DON’T SAY AIN’T by Irene Smalls


by & illustrated by
Age Range: 7 - 9
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Dana lives in Harlem in the 1950s and is smart—so smart that she is selected to go to an integrated school. But it means being separated from her best friends. Her godmother insists she go to the new school in her best party dress but the other girls are dressed in skirts with matching sweater sets. Dana misses the “running jive and banter” of her friends and the teacher asks her not to use “ain’t” in school. Her classmates ignore her but she has the gumption to answer the last math problem when no one else can. Although she does well in school, she has no friends and her best friends are never at the corner anymore. The last straw is her teacher’s announcement that she will be visiting each student’s home, and she will begin with Dana. When her teacher arrives, Dana discovers that her godmother and teacher are the best of friends and speak in the familiar language (replete with aints) that she and her friends do. She and her two friends finally talk it out and while they’re playing their favorite game of double Dutch, Dana makes up a verse—‘If you want to say ain’t, So people won’t faint, And laugh and think you’re quaint, Just say it at home.” The wonderfully realistic oil illustrations are reminiscent of the fifties (all of the girls wear skirts-even when jumping rope) but are static and posed. The verso title page includes a quote from The Trouble They Seen: Black People Tell the Story of Reconstruction wherein a Louisiana freedman says that his children should be educated so they can read to him and, since he trusts them, he will know it’s true. Educators will find this useful for experiencing an historic time not often seen in books for this age level. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 1-57091-381-1
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Charlesbridge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2003


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