Patronizing storytelling glosses over a tale of Christian kindness.
Hall retells his biography of inspirational speaker Moore (Same Kind of Different as Me, 2008) as a lesson in charity. Moore grows up on The Man’s plantation during the Great Depression, illustrated with deep colors and eye-catching images, such as a black boy with a sack of cotton as big as he is. After hopping a freight train, Moore is homeless until Hall’s wife dreams about him and finds him at a mission. Moore’s reaction is plainly touching: “Denver had never heard anyone say, ‘God loves you.’ He had never even heard someone say, ‘I love you.’ ” However, Hall’s prose is often glib; he tells without showing, and his description of plantation life borders on benevolent. When The Man gives Moore a bike in exchange for picking 100 pounds of cotton, the blistering labor is described as “extra chores”; asked if he is homeless, Moore reflects that The Man had “given him” a shack. While young children may understand chores and rewards, equating sharecropping with receiving an allowance is hugely problematic without discussion. Moore’s simple, evocative pictures tell his story best, mitigating Hall’s superficial text.
For a more reflective illustration of kindness begetting kindness, consider Jacqueline Woodson’s Each Kindness, illustrated by E.B. Lewis (2012). (Picture book. 4-7)