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STORIES AND SONGS OF SLAVE RESISTANCE

A poem about the impossibility of enslaving the mind and soul of a person in chains sets the tone for this stunning collection of stories and songs in tribute to slave resistance in America. Working chronologically, Rappaport (Martin’s Big Words, 2001, etc.) is especially interested in the use of song as an instrument of resistance, and she includes well-known spirituals such as Go Down, Moses as well as more obscure songs whose tunes have been long forgotten. Powerful lines such as “Run, nigger, run, patroller’ll ketch ya / Hit ya thirty-nine and swear he didn’t tech ya” tell of unspeakable cruelty and despair; others of defiance and the hope of deliverance. Ranging in acts of rebellion, from planting less corn to learning to read, slave narratives comprise the bulk of the text. Vignettes are included from the lives of Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, John Scobell, Suzie King Taylor, and others who resisted their enslavement physically, intellectually, or spiritually. Rappaport creates several characters that are composites of actual slaves, which seems both unnecessary and potentially confusing when juxtaposed with actual historical figures. Nevertheless, the focus on resistance works well, and Evans’s bold, dramatic oils portray the subject unflinchingly. Oversized pages of thick stock give full range to the power of his art. An excellent account of the many ways in which slaves participated in bringing down the greatest evil in our nation’s history. (author’s note, chronology of important events, bibliography, recommended reading, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0984-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2002

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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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BROWN GIRL DREAMING

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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Strong characterizations and vivid musical scenes add layers to this warm family story.

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CLAYTON BYRD GOES UNDERGROUND

An African-American youngster is happiest when he can play his harmonica with his bluesman grandfather until tragedy removes the music from his life.

Clayton Byrd idolizes his grandfather, a popular bluesman. But his mother disapproves of her father’s music and of Clayton’s joining Cool Papa Byrd and other bluesmen in the park. Clayton’s father tries to make a place in his life, but the things he likes to do cannot compare to the music. When Cool Papa Byrd dies suddenly, Clayton’s pain is almost unbearable, made worse when his mother gets rid of the records and instruments that Clayton expected would be his way of maintaining that special connection. School becomes as difficult as home, and counseling with the church pastor doesn’t help. Hoping to find a place with the remaining bluesmen, he meets up with a group of street boys making their way with beat music and dance. When he plays his harmonica and the crowd responds, the boys form an uneasy alliance that is threatened when the police intervene. Clayton’s love of his grandfather and his music is wonderfully drawn, as is his grief when he loses them. His mother’s unresolved issues with her own childhood inform the story appropriately for young readers. The conjunction of two African-American music genres, both born of struggle, is a colorful backdrop for this lively story.

Strong characterizations and vivid musical scenes add layers to this warm family story. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-221591-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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