As in her Uncle Jed's Barbershop, Mitchell again tenderly explores the courage of African Americans in the pre-civil-rights-era South; this time, however, she addresses the evils of segregation more directly. The narrator, known as Little Joe because she follows her grandfather Joe Morgan everywhere, describes how Granddaddy braves racist whites and passes a test on the Mississippi Constitution to become the first black registered voter in town. Fearful neighbors shun Granddaddy and Little Joe finds herself cut off from "used-to-be friends." But when their church is set on fire, the black community unifies and joins Granddaddy in registering. Adopting an intimate, personal voice that evokes both Little Joe's adoration of her grandfather and the gravity of his situation, King deftly imparts to the reader Granddaddy's belief in the importance of education, valor and pride. With a warm palette and blunt, short brushstrokes that underscore the moment's import more than the characters' individuality, the talented Johnson (When Jo Louis Won the Title) captures the drama of history in the making. Ages 5-8. (Feb.)
- Donna Freedman
Bright flames tear at the night sky as another church burns. Why? Because Granddaddy Joe, with only an eighth grade education, has passed the Constitution test and dared to register to vote in segregated Mississippi. Granddaddy insists that his granddaughter, "Little Joe," stay in school, stand firm even in fear, and always be proud of who she is. This warmly illustrated story of courage, determination and belief in the people and purpose of America offers insight into a prior time and encouragement for a better future, but, in light of the recent resurgence in church burnings, hauntingly reminds in it's own last lines, "We had come a long way. We still had a long way to go." Singularly touching, this book is recommended for readers of all ages.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3A young African-American woman reminisces about a memorable incident from her Mississippi childhood in the 1960s. When a lawyer addressed a local gathering looking for volunteers to register to vote, the girl's grandfather was the only one to step forward. That same day he had impressed upon her the importance of going to school, telling her, "I want you to learn as much as you can so when you grow up, you can choose what you want to do. I didn't have that choice." Readers are told why the man's actions were dangerous, how his livelihood was threatened because he wished to exercise his constitutional right, and how his granddaughter's life was affected by his bravery. The text explains a complex social and political situation in a manner that children can understand. The illustrations are done in rich, deep tones of browns, greens, and black. The grandfather is portrayed as a man of great wisdom and dignity, reminding the girl to press on even in the face of danger. A lovely, intelligent look at a chapter of American history.Carol Jones Collins, Montclair Kimberley Academy, NJ
A sensitive effort from Mitchell (Uncle Jed's Barbershop, 1993), about a courageous man in the segregated South who steadfastly pursued a goal (in this case, the right to vote), creating a legacy of pride and hope for the young girl who tells his story. Although the language is simple and straightforward, readers will require some background to understand how Jim Crow laws effectively disenfranchised Southern blacks for nearly a century after the passage of the 15th Amendment. With robust paintings by Johnson, the book will be instructive for those—of every age—without a clear understanding of how dearly won are rights they may take for granted.