Bessie Smith and the Night Riders

Bessie Smith and the Night Riders

3.6 3
by Sue Stauffacher, John Holyfield
     
 

Even though she can’t afford a ticket to see the great blues singer Bessie Smith perform, Emmarene listens outside Bessie’s tent—that is, until she bursts into the show to warn the crowd:The Night Riders have come!

Bessie marches right outside and confronts the Night Riders by giving one of her famous low moans that says, "I may be down and

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Overview

Even though she can’t afford a ticket to see the great blues singer Bessie Smith perform, Emmarene listens outside Bessie’s tent—that is, until she bursts into the show to warn the crowd:The Night Riders have come!

Bessie marches right outside and confronts the Night Riders by giving one of her famous low moans that says, "I may be down and out, but I ain’t gonna take it no more." But will that be enough to scare them off ?

Based on a true incident, Bessie Smith and the Night Riders is a powerful story of facing down danger and standing up for what’s right. With John Holyfield’s luminous paintings setting the stage, readers will be cheering for Bessie and Emmarene all the way to their final bow.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
A young girl is excited when the train carrying the famous singer Bessie Smith comes to town. But she is depressed because she cannot afford a ticket to the performance. She manages to peek through the tent flap to see her idol. But then the Night Riders arrive, for these are days when the Ku Klux Klan is active in the South. She runs to warn those inside. The Riders seem to have come to burn down the tent and those in it. But Bessie bravely comes out and confronts them. The horses bolt, and Bessie goes back inside to continue singing, taking our young heroine with her for an evening she will never forget. The "Author's Note" tells us that the story is based on a true event and then fills in the background. Holyfield's acrylic paintings on canvas produce double-page scenes that bleed off the pages with a sense of drama. First they are filled with the young girl's anticipation and desire to hear her idol sing; then with the darkness of night and the strong color contrasts of Bessie's red dress, the Klan's white sheets, and the flaming torches. The final scene is one of musical delight. 2006, G.P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Young Readers Group, Ages 5 to 8.
—Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-On a hot July day in 1927, the townsfolk of Concord, NC, gather to greet "the most famous blues singer in all the South" as she disembarks from her touring train. Emmarene Johnson, a youngster who longs to attend the evening's tent show by "Bessie Smith and her Harlem Frolics," can't afford a ticket and must be content with peeking through the tent flaps for a look at her idol. From this vantage point, she notices Ku Klux Klan members removing the tent stakes and alerts the singer to the danger. She marches outside, draws herself up to her full six feet, sends the Night Riders packing, and then continues her performance. While Smith's hard-drinking and often-violent lifestyle are not mentioned here, Holyfield's brilliantly colored acrylic spreads aptly depict a larger-than-life individual. Clad in red with feather boa flying, she takes center stage whenever she appears. The horizontal shape of the book affords a wonderful view of Bessie's decorative red train; seen atop a hill, the train and the Blues Queen seem to dominate the town. Klan riders, torches blazing, extend across a subsequent spread. The book is based on a true event, "dressed up a little for dramatic effect"; Stauffacher replaces the musician who actually sounded the alarm with Emmarene and tells the story from her point of view. This tale of courage would make a fine addition to units on the Civil Rights movement.-Marianne Saccardi, Norwalk Community College, CT Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A little-known episode in legendary blues singer Bessie Smith's career comes to life in this playfully fictionalized account. Emmarene Johnson is thrilled when Smith comes to Concord, N.C., for a concert, and she goes to the tent set up on the outskirts of town in the hopes of peeping in through the flap. There she sees the Night Riders gathering, torches lit and obviously up to no good. Acting on the little girl's warning, Smith confronts the hooded Klansmen and faces them down. Holyfield's bright acrylics place Emmarene right at the center, keeping the focus on her and her glamorous idol as she tells her story. There is an unresolved tension here between narration and content, as Emmarene's cheerily positive telling never admits to the stark terror the encounter would seemingly evoke. Stauffacher provides a contextualizing author's note that fleshes out the details of the actual event but also regrettably implies that the Ku Klux Klan was a phenomenon of the early 20th-century South. Given that this is likely to be many readers' first introduction to both Smith and the Klan, it is too bad that it is not more substantial. (Picture book. 5-8)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780399242373
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
01/05/2006
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
9.24(w) x 10.32(h) x 0.39(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

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