Reviews for As Fast As Words Could Fly

Booklist Reviews 2013 June #1
In her debut offering, Tuck draws on her grandfather's experience as a teen during the civil rights movement in Greenville, North Carolina, to tell a moving story that captures the history with immediacy and drama. At 14, Mason Steele helps his father's civil rights group write letters, and he is thrilled when they buy him a manual typewriter. Then the adult activists win the right to integrate high school, but Mason and his brothers face harassment on the school bus and in the classroom. As the fastest typist in his class, Mason is chosen to represent his school in a high-school typing tournament, and he wins, breaking all the records. From the beautiful cover picture of the boy's fingers on the typewriter keys, to the ugly view of the racist bus driver who tells the black pupils to "get to the back," Velasquez's handsome oil paintings on watercolor paper bring close the details of one boy's struggle. Told from a personal viewpoint and appended with a powerful author's note, this is a story to share across generations. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
Mason, a black teenager living in Greenville, North Carolina, in the 1960s, receives a manual typewriter from his father's civil rights group as thanks for writing letters for the activists; he uses it to compete against white students in a high school typing tournament. The fine oil paintings are worthy of this multifaceted story; an author's note explains its origin.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 March #2
A tribute to her father, Tuck's school desegregation story highlights an African-American boy's triumph in a typing tournament. Mason Steele (the fictionalized version of Tuck's father, Moses Teel Jr.) is a 14-year-old who helps his father's civil rights group by writing letters for them. Impressed and grateful, the group presents him with a manual typewriter, which proves useful when Mason and his siblings desegregate a public school in their home state of North Carolina and encounter overt hostility and discrimination. He nevertheless excels and earns the honor of representing his school in a countywide typing tournament--a position racist administrators grant him to avoid trouble with the Board of Education after he scores highest in his typing class. The other competitors choose electric typewriters, but although he realizes that he will lose time, Mason selects a manual typewriter, later saying "[I]t reminds me of where I come from." And he wins. The victory's drama seems woefully understated, however, especially since Velasquez's accompanying oil paintings never show the children typing, instead depicting moments before and after the competition. And yet, although he lacks celebration from those outside his family, Mason is proud, knowing "his words typed on paper had already spoken for him--loud and clear." A warm, if understated, title about the struggle for equality. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-8) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 February #3

Tuck's story, based on her father's personal experiences with school segregation in 1960s North Carolina, won Lee & Low's New Voices award in 2007, resulting in this picture book, illustrated in dramatic oil paintings by Velasquez (The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery). Mason Steele helps his father's civil rights efforts by writing letters for him; when the Steeles get a manual typewriter, Mason shows a gift for typing quickly and accurately. After a court case wins Mason and his brothers the right to attend a local high school, they are met with distrust and outright hostility at every turn. Against the odds, Mason's typing skills earn him the chance to represent the school at a typing competition, but his record-setting victory there is tinged by prejudice: "Not a single person in the audience clapped. Mason received nothing." Tuck lays bare the challenges that faced Mason and black students like him, but she also tempers the story's cold realities with moments of hope, echoed by the pride and determination visible in scenes of Mason and his family. Ages 3-8. (Apr.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 June

Gr 2-5--Velasquez's vibrant paintings animate this earnest story based on actual incidents in the life of the author's father. Fourteen-year-old Mason transcribes letters for his father, a local civil rights activist; as a reward, he receives a manual typewriter. Then he and his older brothers learn that they'll be among the first to desegregate their local high school. It's not easy: the school bus driver refuses to stop for them, fellow students and teachers ignore them; but as Pa says, "Somebody's got to make a change." Mason quietly perseveres and his typing skills win him a job in the school library. Eventually, he earns the right to represent the school at a regional typing contest. Velasquez deepens readers' understanding and empathy for these characters with well-chosen details: Mason listens eagerly to Pa's impassioned speeches as Ma looks on with a bemused smile. The striking compositions in rich browns and blues, along with Tuck's pride in her family, help distinguish this story of perseverance and courage. This well-crafted tale would be an excellent complement to overviews of the Civil Rights Movement.--Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

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