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PHILLIS’S BIG TEST by Catherine Clinton


by Catherine Clinton & illustrated by Sean Qualls

Age Range: 6 - 9

Pub Date: April 7th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-618-73739-0
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Phillis Wheatley was named for the slave ship that brought her to Boston. She was educated with the children of her masters and in her late teens, she entertained the Wheatleys’ guests with recitations of her own poems. The straightforward text tells the story of how in 1772 she defended her poems to 18 white men at Harvard to prove that she, a black female teenage slave, had actually written them. Even after this, her poems were published in London rather than Boston. Qualls renders his evocative images in a richly textured palette of dusky reds and blues, blacks and browns in acrylic and collage, a powerful accompaniment to Clinton’s lucid text. When Phillis recalls her journey on the slave ship, a lightly sketched montage of chained figures form the background; when she dreams, ghostly masks appear above her recumbent form. Phillis herself has almond eyes, an oval face and a beautiful mouth. A powerful introduction to the first published African-American poet. (author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)