published November 2009 by Hyperion
32 pages (hardcover), picture book
I am not an avid fan of nonfiction, but I do happen to like narrative nonfiction. Tell me a story - and if it's true, I'll try not to hold it against you. So, I was delighted to find this little gem of a book in my library's new children's nonfiction section.
She was big. She was black. She was so beautiful.This is the beginning of Sojourner Truth's story. What a hook! I am very much in love with what this husband-wife duo has produced here. Truth's story is told conversationally from her birth to her "Aint I a woman" speech" - and what ties it all together is her shoe size. Those size 12 feet stomped on the beetles on the farm in her childhood and would stomp on ignorance and injustice in her adult life. And that's the way a successful, interesting, kid-appealing nonfiction picture book is written - with flavor and style and a bit of pizzazz. Yes, I said pizzazz. Brian Pinkney's watercolor and ink illustrations are gorgeously soft and evocative - no complaints here in the picture department. But Andrea's text is what captured me - and that is a rare occurrence in a picture book that I particularly enjoy. I am generally drawn to illustrations and am often let down by boring writing. But there are no letdowns here! The text works so well with the illustrations - they are inseparable. In a scene where Truth is walking across many fields of greens and yellows with a large, swirling sun overhead, Pinkney writes:
Oh, I just love it! Go and read it for yourself!Belle soon learned that to celebrate freedom, she had to speak her beliefs [...] Freedom meant she would 'travel up and down the land' to share her ideas. That's when Belle changed her name. She gave her slave name the boot, and called herself Sojourner Truth. She said the name Sojourner was just right for someone who was a traveler. And Truth--well, that was what Sojourner did best--she told it like it was.
As it is the beginning of February (hooray!), I am reminded that it is Black History Month. Because I know that local schools celebrate in various ways, I am happy to share this book today since it would be an excellent read-aloud for the elementary set. Though the inside flap reads "Ages 5-9," I probably wouldn't go younger than third grade, which still seems a bit young to me. Definitely for fourth and fifth grade. Background information about the times may be helpful before reading this book to students. Maybe a discussion about what freedom means to students too. Or looking up the word "sojourner" in the dictionary. There is certainly plenty that can be done with this book!
Nonfiction Monday is hosted at Wild About Nature this week. Check it out for the roundup of posts!