Kizzy Ann begins her story with a letter dated July 1, 1963, to Miss Anderson, who will be her teacher at the white school in September. Through letters, journal entries and conversations, we grow to know and love Kizzy Ann. There are so many things to appreciate about Kizzy Ann – she is sensitive, honest (at one point she tells her new teacher that she doesn’t want to attend the white school), caring, determined, and hard-working. She worries about feeling out of place; she wants to be welcomed into her new school and find new friends. She wants to belong. She also knows that challenges await her, especially as she witnesses her brothers’ struggles with his new school. Throughout the book, Kizzy Ann perseveres, full of hope and optimism for her future.
Shag is Kizzy Ann’s constant companion, her furry, loyal, smart and obedient friend. This Border Collie is special for Kizzy Ann and she finds unconditional friendship and loyalty with Shag. She also finds the opportunity to test her own determination and Shag’s as well – can she train Shag to compete in the dog trials? And will Kizzy Ann be able to enter the dog trials? No African-American girl has competed with her dog in the official dog trials. Kizzy Ann knows that she is trying something new. She faces her fears and obstacles with determination.
Kizzy’s story shows us the complications that arose with integration, through the eyes of a young, intelligent and thoughtful girl. It is a window to an important piece of history that deserves time and attention. Kizzy Ann Stamps is a book that lends itself well to discussions and teaching students about both integration and racism. It is a story of hope, friendship, humanity and the amazing spirit of one girl and her dog.
Important Quotes for Discussion and Journal Ideas
- “We’re the ones trying something new, being made to go where we aren’t wanted and aren’t really wanting to go.” (page 27)
- “I don’t think your world has been exactly like mine. I won’t hold that against you, though. I hope you won’t hold it against me.” (page 28)
- “…being at a school together doesn’t change things. Those white kids aren’t my friends. I know it. Folks may be pretending to offer some changes to black people, going to school together and all, but this is still a place that can see Medgar Evers shot down in his driveway like he is nothing and no one gets arrested. This is still a place where a white man can tell somebody else to switch a black girl in public and no one does a thing. You say that things are changing, Miss Anderson, but I don’t see much changing at all.” (page 62)
- “I feel free and sure. I am like Miss Anne Spencer’s friend who had a lot of living to do. I’m not exactly celebrating that people are staring at me, but I’m not going to be ashamed of them looking either. Let them look. I’m a girl with a scar. I’m Moon Child, me, just a girl who can teach her dog some things, while that dog teaches things back.” (page 152)
- “We’ve already found some friends who will go with us on the way. We only have to let them join us. That was hard for both of us, for both Shag and I are hard-pressed to ask for help, but we’re learning to lean on others. We’re learning to trust, we are. The lessons we’re learning together along this road are not the easiest, but once we have them, we ‘own’ them, you might say. When I follow my Shag, it seems I follow my heart. I guess that will do just fine.” (page 181)
- What kind of girl is Kizzy Ann Stamps? How do we learn about her?
- How does Kizzy Ann change during the novel? What lessons does she learn?
- Miss Anderson is a new teacher. Why does she write to her students? What kind of teacher is Miss Anderson? How does she try to help her students?
- James has a different story from Kizzy Ann. How are their experiences alike and different? What is important for James in his journey through school integration?
- Kizzy Ann’s relationship with Frank Charles changes a great deal. What does Kizzy Ann learn about Frank? How do things change for the two of them? How is Shag part of their friendship?
Read the Kid Reporter book review and write your own response/book report. Agree/disagree? Provide evidence from the text.
Journaling: Write new journal entries for Kizzy Ann – imagine her life the following school year. What will she and Shag do? Who are Kizzy Ann’s friends and how do their friendships develop? What do you think James will do in the future?
Picture Books and Resources for Text Sets
Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison (book includes many powerful pictures to illustrate the experiences of school integration – excellent resource for students!)
Have you read Kizzy Ann Stamps? Please share!