The Friendship by Mildred D. Taylor, author of Roll of Thunder, Hear Me Cry, is an excellent and important read for any young reader. This short book is all about a group of children (the Logan Family) and their struggles against the Wallace family. The dynamic in this context showcases the struggles of African American’s in the pursuit of claiming their basic civil rights. Primarily, the story follows the struggle between Tom Been, an elder, African American customer, and John Wallace, a white store owner, and how they navigate the social context of their long ‘friendship’. The main source of discomfort in their relationship being about the desire to call one another by their first name when social decorum says otherwise.
What makes this book truly impact the emotions of the reader are the parallels between the graphics (black and white) and the novel like plot structure. Within just 34 pages in a PDF format, The Friendship is the perfect combination of mature content and easily digestible messaging that is the perfect fit for children’s literature. Whether intentional or not, what I really love about this book is that the images are in black and white to show the contrast of the plot rather than in color. I feel that the black and white images also keep the more graphic scenes appropriate for children, as it may have been too much for a child to see Tom Bee’s bleeding leg in a deep red, rather than a shaded black and white photo.
Furthermore, I love that the images themselves are black and shaded with a white background, it really adds a new depth to the book that I could appreciate as an adult, though I am sure a vigilant child could as well. I would advocate this book as a candidate to be used as a study in an English or History class to be analyzed by its students. The messaging behind this book is compelling in itself in its messaging about friendship and community. We see the community come together in positive and negative ways to back up the two older men, but we also see friendship on different levels and ages: in the Logan Boys and in the men themselves (John Wallace and Tom Bee).
This is a must-read book and should become a regular part of the academic curriculum as it is a short read that can spark long conversations.