Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Liberation of Gabriel King

Going, K.L. 2005. THE LIBERATION OF GABRIEL KING. New York: Putnam. ISBN 039923991X [Suggested Grade Levels 4-9]

“’Isn’t it great to live in America?’ Momma said, pointing up. ‘Just imagine—someday you’ll tell your children you were alive for the Bicentennial!’ The crowd said, ‘Oooh!’ and ‘Aaaah!’ like it was magical, but Frita Wilson didn’t make a sound” (Going 2005, 116).
It was the summer of 1976 and America was celebrating its Bicentennial. Jimmy Carter, the former Governor of Georgia, was running for President of the United States and his election held such promise. Yet for two would-be fifth graders in Georgia, freedom seemed like an illusion. Freedom eluded Gabriel, because he was the victim of Duke and Frankie’s bullying. For Frita, it was the lingering prejudice that still existed over one hundred years after her ancestors were liberated from slavery.

Gabriel and Frita make lists to help them overcome their fears. Frita works with Gabriel to help him face the fears on his list, so they can both “move up” to fifth grade. Gabriel tries to help Frita face the fears on her list, but when they realize her fears are bigger than both of them, they enlist the help of their parents, who organize a rally to confront the bullies. Told with pathos and humor, Going weaves a story of friendship and courage revealed through the honest reflections of the young protagonists: “Now I knew what real hate was, and it was the scariest thing of all, even if I hadn’t put it on my list” (Going 2005, 133).

Readers can discuss situations when courage was necessary in their own lives.

Children can research the celebration of the American Bicentennial or they can find a short biography of former President Jimmy Carter through the Internet to provide additional context for their reading.

Other stories about prejudice and race relations:
Kadohata, Cynthia. KIRA-KIRA. ISBN 0689856393
Lester, Julius. LET’S TALK ABOUT RACE. ISBN 0060285982

By Judy Brown McKenna

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