a top-notch picture book.

Fiction which is solely message-driven tend to end up in my reject pile. As Fast As Words Could Fly works foremost because of the strong plot, which is set with the very first sentence: “Trouble was brewing in Greenville, North Carolina.” As a reviewer, I have read many books, where the author has mastered the art of creating an exciting introduction but then can’t sustain the momentum. Not so for Pamela Tuck. Mason needs to help his dad write another letter of protest for the civil rights group, who thank him with a typewriter. A few months later, Mason ends up facing his own discriminations on the school bus, in typing class, at the library, and even with a school tournament. I have also read some books where the author hooked me until the end only to then betray me. The ending for As Fast As Words Could Fly, although based on true events, is perfect. It’s realistic to the times but includes a twist fitting Mason’s unique skills.

The positive characters make for a huge plus too. Fourteen-year-old Mason works hard evening on his lessons. When his family needs him, he’s readily available. I love these two lines: “New problems meant more work for Mason. He didn’t mind though because helping Pa’s civil rights group made Mason feel real important.” When Mason faces discrimination in his own life, he doesn’t grow bitter but instead pays extra hard to the teachers and then practices at home. Mason is an exemplary role model for young readers in handling rejection, even those who might not face racial prejudice itself, while at the same time being an average boy who enjoys his summers and his friends. I also enjoyed reading about his family, who are shown as being caring and respectful of Mason and his brothers. They involve the boys in decisions, as well as stand up for them.

Although I enjoy riveting plots and sympathetic characters as much as the next reader, a message adds another layer that I treasure. From As Fast As Words Could Fly, readers will learn the ethic of hard work. Because Mason applied himself in his classes and at his library job, he gained respect of teachers and earned the right to compete in a typing competition. As Fast As Words Could Fly will nicely complement anyone’s collection of Civil Rights stories because it shows how Mason and his brother struggled to fit into school despite desegregation. I admire most that Tuck has found a way to give readers a unique addition to a topic which has been extensively written about, in that her father’s story is about a boy who used his typing skills and words to invoke change.

As Fast As Words Could Fly should have high appeal to educators because of being historical fiction. The last page includes an Author’s Note, which explains the origin of Tuck’s story and its place in civil rights. This beautiful story of family and courage should find a home among young readers too, who appreciate a good picture book.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

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