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DOWN HOME AT MISS DESSA'S by Bettye Stroud

DOWN HOME AT MISS DESSA'S

By Bettye Stroud (Author) , Felicia Marshall (Illustrator)

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 1-880000-39-3
Publisher: Lee & Low

 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)