Books by Bettye Stroud

ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 13, 2011

"An intergenerational story filled with heart and soul. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-7) "
The Civil Rights Movement had many heroes, but none as unusual as Belle. Read full book review >
THE PATCHWORK PATH by Bettye Stroud
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 1, 2005

Ten-year-old Hannah learned the secret messages of her Mama's precious quilt. Though Mama passes away and her sister Mary has been sent to a far-off plantation, Hannah still has her precious quilt and the words her mother taught her that will help her find her way to Canada and freedom. Each pattern has its own shape and meaning, from monkey wrench to bear's paw to bowties and all the way to stars, and each shape points the way and gives inspiration to Hannah and her father when the time comes for them to flee. This fictionalized account of an oral history, illustrated with stylized oil paintings, tells the now-familiar story of the nighttime escape of slaves. The frequent visual and oral references to the quilt patterns seem somewhat contrived but act to hold the story together. Stroud and Bennett tread a similar path to the one walked by Clara in Deborah Hopkinson's landmark Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt (1993). (afterword) (Picture book. 4-9)Read full book review >
DANCE Y’ALL by Bettye Stroud
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

Jack Henry is excited that his kinfolk are coming to celebrate the harvest, but he's seen a coach-whip snake in the barn, where he and his cousin will be spending the night to make room for the company. He's heard that a whip snake can beat a person with its tail, but he doesn't want anyone to think he's a scaredy-cat and he makes no mention of his fear. Throughout the evening, the snake is on his mind, causing him such uneasiness he eats little of the scrumptious dinner and doesn't join the dancing festivities afterward. In the middle of the night, a clap of thunder and the sight of his cousin walking off the edge of the hayloft awaken Jack Henry. He scrambles for a blanket from the mule's stall and manages to wake his cousin, then runs for help. When Grandpa Buddy comes to check, Jack Henry blurts out his fear of the snake. "You ever hear of anyone beaten to death by a snake?" asks Grandpa Buddy and tells him it's just a tale. As he takes the blanket back to the stall, Jack Henry sees the snake and starts to run, but decides to take a stand and threatens the snake with a hoe. With that, the snake turns tail, disappears through a hole, and Jack Henry stops up the hole with a croaker sack. Having confronted his fear, he shouts, "Dance y'all!" just like his Grandpa Buddy did earlier in the evening, dancing a little jig in the barn. Watercolor illustration in shades of gold and blue is a consistent palette throughout the story, making the night scenes as bright as the day. The snake is a golden color and, although he has a threatening stance in one of the pictures, the color does not further enhance the fear. Jack Henry and his cousin appear to be eight-year-olds and the story is vaguely set in a past of long skirts and horse-drawn carriages. The African-American family and farm scenes are realistic and handsome although many of the pictures seem static. A quiet story useful for children dealing with fear. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
DOWN HOME AT MISS DESSA'S by Bettye Stroud
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

Two picture-book newcomers create a remembrance of a special friendship from a summer day in an African American community in the rural south of the 1940s. Miss Dessa is an elderly lady who lives down the road from the narrator and her sibling, Baby Sister. Miss Dessa takes care of their skinned knees and bruised elbows, but on the day she turns her ankle, their roles are switched. The girls spend the day taking care of her: helping with her quilting, bringing her lunch, picking her flowers, putting her to bed. Throughout the day, the girls get in a lot of play, too: dressing up, shooting chinaberries, and swinging on a tire swing. Most of the time, Marshall's acrylic paintings fit the mood of the evocative text well, capturing the details of Miss Dessa's home and the pace of a lazy summer afternoon. It's all the more jarring, then, when there are incongruities between text and art: Miss Dessa is told to stay off her foot, yet is pictured in at least four different chairs; she is sockless in one scene but wears socks (or has bandages on both ankles) in another; her injured foot is down in one scene, and elevated on a pillow in another, later scene; the girls get Miss Dessa ready for bed while a clock marks the time as only half-past six; the girls go to bed a short time later, and the sky is dark. These problems don't ruin the generous sentiments of the story, but they render them less forceful. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >