Stone, Tanya Lee. (2013). Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press. Print.
While there are many stories about World War II heroes, few cover the intense racism that African American soldiers endured while fighting in our own military. Tanya Lee Stone has gathered research from all over the nation to bring to life the story of the first black paratroopers. When no one thought they were worthy hardly worthy to defend our country, a handful of African American soldiers decided on their own to spend their free time training as if they might actually be sent to war. With a bit of encouragement from Eleanor Roosevelt, the government set in motion the policies and declarations to allow African American soldiers to play a more active role in the military. This included the creation of the first division of black paratroopers. Thrilled that their after hours training was not in vain, the 555th unit now trained with purpose; soon their training would allow them jump out of an actual plane. After not much time at all, the first black paratroopers had completed all five levels of training. Before the Triple Nickles were shipped off to war, racism stepped in once again and they were prevented from seeing the actual battle fields. The paratroopers were side-tracked, sent to fight forest fires supposedly set by Japanese bombs. Still hopeful to see actual combat, the first black paratroopers worked tirelessly. However, their work was not in vain. The Triple Nickles helped shape the way the United States fights forest fires, laying the foundation and establishing protocol for future smoke jumpers. The 555th batallion continued to fight fires until the war ended. Although they did not see the front lines, the Triple Nickles have been praised for their hard work and diligence as an integral part of the military. Paving the road of desegregation in the military, their contribution to equal rights in our country is invaluable.
With an intriguing title and an inspiring image on the cover, the reader expects to dive into a novel that will not only inform but also engage. However, Courage Has No Color falls short. Not only is the writing is less than stellar but also the potential to develop a great story has been missed.
The quality of writing in this informational text is choppy and difficult to read. Stone often exposes herself as a novice writer by using her description instead of the character’s quotations to develop the characters. Well crafted sentences and paragraphs are missing from this story, leaving the reader discouraged and unlikely to finish reading. Although the book contains a vast amount of information, it falls short of a successful information novel because the presentation of this information is confusing. Because many young adults gravitate toward fiction novels, the lack of fluidity in this text will discourage young adults away from this book.
Although it highlights some of the soldiers who made up the Triple Nickles, the book lacks an engaging story. Too many characters, too little excitement. Young adults will not be able to relate to this book as they are eager to follow the story line of a character. Stone highlights several soldiers, yet is not able to engage the reader because the coverage of their life is trivial. Only the avid military enthusiast will enjoy this book, but not even every one of those will sing its praises.
Students today want to read a story. They don’t mind learning history at the same time, but unless they can follow the story as they world a movie, their attention and interest will fade. Although this book is filled with great information, the potential has been missed and the opportunity to retell a crucial piece of American history is lost in this book. Young adults could have benefited from learning this story, however few will realize the greatness of the 555th battalion after reading this informational text.
Activity Related to the Book: Who Am I? Morning Announcements Contest
Much of the research done to compose this book came from personal interviews. In order to promote this book, the librarian will select an interview of a famous African American leader whose name and story is well known. Each morning on the school announcements, the librarian will play a short audio clip of the interview. Students will listen to the bits of the interview and be challenged to determine the person being interviewed and the story they are telling during the interview. From small clips, students will piece together the bigger story. The first student to correctly piece together the person interviewed with the story being told will win a prize from the library.
Resources Related to the THEME of the book:
Resource 1: Miracle at St. Anna
Lee, Spike (Director). (2008). Miracle at St. Anna [Motion Picture]. United States: Disney.
Although this story is told about the Buffalo Soldiers in World War II, this movie portrays all the hardships African American soldiers faced in World War II. Many excellent war movies exist, yet this story is one of the only that addresses the segregation and racism that monopolized the military at this time.
Resource 2: 100 Amazing Facts About the Nero: What Was Black America’s Double War?
Gates, Henry Louis Jr. (n.d.). What Was Black America’s Double War. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/what-was-black-americas-double-war/
This website describes what life as a black man in World War II was like. In thorough detail, Gates covers the campaign to eliminate the inner struggles experienced by African American soldiers as they fought during war. Full of detail, this website will provide a more complete picture of the intense struggle for equal rights in the military.
Bird, Elizabeth. (15 July 2013) Review of the Day: Courage Has No Color by Tanya Lee Stone. Retrieved from: http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2013/07/15/review-of-the-day-courage-has-no-color-by-tanya-lee-stone/