A former slave fulfills his quest for an education and much more in this superbly designed tribute to an oft-maligned African-American educator and author.
The young Washington, who learned his letters from a spelling book his mother gave to him, hears about Hampton College in Virginia, over 500 miles away. With the help of neighbors who share their precious coins, he travels, mostly on foot, from West Virginia with hunger, cold and weariness as constant companions. Asim’s lyrical text transforms the journey into a spiritual awakening for a young man who had “a dream in his soul.” Collier is in brilliant Caldecott Honor style, using his signature watercolor paintings and cut-paper collage to incorporate elements from Booker’s life and visions into each illustration. A map route is a design on his shirt, and letters and words from the speller he cherished decorate the pages. Each tableau is beautifully composed and balanced with textured colors and patterns. The cover display type and the endpapers, which are taken from Webster’s American Spelling Book, embellish this ode to book learning. Washington’s was not a life filled with anger and fiery oratory. Rather, Asim and Collier laud his steadfast determination and lifelong dedication to learning.
An outstanding achievement and a life worthy of note. (additional facts, author’s note, illustrator’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)