SKY SASH SO BLUE

A fine picture book from Hathorn and Andrews: The text, a poem, is provoking and challenging, with a pulsing lyric understatement, while the superb artwork is composed of a collage of fabric snips painted in subtly harmonious, unctuous color. A mother and her two daughters are slaves on a plantation. The action involves the cobbling together from cloth fragments a wedding dress for the older daughter, Sissy (“A scrap of net, outrageous, light/Round Sissy’s neck, this flimsy tie./Susannah laughs at the very sight,/Her sister looks so pleased, so shy”), who is to be married to John Bee, a free man. They gather almost all that they need, but for the back panel, which miraculously appears when the lady from the Big House wants a sheet cut up for dusters. The dress completed, the mother presides at the wedding (a preacher has been disallowed by the missus, which, as if the dress were not enough, will give young readers a taste of a slave’s life), and while there is great happiness, the couple must part: John returns to his work to earn money toward buying Sissy’s freedom. The dress is taken apart, returned to dusters, but that it was made at all is nothing short of inspirational. When Sissy finally leaves, the sadness of her mother and Susannah is tempered by the thought of a new dress, a waiting dress, for Sissy’s child, to be born free. Through it all runs Susannah’s sky blue sash, a simple but talismanic scarf, a vehicle to express love, generosity, remembrance, and the tie that binds. (Picture book/poetry. 5-9)

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-689-81090-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998

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A powerful retrospective glimpse at a key event.

LET THE CHILDREN MARCH

A vibrantly illustrated account of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade through the eyes of a young girl who volunteers to participate.

Morrison’s signature style depicts each black child throughout the book as a distinct individual; on the endpapers, children hold signs that collectively create a “Civil Rights and the Children’s Crusade” timeline, placing the events of the book in the context of the greater movement. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. comes to speak at her church, a girl and her brother volunteer to march in their parents’ stead. The narrative succinctly explains why the Children’s Crusade was a necessary logistical move, one that children and parents made with careful consideration and despite fear. Lines of text (“Let the children march. / They will lead the way // The path may be long and / troubled, but I’m gonna walk on!”) are placed within the illustrations in bold swoops for emphasis. Morrison’s powerful use of perspective makes his beautiful oil paintings even more dynamic and conveys the intensity of the situations depicted, including the children’s being arrested, hosed, and jailed. The child crusaders, regardless of how badly they’re treated, never lose their dignity, which the art conveys flawlessly. While the children win the day, such details as the Confederate flag subtly connect the struggle to the current day.

A powerful retrospective glimpse at a key event. (timeline, afterword, artist’s statement, quote sources, bibliography) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-70452-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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A quietly compelling look at an impoverished family’s resourcefulness and resilience.

HOME IN THE WOODS

Wheeler shares a poignant tale, based on her grandmother’s childhood, of a Depression-era family’s hard times.

Marvel, 6, has seven siblings. Their newly widowed mother guides them, as they carry their worldly goods along, into the woods, where they find an abandoned shack. Though decrepit, it’s got a root cellar, a functioning water pump, a wood stove, and a garden spot rich with leaf mold. As summer yields to autumn, Mum does chores for pay in town. The children draw lots for the home tasks: laundry (hand-scrubbed and hung to dry), wood-splitting, and more. A bountiful harvest engenders prodigious canning as the family prepares for the bitter weather ahead. While the children must buy only basic supplies at the general store, their doleful window shopping produces an inventive outdoor game, in which “We can buy anything we want!” Winter brings snow and cold, quilting, reading by the wood stove, and a wild-turkey stew. Wheeler’s lovely ink-and-watercolor double-page spreads, in somber grays, sunlight yellow, and meadow green, evoke both the period and the family’s stark poverty. The thin faces are gray-white, with dark hair and pale pink cheeks. Delicate visual details abound, from the sparkle of evening raindrops to Mum’s side-buttoned apron. Marvel’s ruminative narration takes occasional poetic turns: “Mum stays awake / into the night… / …whispering / to / the / stars.”

A quietly compelling look at an impoverished family’s resourcefulness and resilience. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-16290-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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