January's Sparrow

January's Sparrow

5.0 1
by Patricia Polacco
     
 

Patricia Polacco's most powerful book since Pink and Say.

In the middle of the night, The Crosswhites-including young Sadie-must flee the Kentucky plantation they work on. Dear January has been beaten and killed by the plantation master, and they fear who may be next. But Sadie must leave behind her most valuable possession, the wooden sparrow carved for

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Overview

Patricia Polacco's most powerful book since Pink and Say.

In the middle of the night, The Crosswhites-including young Sadie-must flee the Kentucky plantation they work on. Dear January has been beaten and killed by the plantation master, and they fear who may be next. But Sadie must leave behind her most valuable possession, the wooden sparrow carved for her by January. Through the Underground Railroad, the Crosswhites make the slow and arduous journey to Marshall, Michigan, where they finally live in freedom. And there they stay, happily, until the day a mysterious package shows up on their doorsteps. It is January's sparrow, with a note that reads, 'I found you.'

How the Crosswhites, and the whole town of Marshall, face this threat will leave readers empowered and enthralled. This is a Polacco adventure that will live in the minds of children for years.

Editorial Reviews

Moira E. McLaughlin
…a moving story about a strong, loving slave family that survives against the odds.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Based on actual events, Polacco’s (In Our Mothers’ House) story is at once horrifying and heartening. It centers on the Crosswhite family, slaves who flee their Kentucky plantation after witnessing the merciless whipping of January, a slave caught while attempting escape. Led to believe that January died from his wounds, Sadie Crosswhite is heartbroken when she inadvertently leaves behind the wooden sparrow he carved for her. Writing in credible dialect, Polacco conveys the family’s fear and fortitude as they follow the North Star, “trackin’ through cornfields, climbin’ up bluffs, rollin’ through muck and mud.” They take refuge in Marshall, Mich., a sanctuary on the Underground Railroad, where they remain until slave chasers track them down. After a confrontation in which the town rallies behind them, the Crosswhites steal away for Canada, accompanied by January, who has shown up unexpectedly. Like Polacco’s prose, her dynamic and sometimes brutal pictures, rendered in pencils and markers, hold nothing back—be it the Crosswhites’ anguish and terror while under pursuit or their affection for each other and those who harbor them. An illuminating and trenchant account. Ages 8–up. (Oct.)
Horn Book
Polacco at her best...undeniably vivid.
Children's Literature - Jacquie Skurla
Young Sadie Crosswhite watches as her dear friend January is savagely whipped, beaten, stomped, and left for dead after attempting to escape from Master Giltner, his cruel plantation owner. The year is 1846, and Sadie's family must flee that very night for fear that the Master may sell family members in retribution. This powerful telling of a slave family's journey through the Underground Railroad to the safety of the free states is masterfully brought to life through the marriage of a lengthy text supported by double-paged pencil, colored pencil, and watercolor illustrations. For the first time in her young life, Sadie and her three brothers find a sense of normalcy in Marshall, Michigan. Under the necessity of assumed names, they are able to be "free men" and attend school. When the Master's henchmen finally locate them to drag them back to Kentucky a year later, the townspeople of Marshall show their mettle and sense of justice, standing against the prevailing law of the land, tyranny, and elected officials to do what is right. Patricia Polacco, who is at her best when delving into injustices done by people past and present as in her books The Butterfly and Pink and Say, again triumphs in this tale of pre-Civil War horrors and triumphs. A meaningful addition to school libraries when teaching American History. Reviewer: Jacquie Skurla
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Fleshing out historical events with invented but credible details, Polacco retraces the 1840s flight of the Crosswhite family from slavery to freedom and the dramatic standoff between the residents (black and white both) of the Michigan town where they settled and a band of "paddy rollers" sent to fetch the fugitives back to Kentucky. In lightly idiomatic language ("'Hark now,' their daddy whispered. 'We is gonna cross water tonight!'"), the author relates most of the tale from the point of view of Sadie, the youngest Crosswhite, and threads the narrative with a typical depiction of strong family bonds—expanded here to include the loyalty displayed by a crowd of townfolk who not only held off the paddy rollers until the Crosswhites could escape to Canada, but later paid hefty fines for defying fugitive slave laws. The illustrations, which include scenes of a bloody whipping and a heavily scarred back, have an urgent, unsettled look that fully captures the sharply felt danger and terror of Sadie's experiences. Particularly telling is the contrast between the open, mobile, well-lit faces of the Crosswhites and the shadowed, menacing miens of their pursuers. An iffy claim near the end that Lincoln "gave all slaves their freedom" aside, this moving account effectively highlights a significant instance of nonviolent community resistance to injustice.—John Peters, New York Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
A voice in the prologue, in the dialect cadences of the slave narratives, introduces the stark opening image of a black man, roped and bloodied, dragged by two white men on horseback-the paddy rollers. Eight-year-old Sadie Crosswhite is forced to watch with her parents and siblings as their beloved friend, January Drumm, is whipped and carried off for burial, the price for trying to run away. Sadie and her family run away that night, stopping in Marshall, Mich., with its free black community. They tell no one that they are runaways, as harboring them is against the law. The slave catchers track the Crosswhites down some four years later, in 1847, and in a blazing scene the townspeople of Marshall, black and white, defy them, even as January himself appears, baring his horribly scarred back. Polacco's passionately realized images use every tool in the artist's arsenal: pictures structured like Expressionist etchings or Mannerist saints; echoes of Delacroix and Ryder, Rembrandt and Goya. Rooted in history (a comprehensive bibliography is promised online), this is a masterly narrative that horrifies, moves and informs. (Illustrated fiction. 9-14)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780399250774
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
10/29/2009
Pages:
96
Sales rank:
162,065
Product dimensions:
10.24(w) x 11.26(h) x 0.63(d)
Lexile:
760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

