Written by Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by Ekua Holmes
In light of the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many books on the civil rights movement are being published. This book gives a personal face to the movement like no other. Set squarely in the events of the twentieth century, this is the story of one woman who had a profound effect on the world. The timeline is very helpful in letting the reader know what else is going on.
Fannie Lou Townsend was born to poor Mississippi sharecroppers in 1917, the last of twenty children. To say she had a rough childhood would be a severe understatement. She picked cotton alongside her family after suffering through polio. After her marriage to Pap Hamer, her doctor forced her sterilization, but she adopted two daughters. Partnering with white Freedom Riders, she learned of her right to vote and eventually ran for Congress. She was jailed and beaten into lingering injury. Any time she found herself at odds with a group seeking to give her limited help, she moved on to a more helpful group. The Democrats would not seat her group at convention, so she helped form a separate party. She also worked for women’s rights and for early education.
Weatherford’s use of language is striking, lyrical, and completely appropriate for the topic. Holmes’ use of collage for the backdrop adds immeasurably to the feel of the text and often lets the reader know about many of the events happening around Fannie Lou. Fourth graders will learn about literature, civil rights, history, and the biography of an individual. Parents and teachers may want to consider reading the text aloud to facilitate discussion.
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- Title: Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement
- Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
- Illustrator: Ekua Holmes
- Published: Candlewick Press, August 2015
- Reviewer: Sue Poduska
- Format: Hardcover, 56 pages
- Grade Level: 4 to 7
- Genre: Nonfiction, History, Civil rights
- ISBN: 978-0-7636-6531-9
- Extras: Author’s note, detailed timeline, source notes, selected bibliography, copyright acknowledgements
Written by Sharon M. Draper
Inspired by her grandmother’s diary, Draper relates the realistic tale of Southern black family during the Depression. The author dives right in with a cross being burned near Stella’s home on page one. The eleven-year-old does well in school, except for a continuing struggle with her writing. She has great ideas. She just can’t seem to get them on paper. So she goes to the barn at night to practice. When the Klan becomes more active and the weather turns colder, her parents plead with her to stay indoors. The year is 1932, and Stella’s father is determined to vote in the general election. He takes Stella with him when he registers to vote, and she sees the bravery he and two other men must show in order to get registered. The family faces many other battles as Stella’s brother suffers through the flu and Stella’s mother is bitten by a poisonous snake. The black doctor is unavailable and the white doctor refuses to treat her. The Klan burns the house of one of the men who also registered to vote. A man with thirteen children. Stella is a heroine when she finds the hiding place of one of the younger children, frightened by the fire. She also witnesses white men beat up her friend for no reason and saves the life of the daughter of the white doctor.
This exciting book will give fourth graders a good feel for both the Depression and the consequences of discrimination. Stella is a wonderful, though not perfect, child who everyone will identify with. Highly recommended.
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- Title: Stella by Starlight
- Author: Sharon M. Draper
- Published: Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2015
- Reviewer: Sue Poduska
- Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
- Grade Level: 4 to 8
- Genre: Fiction, History, Civil rights
- ISBN: 978-1-4424-9497-8
Written by Augusta Scattergood
When Theo and Uncle Raymond arrive in Destiny, Florida, the sign says it is, The Town Time Forgot, and the weather is ridiculously hot. As they walk down the street looking for their rooming house, uncle has a big tool box and Theo has a lot of questions he keeps to himself. Only chapters later do we find out why they are together in this small town.
Theo was being raised by his grandparents after the death of his parents, but now the grandparents have died. An uncle Theo has never known is called home from his cabin in Alaska to raise the orphan.
Theo is a gifted pianist, but Uncle Raymond cannot tolerate the sound or thought of music. His attitude is a mystery for a long time, as are his nightmares. This is an interesting twist on the age-old story pattern of deceased parents.
The new friendships Theo makes both in school and the rooming house are really funny girls with very independent outlooks on life. They are great secondary characters.
The heroine of the story, though, is a surprise readers will enjoy. She brings humor, guidance and second chances for everyone. The story has a bit of a slow start, but the coming together of all the threads makes for a satisfying conclusion.
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- Title: The Way to Stay in Destiny
- Author: Augusta Scattergood
- Publisher: Scholastic, 2015
- Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
- Format: Hardcover, 197 pages
- ISBN: 0545538246
- Genre: Fiction
- Grade level: 4 to 6