THE BALLAD OF BELLE DORCAS by William H. Hooks

THE BALLAD OF BELLE DORCAS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Based on a Carolina conjure tale, the story of a woman who was ""free issue, her daddy being a white master, her mama being his house slave."" An author's note explains that such people, ""neither slaves nor full-fledged citizens,"" tended to intermarry; but Belle Dorcas sets her heart on Joshua and marries him even though he's a slave. When a new master threatens to sell Joshua, Belle Dorcas gets a spell from a conjure woman who warns that she must ""give up Joshua to keep him"": a ""cunger bag"" that--to Belle Dorcas' horror--changas Joshua into a tree. He can still be a man at night, however, even after the tree is used to shingle a smokehouse. The telling here is undistinguished, but the story is poignant, intriguing, and of historical significance. In his third book, the younger Pinkney's illustrations--black scratch-board touched with subtle color--are his best to date, with sturdy, almost heroic figures set dramatically against the dark woods and cabins of the slaves' private night world. A brief ""chapter book"" suitable for sharing aloud.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1990
Page count: 48pp
Publisher: Knopf