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FREEDOM SCHOOL, YES! by Amy Littlesugar


by Amy Littlesugar & illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-399-23006-8
Publisher: Philomel

The team that created Tree of Hope (1999) returns to present a story of the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project. Jolie is frightened by the presence of Annie, the white Freedom Rider her mother has volunteered to host over the summer, and she is reluctant to attend the Freedom School Annie will teach. But when a brick crashes through her window, and the church that is to hold the school burns down, Jolie realizes that daring to learn about her heritage in the face of hate is the best way to fight back. Littlesugar’s prose effectively captures the pervasive fear felt by the African-American community and evokes the almost electric excitement of learning about a proud history for the first time. “Annie spoke of a free black man from long ago. ‘Benjamin Banneker was his name,’ she said. ‘He was a mathematician, a farmer, but more than anything else, he loved the stars.’ ” Cooper’s muted, oil-wash illustrations are equally expressive when presenting a close-up of a stern Uncle Shad, admonishing Jolie not to let “bein’ scared” get in her way, as when depicting a long view of Annie teaching under an old hickory tree, the children at her feet and 70-year-old Miss Rosetta in her chair. Some illustrations are not so successful (as when Annie appears to be almost shouting a lesson about Harriet Tubman at Jolie), but this slight unevenness does not mar the effect of the whole. A loving, touching, and inspiring presentation of an often-overlooked chapter of the civil-rights saga. Includes author’s note and bibliography. (Picture book. 5-9)