"I was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1944. Soon after my birth I lived in Williamston, Michigan and then moved onto my grandparents farm in Union City, Michigan.

"I lived on the farm with my mom and Grandparents until 1949. That is when my Babushka (my grandmother) died and we prepared to move away from Michigan. I must say that living on that little farm with them was the most magical time of my life...and that my Babushka and other grandparents were some of the most inspirational people in my life.

"My parents were divorced when I was 3, and both my father and mother moved back into the homes of their parents. I spent the school year with my mother, and the summers with my dad. In both households I was the apple of my grandparents' eyes! I would say that these relationships with my grandparents have most definitely influenced my life and my work. You probably have noticed that in almost every book that I write there is a very young person who is interacting with an elderly person. Personally, I feel that this is the most valuable experience of my life....having the wonder of knowing both children and elderly people.

"The respect that I learned as a very young person certainly carried over into my life in later years. I have always like hearing stories from these folks. My genuine curiosity for the wonder of living a very long life prepared me to accept the declining years of my own parents.

"To get back to the farm in Union City...this place was so magical to me that I have never forgotten it! This was the place where I heard such wonderful stories told...this was the place that a real meteor fell into our font yard...that very meteorite is now our family headstone in the graveyard here in Union City.

"Did I tell you that I now live in Union City? This is after living in Oakland, California for almost 37 years. But, you see, every year I'd come back to Michigan to see my Dad and family.

"Anyway...

"In 1949 we left the farm to move, first to Coral Gables, Florida. I lived there with my Mom and my brother, Richard, for almost 3 years. Then we moved to Oakland, California. I remained there for most of my young life on into my adulthood. We lived on Ocean View Drive in the Rockridge District. What I loved the most about this neighborhood is that all of my neighbors came in as many colors, ideas and religions as there are people on the planet. How lucky I was to know so many people that were so different and yet so much alike.

"It is on Ocean View that I met my best friend, Stewart Grinnell Washington. We are best friends to this day! He has a younger brother, Winston and three sisters; Jackie, Terry and Robin. When I was a student in elementary school I wasn't a very good student. I had a terrible time with reading and math. As a matter of fact, I did not learn how to read until I was almost 14 years old. Can you imagine what it was like to see all my friends do so well in school and I wasn't! I thought I was dumb. I didn't like school because there was this boy that always teased me and made me feel even dumber. When I was fourteen, it was learned that I have a learning disability. It is called dyslexia. I felt trapped in a body that wouldn't do what everybody else could do. That was when one of my hero's, my teacher, found what was wrong with me and got me the help I needed to succeed in school. Of course, now that I am an adult, I realize that being learning disabled does not mean DUMB AT ALL! As a matter of fact, I have learned that being learning disabled only means that I cannot learn the way most of you do. As a matter of fact, most learning disabled children are actually GENIUSES! Once I learned how to read and caught up with the rest of my fellow students, I did very well.

