Cover image for A friendship for today
A friendship for today
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Scholastic Press, 2007.
Physical Description:
172 p. ; 22 cm.
In 1954, when desegregation comes to Kirkland, Missouri, ten-year-old Rosemary faces many changes and challenges at school and at home as her parents separate.


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From highly acclaimed, award-winning author Patricia McKissack comes a powerful, poignant, and timely tale of segregation, family, and one surprising friendship.

The year is 1954, the place is Missouri, and twelve-year-old Rosemary Patterson is about to make history. She is one of the first African American students to enter the white school in her town. Headstrong, smart Rosemary welcomes the challenge, but starting this new school gets more daunting when her best friend is hospitalized for polio. Suddenly, Rosemary must face all the stares and whispers alone. But when the girl who has shown her the most cruelty becomes an unlikely confidante, Rosemary learns important truths about the power of friendship to overcome prejudice.

Author Notes

Patricia C. McKissack was born in Smyrna, Tennessee on August 9, 1944. She received a bachelor's degree in English from Tennessee State University in 1964 and a master's degree in early childhood literature and media programming from Webster University in 1975. After college, she worked as a junior high school English teacher and a children's book editor at Concordia Publishing.

Since the 1980's, she and her husband Frederick L. McKissack have written over 100 books together. Most of their titles are biographies with a strong focus on African-American themes for young readers. Their early 1990s biography series, Great African Americans included volumes on Frederick Douglass, Marian Anderson, and Paul Robeson. Their other works included Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African-American Whalers and Days of Jubilee: The End of Slavery in the United States. Over their 30 years of writing together, the couple won many awards including the C.S. Lewis Silver Medal, a Newbery Honor, nine Coretta Scott King Author and Honor awards, the Jane Addams Peace Award, and the NAACP Image Award for Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman?. In 1998, they received the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.

She also writes fiction on her own. Her book included Flossie and the Fox, Stitchin' and Pullin': A Gee's Bend Quilt, A Friendship for Today, and Let's Clap, Jump, Sing and Shout; Dance, Spin and Turn It Out! She won the Newberry Honor Book Award and the King Author Award for The Dark Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural in 1993 and the Caldecott Medal for Mirandy and Brother Wind. She dead of cardio-respiratory arrest on April 7, 2017 at the age of 72.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

McKissack (Porch Lies) reaches into her own childhood to shape this immediate and affecting novel narrated by strong and smart Rosemary. She enters sixth grade in 1954, just after her Missouri town acts upon the Supreme Court school desegregation decision and closes the "colored school" the girl has attended. Since her best friend, J.J., contracts polio just before school starts, Rosemary is the only black child in her class at her new school. Her first day, she wears a pink dress with lace, while the other kids have on pants and tennis shoes ("She looks like one of those dressed-up monkeys they have at the zoo," a classmate says). And her assigned seat is right next to Grace, her neighborhood nemesis, who comes from a racist family ("They hate colored people and don't mind telling us"). The graceful narrative splices together several survival stories, as Rosemary copes with her peers' prejudice and her parents' disintegrating marriage, and J.J. endures grueling polio treatments. One of the tale's most poignant threads is the evolving friendship between Rosemary and Grace; in an especially incisive passage, after Grace confides that her abusive father believes white people are superior, Rosemary asks, "You know better, don't you?" to which Grace answers "Now I do." Rosemary replies, "That's what counts with me." A real, at times raw tale about a winning and insightful young heroine during a bittersweet era. Ages 9-12. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate) It's 1955 suburban St. Louis, and the fifth graders at Attucks Elementary are saying goodbye to their beloved teacher and to their school, too: it is being closed in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision ending segregation. In the fall, Rosemary is the lone black child in her classroom, and her believably sixth-grade voice rings with confusion, excitement, and anxiety. Making friends is a challenge, with her best friend J.J. stricken with polio and with the horrible Grace Hamilton in her class (the Hamiltons have moved from Arkansas, and their attitudes toward integration are straight out of the nineteenth century). Katherine, the queen bee of the sixth grade, seems intent on making Rosemary's life difficult, and when she tries to use her influence to humiliate Rosemary and Grace, the two girls become unlikely friends. McKissack's secondary characters, from Mr. Bob at the grocery store to Rosemary's divorcing parents to the stubbornly courageous Mrs. Hamilton, are complex creations, conflicted and imperfect but full of wisdom as they grope their way along life's road. As Rosemary's mother tells her, ""It's the little victories that win the war."" (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

When her best friend contracts polio, sixth-grader Rosemary Patterson becomes the only black child in her newly integrated classroom. There, she forms an uneasy bond with Grace Hamilton, whose poverty leaves her as vulnerable to jeers as Rosemary's dark skin: Arkansas trash, and a porch monkey. . . . What next? Closely modeling Rosemary's story on her own experiences during the 1954-55 school year, McKissack represents the full spectrum of responses to desegregation--from the kind teacher who teaches tolerance to the bigoted principal who insensitively awards a coupon to a whites-only restaurant as Rosemary's spelling-bee prize. The friendship between Rosemary and Grace never gains the prominence suggested by the title and cover image, and the novel's quiet, episodic structure will deter some readers. But McKissack's insights into the two steps forward . . . one giant step back nature of the civil rights struggle are valuable, whether children encounter them on their own or in a classroom, where the novel will poignantly extend character education and history curricula. --Jennifer Mattson Copyright 2007 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-McKissack dishes up a palatable blend of fact and fiction in her semiautobiographical story of Rosemary Patterson's pivotal sixth-grade year (1954-'55). The landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision closed the doors of Rosemary's colored school in Kirkland, MO, and dispersed students into two white elementary schools. Determined to prove she does not need remediation, Rosemary excels academically and refuses to be racially intimidated or stereotyped. An unlikely friendship with mean Grace Hamilton, labeled "white trash" by snobby classmates, opens Rosemary's eyes to shared experiences of prejudice, parental strife, peer pressure, and loneliness. Both girls develop a mutual respect for the hardships they face. Rosemary gets emotional support and comfort from storekeeper Mr. Bob, an ex-Tuskegee Airman; her independent, enterprising seamstress mother; her fair-minded and compassionate teacher; and Rags, a rescued, injured cat that finally emits a "meow." As her parents grapple with marital problems and her polio-stricken best friend, J.J., struggles to walk again, Rosemary learns the value of tolerance and perseverance. A wealth of historical references, from civil rights to polio vaccine to early TV, is embedded in the narrative. Readers will enjoy the protagonist's spunky, resilient response to adversity and her candid, often amusing observations of human nature.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

The title may lead readers to expect a contemporary tale; instead, McKissack chronicles the events of 1954 and 1955, a tumultuous time in the life of 12-year-old Rosemary Patterson. After a care-free summer, Rosemary begins sixth grade in an integrated school, one of only a few African-American students. At home she copes with the disintegration of her parents' marriage and nurses an injured cat back to life. Using first-person narration, McKissack creates a convincing portrait of a young girl's experiences. Young readers may find Rosemary's narration stilted at times, but McKissack's style clearly evokes the more formal world of the 1950s. Ironically, the friendship referred to in the title is the least interesting aspect of the narrative. Rosemary is such a strong character that readers won't be surprised when previously prejudiced Grace Hamilton recognizes her worth. This simply told story will leave readers pondering our progress--or lack thereof--in race relations over the past 50 years. (Fiction. 9-12) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.