These Hands

These Hands 61mh-aWO6ML__SX385_BO1,204,203,200_These Hands

Margaret H. Mason, Author

Floyd Cooper, Illustrator

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, Fiction, 2010 & 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: African-Americans, Civil Rights Movement, Hands, Grandfathers, Family Relationships, Prejudice, Tolerance

Opening: “Look at these hands, Joseph. / Did you know these hands / used to tie a triple bowline knot I / in three seconds flat?  / Well, I can still help a young fellow / learn to ties his shoes / — yes, I can.”

Synopsis: Joseph’s grandfather could do most anything with his hands. He could play the piano, shuffle cards, throw a curve ball and hit a line drive ball. Despite all the many wonderful things he could do with his hands, he could not touch the bread dough and or bake the bread at the Wonder Bread factory. He was only allowed to sweep the floors, work the line and load the trucks.

Why I like this book:

Margaret Mason’s has written an inspiring intergenerational story about a boy and his grandfather. This  compelling story is about the discrimination the grandfather experienced as an African-American working in a Wonder Bread factory.

The text is written in free verse with a refrain from the grandfather that heralds the beginning of each double-page spread: “Look at these hands, Joseph. / Did you know these hands used to…”  The tension builds when the grandfather painfully tells Joseph what he was not allowed to do with his hands at the factory. Hands alone were the victims of the prejudice. Hands joined together signed petitions, protested, prayed and overcame the prejudice. What a powerful metaphor!

This little-known story is based on the true stories of bakery union workers at the Wonder Bread factory in the 1950s and early 1960s. Victory was achieved for African-Americans during the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. It was told to the author by her friend, Joe, and after his death she decided to write his story.

Floyd Cooper’s larger than life illustrations are rendered in oil and beautifully compliment the author’s lyrical storytelling.  The muted browns tones are warm, expressive, lively and celebratory. You want to spend time studying each painting.

Resources: Make sure you read the Author’s Note at the end. This is an excellent classroom book for Black History Month. Do you know your family history? Talk with your parents and grandparents and ask them questions about what they may know about your family history. You may be surprised with your discovery. Record their stories or write information about your history in a journal. Browse through family photo albums. Visit  Margaret Mason’s website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

One Million Men and Me

One Million Men and Me 

Kelly Starling Lyons, Author

Peter Ambush, Illustrator

Just Us Books, Inc., 2007, Historical fiction

Suitable for:  Kindergarten and up  (Ages 5 nd up)

OpeningMy cousin, Omari, said no girls were allowed.  But Daddy took me.  Our bus rumbled through ebony night.  My head snuggled into Daddy’s warm chest until pink rose around us and the driver called, “Washington, D.C.”   A father takes his daughter, Nia, on a long bus trip to take part in a march with one million men.  They walked peacefully, sang songs and “stood tall and proud as mighty oaks, the men, Daddy and me.”  They listened to speakers like Maya Angelou, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Minister Louis Farrakhan.  Everyone held hands in unity.  Nia notices that their faces were filled with pride and their hearts filled with hope.  Everyone seemed to know everyone as they all nodded, smiled and hugged each other.  At the reflecting pool Nia makes a wish.  She will never forget the day her daddy took her on a journey where she made history with one million men.

Why I like this story:  This story is about one special day, Oct. 16, 1995, when a generation of one million African-American men made history.  A generation of proud men committed to make changes for themselves and their communities.  They peacefully gathered at the Lincoln Memorial garnering the attention of the media worldwide.  Among them was the author, who covered the story as a journalist.  In the sea of men, Kelly spotted a father gripping his daughter’s hand near the Reflecting Pool.  “She walked like a little princess among kings,” said Kelly.  This one little girl inspired Kelly to tell  this momentous occasion through Nia’s eyes.  The story is poetic and heartwarming, the illustrations are bold and beautiful, befitting of the occasion.  The children who will read this book today, weren’t even born.  One Million Men and Me is an excellent classroom book.

Activity:  You can learn more about the history of the  Million Men March in the back story at the end of the book, and by visiting Kelly Starling Lyons website.  The author also has a classroom guide with discussion questions and activities and printable coloring pages and other materials.  On Martin Luther King Day participate in a  walk or activity in your community.

For more books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend – Perfect Picture Book

Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend

Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Bettye Stroud, Authors

John Holyfield, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, September 2011,  Historical Fiction

Suitable for: Children 5-8 years

Themes:  Animals in history, Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Opening/Synopsis: Alex sat on bench outside the store.  He wanted to go and play, but his mother had told him to wait for her.  There was nothing to do on the porch but watch an old mule eating in the garden across the street.  There was no breeze.  It was so still that Alex could hear the mule munching on a row of bright collard greens.  An old woman, Miz Pettaway, sat down on the bench next to Alex and chuckled, “Ol’ Belle?  She can have all the collards she wants.  She’s earned it.”  Alex learns from Miz Pettaway that Belle has played a very important role in the history of the civil rights movement.

This is a true story about an amazing mule, from a poor community of Gee’s Bend, Alabama.  Few could afford a car, so the community of farmers depended on the mules to help them work the land.  In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Gee’s Bend and inspired the African-American community to register to vote.   Miz Pettaway, said “they felt strong after Dr. King spoke.”  So many of the local “Benders” traveled to Camden to vote that the sheriff shut down the ferry.  But, stubborn and determined,  the Benders  boarded wagons pulled by mules and defied the local authorities.   When Dr. King died, Gee’s Bend received a call asking if their mules would pull Dr. King’s coffin through the streets of Atlanta during the funeral.  Belle and another mule Ada, did the honors that day.  Alex sees the mule through new eyes — a hero.

Why I liked this Book:  I applaud the authors, Ramsey and Stroud, for their very fresh approach to telling the story of Dr. King and the civil rights movement.  Holyfield’s bold and colorful acrylic illustrations evoke the determination and the drama of that time in history.  The book is an intergenerational book and should be in every classroom for this year’s Martin Luther King celebrations.  It won a Parent’s Choice Award in 2011.  There is an author’s note at the end of the book about this true story of the mules who pulled the funeral wagon from Ebenezer Baptist Church to Morehouse College in 1968.  Belle and Ada were an important part of history.  And Miz Pettaway did exist, a I found an interview with her.  She was among the famous Gee’s Bend quilters.  Links to resourcesEducation World and Teacher Vision.

For more books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.