"I went on to University, majored in Fine Art, then went on to do a graduate degree and even ended up with a Ph.D. in Art History. For a time I restored ancient pieces of art for museums. I eventually became the mother of two children, Steven and Traci, and devoted much of my days to their education and upbringing.

"I did not start writing children's books until I was 41 years old. Mind you the "art" has always been there for me most of my life. Apparently one of the symptoms of my disability in academics is the ability of draw very, very well. So drawing, painting and sculpture has always been a part of my life even before I started illustrating my books. The books were quite a surprise, really. Mind you, I came from a family of incredible storytellers. My mother's people were from the Ukraine and Russia...my father's people were from Ireland. My extended family,(Stewart's family) were from the bayous of Louisiana...also great story tellers. When you are raised on HEARING stories.....NOT SEEING THEM, you become very good at telling stories yourself. So at the age of 41 I started putting stories that I told down on paper and did drawings to help illustrate them...I guess the rest is history.

"I have enjoyed a wonderful career of writing books for children . Who could have guessed that little girl that was having such a tough time in school would end up an illustrator and author. Children and adults alike ask me where I get my ideas...I get them from the same place that you do....MY IMAGINATION... I would guess the reason my imagination is so fertile is because I came from storytelling and, WE DID NOT OWN A T.V.!!!!!!!!! You see, when one is a writer, actor, dancer, musician; a creator of any kind, he or she does these things because they listen to that "voice" inside of them. All of us have that "voice". It is where all inspired thoughts come from....but when you have electronic screens in front, of you, speaking that voice for you... it DROWNS OUT THE VOICE! When I talk to children and aspiring writers, I always ask them to listen to the voice, turn off the T.V. and

"LISTEN...LISTEN...LISTEN.

"Now that I have moved back to Union City I am intending to open my house and community and invite people to come there to take part in writing seminars, story telling festivals, literature conferences and various events that celebrate children's literature."

Born Patricia Ann Barber in Lansing, Michigan, to parents of Russian and Ukrainian descent on one side and Irish on the other, Patricia Polacco grew up in both California and Michigan. Her school year was spent in Oakland, California, and summers in her beloved Michigan. She describes her family members as marvelous storytellers. "My fondest memories are of sitting around a stove or open fire, eating apples and popping corn while listening to the old ones tell glorious stories about their homeland and the past. We are tenacious traditionalists and sentimentalists.... With each retelling our stories gain a little more Umph!"

Studying in the United States and Australia, Patricia Polacco has earned an M.F.A. and a Ph. D. in art history, specializing in Russian and Greek painting, and iconographic history. She is a museum consultant on the restoration of icons. As a participant in many citizen exchange programs for writers and illustrators, Patricia Polacco has traveled extensively in Russia as well as other former Soviet republics. She continues to support programs that encourage Russo-American friendships and understanding. She is also deeply involved in inner-city projects here in the U.S. that promote the peaceful resolution of conflict and encourage art and literacy programs.

The mother of a grown son and a daughter, Patricia Polacco currently resides in Michigan, where she has a glorious old farm that was built during the time of Lincoln.

copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.
"I was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1944. Soon after my birth I lived in Williamston, Michigan and then moved onto my grandparents farm in Union City, Michigan.

"I lived on the farm with my mom and Grandparents until 1949. That is when my Babushka (my grandmother) died and we prepared to move away from Michigan. I must say that living on that little farm with them was the most magical time of my life...and that my Babushka and other grandparents were some of the most inspirational people in my life.

"My parents were divorced when I was 3, and both my father and mother moved back into the homes of their parents. I spent the school year with my mother, and the summers with my dad. In both households I was the apple of my grandparents' eyes! I would say that these relationships with my grandparents have most definitely influenced my life and my work. You probably have noticed that in almost every book that I write there is a very young person who is interacting with an elderly person. Personally, I feel that this is the most valuable experience of my life....having the wonder of knowing both children and elderly people.

