Dear Willie Rudd

Overview

Fifty years have passed since Miss Elizabeth was a girl, but she still remembers Willie Rudd, the black housekeeper who helped raise her. She remembers the feel of sitting in Willie Rudd's lap while the housekeeper sang to her. And she remembers how Willie Rudd scrubbed the floor on her hands and knees. What would Miss Elizabeth say to Willie Rudd if she were alive today? She decides to write her a letter telling her how things would be different. Now Willie Rudd would come in the front door -- not the back. She ...
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Fiore, Peter M 2000 Hard cover Turtleback School & Library ed. This is librabry binding! ! -Absolutely brand new(gift quality)-ships immediately Glued binding. 40 p. Contains: ... Illustrations. Audience: Children/juvenile. Read more Show Less

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Overview

Fifty years have passed since Miss Elizabeth was a girl, but she still remembers Willie Rudd, the black housekeeper who helped raise her. She remembers the feel of sitting in Willie Rudd's lap while the housekeeper sang to her. And she remembers how Willie Rudd scrubbed the floor on her hands and knees. What would Miss Elizabeth say to Willie Rudd if she were alive today? She decides to write her a letter telling her how things would be different. Now Willie Rudd would come in the front door -- not the back. She would ride in the fornt of the bus with Miss Elizabeth, and they could sit together at the movies. The two of them would have a wonderful time. And in her heartfelt letter, Miss Elizabeth has the chance to tell Willie Rudd something she never told her while she was alive -- that she loved her.

An adult remembers her childhood relationship with a black woman and wishes she could thank her and apologize for any wrongs committed due to race.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a starred review, PW called this a "moving, evocative and thought-provoking" account of a woman revisiting her childhood relationship with her family's black housekeeper in the Jim Crow South--and wishing it could have been different. Ages 5-8. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Moving, evocative and thought-provoking, Gray's ( Miss Tizzy ) work deals with an ambitious topic, the Jim Crow South. As she rocks on her twilit front porch, Miss Elizabeth, a middle-aged white woman, thinks wistfully of Willie Rudd, the black housekeeper of her childhood home, ``now surely gone to heaven if anyone ever has.'' With quiet determination, she addresses the long-dead servant, writing to her ``for my mother and for my grandmother and for me.'' The letter belatedly voices Miss Elizabeth's love for her and the wisdom she has gained in the 50 years since her girlhood. ``I wish you could come to see me once again,'' she writes. ``This time you would come in my front door . . . not my back door.'' Her wistful list continues (``We would go to the movies and sit together in the front row''). When she finishes, she ties the letter to a kite and releases it heavenward, then resumes rocking on her porch. With great subtlety Gray unfolds the story of a life--and of a country's shameful history. Fiore's richly textured, full-spread oil paintings in dusky hues capture both Miss Elizabeth's revisited childhood world and her contemplative mood as she rocks against the darkening sky. A beautiful and significant book. Ages 4-6. (Aug.)
Children's Literature
For white adults who grew up in the South in the first fifty years of the twentieth century, Dear Willie Rudd offers a chance to relive the times with a "different ending." Children observed and interacted with African American women like Willie, and, for the most part, did not question the roles that society forced upon these women. In a moment of reflection, Miss Elizabeth wishes that she could go back and right inequities and injustices. She cannot, however. By writing a letter, tying it to a kite string, and letting the letter and the kite fly free, she symbolically releases her guilt and sets her own feelings in order. The book offers a poignant message to those over fifty, but for it to have relevance for today's children who have no reference point from which to begin, adults would need to give children the historical context. Perhaps the book could be used as beginning point to introduce children to a period of history with which they are not familiar. This is not to say racism and injustice are not still present; they are, but the book needs explaining to be effective. Fiore's oil paintings are almost dream-like and full of internal reflection. His use of light and shadows enhances the text and the emotions it evokes.
School Library Journal
Gr 3 Up-Miss Elizabeth, a white woman, sits on the porch in her rocking chair and looks back 50 years to her childhood. She regrets how badly her family's black housekeeper, Willie Rudd, was treated and she imagines how different it could have been. The text is sentimental, and the narrator's adult voice lessens any child appeal the oil paintings might have. It seems as though this is an attempt to reduce guilt by rewriting history rather than by changing actions. Most young readers will not have the background information they need to understand the issues and history underlying the subtle story. This is better suited as an adult remembrance than as a picture book for young children.-Mary Rinato Berman, New York Public Library
Hazel Rochman
Miss Elizabeth is troubled. As she sits on the porch of her family home in the South, she thinks back 50 years to her childhood and the African American housekeeper, Willie Rudd, who raised her. Miss Elizabeth wishes she could see Willie Rudd again to make amends for the ugly way things were. Today, Willie Rudd could come to the front door, and they could eat and go to the cinema together. The story includes the silly device of Miss Elizabeth writing her dead housekeeper a letter and sending it off with a kite, but Fiore's richly colored oil paintings express love and sorrow, and the faces are full of character. There is no melodrama; the pain of bigotry is clearly illustrated, especially by one dramatic picture that shows the perspective of the child looking down on the housekeeper scrubbing the floor. The cover illustration shows the downcast white child holding hands with the strong African American woman; in the background is a segregated bus. The sadness lingers, and Miss Elizabeth's regret is unresolved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780613229807
  • Publisher: Turtleback Books: A Division of Sanval
  • Publication date: 2/28/2000
  • Pages: 40
  • Product dimensions: 7.96 (w) x 9.96 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter M. Fiore has illustrated many books for children, including Touching the Sky by Louise Borden and Henry David's House, edited by Steven Schnur. Mr. Fiore has been interested in art since he was a young boy, and in addition to his book work, Mr. Fiore is well known as a fine artist. Mr. Fiore has received many awards and citations for his editorial illustration, including a Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrators.
Mr. Fiore lives along the Delaware River in Pennsylvania with his family.

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