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BRICK BY BRICK by Charles R. Smith Jr.


by Charles R. Smith Jr. & illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Age Range: 4 - 7

Pub Date: Dec. 26th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-192082-0
Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

The White House is truly the people’s house.

From foundation to finish, many hands toiled to construct a home for the leader of the new country. Free men and slaves worked with stone, wood and brick, using hands that were both skilled and unskilled. Smith uses rhyming verse to tell their stories with words that are powerful and descriptive. They are constructed to be read aloud; performed, even. Cooper works in his signature palette of muted browns and yellows and succeeds admirably in depicting individualized faces filled with weariness and pride. The tedium of each step involved in the construction of the White House had more than one result. A beautiful building arose in Washington, D.C., only to be destroyed by the British in the War of 1812. Just as important, enslaved workers learned skills that brought in money that bought their freedom. By giving the slaves names, Smith elevates them from mere numbers to individuals determined to shape their lives for the better. “Month by month, / slave hands toil, / planting seeds of freedom / in fertile soil.”

An excellent title that provides an admirably accurate picture of slavery in America for younger readers. (author’s note, selected resources) (Picture book. 4-7)