Emancipation means education.
A little girl narrates her family’s story in the days and months immediately after the end of slavery. Her parents decide that she and her brother must attend school in spite of the dangers they face walking there. The school does not have very much in the way of supplies or heat, but it does have a teacher “with skin as brown as mine,” says the girl. Students come and go depending on when they are needed in the field. Then racism strikes, and the school burns down. Still, the community spirit is strong, and the African-American neighbors come together to rebuild. Cline-Ransome does not give a specific locale for the story, thus making it representative of much of the rural South after the Civil War. Telling the story in the voice of a child helps to make the story more immediate and should help young readers appreciate the difficulties involved in building, maintaining and attending school. Ransome’s watercolor paintings are richly evocative of the seasons while also creating memorable characters and emotions. The endpapers depicting a blackboard with upper- and lowercase letters written in chalk are a child-friendly touch.
Readers don’t need to have been recently emancipated to understand this eloquent testament to the overriding importance of school. (Picture book. 4-7)