Books by Nneka Bennett

Released: April 1, 2000

The girl who was to become Mme. C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove, in poverty, to ex-slave, sharecropper parents in rural Louisiana in1876. Orphaned at seven, married at fourteen, she was a widowed mother of a three-year-old daughter at only nineteen. As the first African-American woman entrepreneur, she transformed the image of African-American women, identifying and marketing products for their unique cosmetic and beauty needs. Lasky (A Brilliant Streak, 1998, etc.) has crafted an inspirational narrative that effectively turns on a succession of dramatic or emblematic moments in Mme. Walker's life: hearing Margaret (Mrs. Booker T.) Washington speak; praying and dreaming of Africa; being inspired to use herbs and natural oils to cure her hair loss; giving her own speech (the only one by a woman) at the National Negro Business League. Walker created a beauty empire based on direct sales. Facing racism and sexism, she developed her own formularies, designed her own advertising, built her own factories, hired women managers, and trained her army of direct-sales representatives. She validated pride, demonstrating a unique definition of beauty free from the standards of the majority culture. Walker's life continues to resonate as a model for self-realization, self-sufficiency, and community-building. Lasky effectively uses actual quotes while "responsibly imagining" situations to best reflect her subject's life and experiences. Lasky also opted for the use of the term "colored" as a more historically accurate term. Bennett's earth-toned, full-page, pencil and watercolor paintings add immediacy and intimacy while advancing the narrative. (Picture book/biography. 8-10)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1998

André hates Thursdays. It's the day before his mother's payday; it's the day when things are tightest in their household and everything seems to run out. But hard-working, resourceful Mama doesn't let André and his siblings sulk or go without for long. When the toothpaste is gone, she tells André's older brother, Davis, to use baking soda. When sister Shawna needs a bandana for the dress rehearsal of a play, Mama suggests using a towel until payday and the real play. André tries to make it through the week without thinking about Thursdays too much, but when report card time comes, and he knows he's on the honor roll in school, he hopes his mother will remember her promise to "drop everything and throw a royal party" even if it is the wrong day of the week. He is let down when Mama postpones the celebration until payday, but she, Davis, and Shawna come through to give André the party he deserves, first as a "dress rehearsal" and then for real. Cooper's rhythmic writing sings, and the authentic voices of her characters resonate in this heartwarming story about simple but meaningful gestures that link the world of adult worries with more childlike concerns. Bennett depicts the characters' emotions exceptionally and realistically; the facial expressions tell readers all they need to know about the story's subtext. (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 1996

In this story set among the Dorobo tribe in Africa, a father and his son follow the bird known as the honey guide out of the village, through the tall yellow grass, past friendly wildlife to a nest full of honey. The father, or baba, smokes out the bees, knocks the hive from the tree, and shares the honey with his son, then breaks off a part of the honeycomb for the bird. Juma complains that the piece is too big: ``I think we should take it all home.'' His father explains that it would be selfish to do that, but Juma remains unconvinced until Baba threatens him: In the future, the angry bird might lead Juma to a hungry lion instead of honey. Juma complies with his father's wishes. This is an amiable tale, even if the moral seems to be ``share or else.'' The language is stilted and lacks the lyrical quality of April Pulley Sayre's If You Should Hear a Honey Guide (1995), but full-bleed drawings in gold and brown capture the breadth of the habitat. The father and son, bronzed and muscled, are powerfully modeled and distinctive. An author's note gives more information on this unusual bird. (glossary) (Picture book. 7-10) Read full book review >