Three friends spend Christmas day breaking into the town of Crickenburg’s antiquated sewage treatment plant in order to witness with their own eyes the soon-to-be-replaced “poopfountain.”
Who wouldn’t want to read a book called Poop Fountain? The title alone should peak your curiosity. Well, maybe if you are an 8 year old boy. Even though I was one once, what really drew me to this book was the author. Tom Angleberger is best known for his Origami Yoda series and like those, this one is presented as if the children in the story have written it themselves.
Three bored kids (Lyle, Marilla and Dave) want to do something exciting on Christmas Day. A busy day for others is a free one for them: Dave’s parents work all day at the Qwikpick gas station and convenience store; Marilla’s family exchanges gifts on Christmas Eve; and Dave is Jewish. Their small town of Crickenburg does not offer a lot of excitement, so the newly formed Qwikpick Adventure Society is hard pressed to find something worthy of their name. When they hear the town’s waste treatment plant will be closing down its poop fountain, they know they have found their goal. They will not only be the first kids to see it, but some of the last people to ever see it in operation.
They secretly plan their trip, mapping out their walking route across fields and over hills and pack enough snacks for the whole day. Marilla brings her new camera to capture important moments including a picture of all of them with the fountain.
What trip really goes as planned? With so much potential for messiness (not to mention the possibility of getting caught sneaking into the sewage plant), this is an adventure worth reading.
Featured Old West Marshall: Bass Reeves Bass Reeves grew up as a slave in Texas. Even as a young boy he was good with a gun. His master used to take him to shooting contests to show him off. One night though, when Bass was a young man, he and his master got in a fight and Bass punched his owner. Hitting a white man was punishable by death – so Bass ran, and he ran as a fast and as far as he could – all the way to Indian Territory in the West.
The frontier wasn’t called the Wild West for nothing. It was rough country with outlaws roaming around. The West was a great place for bad guys to hide. In 1875 the government hired 200 deputy marshals to help bring order to the frontier and Bass Reeves was one of them. He was also the best one. He could fight and he could shoot when he had too, but mostly, he was smart. He was also known for his honesty and integrity. One time, he had to arrest his own son! Author: Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Another great book about Bass is The Legend of Bass Reeves. Gary Paulsen, the author of this book, calls it “the true and fictional account of the most valiant marshal in the West.” Mr. Paulsen adds a little here and there to fill in the places where history left gaps…but for the most part, this is the story of Bass the real guy – the first African-American U.S. Deputy Marshal west of the Mississippi – and this was in the 1870s! Bass became a legend, even in his own time. Some outlaws turned themselves in once they heard it was Bass that would be looking for them! Bass Reeves – an American original!
The Indianapolis Public Library has a digital collection full of digital images that will give you a good look at black history in America and right here in Indiana. These items are the real thing. The collection includes photographs, photographs of artifacts and documents which would be great resources for school reports.
Free Soil Banner – The Free Soil Banner was a newspaper published in Indianapolis from 1848 to 1854 published by the Free Soil Party. The main plank in the Party’s platform was that slavery should not be extended to the territories newly gained in the war with Mexico, but should be “free soil”, worked by free (as opposed to slave) labor. They stopped short at advocating the abolition of slavery, preferring to contain it to the areas where it was already allowed, believing that it would eventually die out. “Free soil, free speech, free labor, free men.”
African American Firefighters – On May 19, 1876 Fire Chief W. O. Sherwood appointed the first black men to the Indianapolis Fire Department on Hose Company 9, located at 31 West Saint Joseph Street. This station, eventually renumbered as Station 1 and relocated to 441 Indiana Avenue, grew to become an all-black double company firehouse, with approximately 24 firefighters who rotated through two 24-hour shifts.
Black firefighters remained segregated from the rest of the Fire Department until the practice was officially ended on Jan. 1, 1960. Hired before integration in 1955, Joseph Kimbrew became the first black Fire Chief of the Indianapolis Fire Department on January 19, 1987.
The Indianapolis Postcard Collection - This postcard is a photo of the 1943 Negro League Indianapolis Clowns. The postcard collection is a great resource for Indianapolis history, especially if you have to know about a landmark in the city. The collection is mostly made up of postcards of buildings, but I didn’t want to miss pointing out this one. For more information about the negro leagues and black athletes take a look at Black History: Athletes. Especially don’t miss We Are the Ship by Kadir Nelson.
Featured Civil Rights Activist: Claudette Colvin grew up in Alabama in the 1940s and 1950s. At that time, Jim Crow rules dominated her life. Jim Crow rules were designed to keep black people and white people separated. These are the rules that said black people could not eat in certain restaurants or sit in certain seats on a city bus. When Claudette was 15 years old she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person, so she was arrested. You’re probably thinking, no, that was Rosa Parks. It’s true, Rosa Parks did the same thing, but Claudette did it too! A lawsuit was filed on behalf of several people, including Claudette and Rosa, to end bus segregation, and eventually, they won. Rosa is more well known, but Claudette was right there too, and she was just a kid! Reading her story helps you understand that it took lots of people, young and old, to change the Jim Crow rules. A lot of people were brave enough to stand up and say, “no more!”
This book includes interviews with Claudette herself, so you get the story straight from her. She talks about what it felt like to live with Jim Crow; to constantly be told, “you can’t”. When you hear a real person talking about it, it seems much more real than reading a plain description. Claudette was there and she can speak for herself. If you like reading about Claudette, try Marching For Freedom. That one tells the story of kids who marched in Selma, Alabama to help win black people the right to vote. It’s really good too and includes interviews with people who were kids back then and were actually there.
Indiana History and Civil Rights:
If you like Claudette’s story you might like finding out about a strong Hoosier woman who fought for her rights. When Indiana became a state in 1816, the constitution stated, “there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude.” In early 1816, Mary Bateman Clark, a slave in Kentucky, was sold and brought to Knox County, Indiana, as an “indentured servant.” In 1821 Clark filed suit for her freedom. The Knox County Circuit Court ruled against Clark’s petition to end her indentured servitude. Clark appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court, which ruled that Clark’s status was clearly not voluntary. The court awarded Clark her freedom and in doing so set a precedent for freedom for other indentured blacks held in Indiana.