A Sweet Smell of Roses

( 2 )


There's a sweet, sweet smell in the air as two young girls sneak out of their house, down the street, and across town to where men and women are gathered, ready to march for freedom and justice. Inspired by countless children and young adults who took a stand, two Coretta Scott King honorees offer a heart-lifting glimpse of children's roles in the civil rights movement.

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There's a sweet, sweet smell in the air as two young girls sneak out of their house, down the street, and across town to where men and women are gathered, ready to march for freedom and justice. Inspired by countless children and young adults who took a stand, two Coretta Scott King honorees offer a heart-lifting glimpse of children's roles in the civil rights movement.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The pervasive smell of roses is an effective metaphor for the scent of freedom in the air, and Johnson's poetic text is powerful."

Horn Book

"This book is not only about segregation; it's also about the crowds of people 'walking our way toward freedom,' the thrilling portrait of Dr. King, and the two brave kids who cross the line." — Booklist

"Powerful and moving."

Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly
According to an author's note, Johnson's (When I Am Old with You) story pays tribute to the children who played a role in the civil rights movement, the "brave boys and girls who-like their adult counterparts-could not resist the scent of freedom carried aloft by the winds of change." Velasquez (The Sound That Jazz Makes) notes that his art pays homage to Harvey Dinnerstein and Burt Silverman, whose artwork "help[ed] spread the news of an oppressed community's fight for justice and equality." Together, text and art evoke the gumption of two spirited sisters who sneak out of their home one day to participate in a march led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "After a night of soft rain/ there is a sweet smell of roses/ as my sister, Minnie, and I slip/ past Mama's door and out of the house/ down Charlotte Street," opens the spare, poetic narrative. The smell of roses surfaces repeatedly-as the group marches past hecklers, as Dr. King addresses the marchers, and as the girls return home to their worried mother, at which point the scent emanates from blooms in a window box of their house. Some readers may wonder what prompted the sisters to surreptitiously join the march, but most will appreciate experiencing the event from a child's eye-view. Velasquez's understated, realistic charcoal illustrations make effective use of color, seen only in the red stripes of the American flag, the red ribbon around a teddy bear's neck and the red roses in the window. Ages 5-8. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Too often, we forget that ordinary citizens, through their own efforts, can bring about significant change. Yes, it is vitally important to have a leader to galvanize the masses, but without people willing to leave the relative safety of their homes to take part in marches and rallies, change might not come about. In this picture book, two young girls decide to join a peaceful march organized by Martin Luther King, Jr. The words freedom and equality appear frequently. Many of the black and white charcoal drawings have a touch of red which draws your eye to the American flag or the bow on the young girls' teddy bear. The concluding scene of the girls safely home in Mama's arms with the scent of the red roses wafting through the window brings home the message of the sweetness of freedom. The notes by the author and illustrator are worth reading before beginning the book. Angela Johnson is already well recognized and Eric Velasquez was selected as a winner of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe new illustrator award for his first picture book. There is certainly no doubt that he will have a rosy future. 2005, Simon & Schuster, Ages 5 to 8.
—Marilyn Courtot
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-This quiet, gentle story pays tribute to the many unnamed children who participated in the African-American struggle for civil rights. It opens: "After a night of soft rain there is a sweet smell of roses as my sister, Minnie, and I slip past Mama's door and out of the house down Charlotte Street." They head toward the curb market where folks, mostly adults, are gathering to listen to and march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Large, powerful charcoal images dominate the pages with particular attention paid to facial expressions. The artist shows the strength and resolve of the marchers in the face of "people who scream, shout, and say, `You are not right. Equality can't be yours.'" Once the speeches are over, the sisters race home and are met at the door by their worried mother, "And as we tell her about the march, the curtains flow apart, and there is a sweet smell of roses all through our house." The only color that appears in this book is the deep red of the ribbon around the neck of Minnie's teddy bear, the U.S. flag, and the roses. Without going into much detail, this book nonetheless drives home the fact that children were involved in the movement and makes the experience more real for those just learning about this chapter of American history.-Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Two children take part in a freedom march in the days of the civil-rights struggle in the south. Martin Luther King Jr. is there, inspiring them with his words and actions. But the marchers are mostly ordinary citizens, old and young, "walking our way to freedom." Johnson carefully chooses simple, descriptive words and phrases that reach all the senses. The children listen to King's words, feel the bright sunlight, and smell the flowers along the road, as more and more people join the march, singing and clapping. They pass the haters, screaming at them from the side of the road. At day's end they return home, having played a small role in history. Velasquez's illustrations are marvelous, perfectly complementing the text and giving the words an extra punch and impact. He draws them entirely in charcoal with just a touch of red to draw the eye to the teddy bear's ribbon, the American flag, and the roses whose sweet smell accompanies the girls throughout the day. Powerful and moving. (Picture book. 6-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416953616
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 12/26/2007
  • Edition description: Repackage
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 237,983
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.90 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Angela Johnson has won three Coretta Scott King Awards, one each for her novels The First Part Last, Heaven, and Toning the Sweep. The First Part Last was also the recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award. She is also the author of the novels Looking for Red and A Certain October. Her books for younger readers include the Coretta Scott King Honor Book When I Am Old with You, illustrated by David Soman; Wind Flyers and I Dream of Trains, both illustrated by Loren Long; and Lottie Paris Lives Here and its sequel Lottie Paris and the Best Place, both illustrated by Scott M. Fischer. Additional picture books include A Sweet Smell of Roses, Just Like Josh Gibson, The Day Ray Got Away, and All Different Now. In recognition of her outstanding talent, Angela was named a 2003 MacArthur Fellow. She lives in Kent, Ohio. Visit her at AJohnsonAuthor.com.

Eric Velazquez, NSCA-CPT, is the cofounder and vice president of PrayFit and a veteran sports, health, and fitness writer.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 27, 2012

    Great for kids!

    This book looks at Martin Luther King Jr., but from the perspective of the children. After reading and discussing the book, we did a play and song performance for the entire school (grades 3 - 5) The class enjoyed the book and the school community was moved by our performance. Wonderful story!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2008


    Amazing read - from start to finish - thought provoking, with powerful illustrations and simple, yet moving text - a must have for every library. The reader is left with many questions - why the mother doesn't join in the march, does she support the march, why the red on each page, intriguing read!

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

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