"The respect that I learned as a very young person certainly carried over into my life in later years. I have always like hearing stories from these folks. My genuine curiosity for the wonder of living a very long life prepared me to accept the declining years of my own parents.

"To get back to the farm in Union City...this place was so magical to me that I have never forgotten it! This was the place where I heard such wonderful stories told...this was the place that a real meteor fell into our font yard...that very meteorite is now our family headstone in the graveyard here in Union City.

"Did I tell you that I now live in Union City? This is after living in Oakland, California for almost 37 years. But, you see, every year I'd come back to Michigan to see my Dad and family.

"Anyway...

"In 1949 we left the farm to move, first to Coral Gables, Florida. I lived there with my Mom and my brother, Richard, for almost 3 years. Then we moved to Oakland, California. I remained there for most of my young life on into my adulthood. We lived on Ocean View Drive in the Rockridge District. What I loved the most about this neighborhood is that all of my neighbors came in as many colors, ideas and religions as there are people on the planet. How lucky I was to know so many people that were so different and yet so much alike.

"It is on Ocean View that I met my best friend, Stewart Grinnell Washington. We are best friends to this day! He has a younger brother, Winston and three sisters; Jackie, Terry and Robin. When I was a student in elementary school I wasn't a very good student. I had a terrible time with reading and math. As a matter of fact, I did not learn how to read until I was almost 14 years old. Can you imagine what it was like to see all my friends do so well in school and I wasn't! I thought I was dumb. I didn't like school because there was this boy that always teased me and made me feel even dumber. When I was fourteen, it was learned that I have a learning disability. It is called dyslexia. I felt trapped in a body that wouldn't do what everybody else could do. That was when one of my hero's, my teacher, found what was wrong with me and got me the help I needed to succeed in school. Of course, now that I am an adult, I realize that being learning disabled does not mean DUMB AT ALL! As a matter of fact, I have learned that being learning disabled only means that I cannot learn the way most of you do. As a matter of fact, most learning disabled children are actually GENIUSES! Once I learned how to read and caught up with the rest of my fellow students, I did very well.

"I went on to University, majored in Fine Art, then went on to do a graduate degree and even ended up with a Ph.D. in Art History. For a time I restored ancient pieces of art for museums. I eventually became the mother of two children, Steven and Traci, and devoted much of my days to their education and upbringing.

"I did not start writing children's books until I was 41 years old. Mind you the "art" has always been there for me most of my life. Apparently one of the symptoms of my disability in academics is the ability of draw very, very well. So drawing, painting and sculpture has always been a part of my life even before I started illustrating my books. The books were quite a surprise, really. Mind you, I came from a family of incredible storytellers. My mother's people were from the Ukraine and Russia...my father's people were from Ireland. My extended family,(Stewart's family) were from the bayous of Louisiana...also great story tellers. When you are raised on HEARING stories.....NOT SEEING THEM, you become very good at telling stories yourself. So at the age of 41 I started putting stories that I told down on paper and did drawings to help illustrate them...I guess the rest is history.

"I have enjoyed a wonderful career of writing books for children . Who could have guessed that little girl that was having such a tough time in school would end up an illustrator and author. Children and adults alike ask me where I get my ideas...I get them from the same place that you do....MY IMAGINATION... I would guess the reason my imagination is so fertile is because I came from storytelling and, WE DID NOT OWN A T.V.!!!!!!!!! You see, when one is a writer, actor, dancer, musician; a creator of any kind, he or she does these things because they listen to that "voice" inside of them. All of us have that "voice". It is where all inspired thoughts come from....but when you have electronic screens in front, of you, speaking that voice for you... it DROWNS OUT THE VOICE! When I talk to children and aspiring writers, I always ask them to listen to the voice, turn off the T.V. and

"LISTEN...LISTEN...LISTEN.

"Now that I have moved back to Union City I am intending to open my house and community and invite people to come there to take part in writing seminars, story telling festivals, literature conferences and various events that celebrate children's literature."

Born Patricia Ann Barber in Lansing, Michigan, to parents of Russian and Ukrainian descent on one side and Irish on the other, Patricia Polacco grew up in both California and Michigan. Her school year was spent in Oakland, California, and summers in her beloved Michigan. She describes her family members as marvelous storytellers. "My fondest memories are of sitting around a stove or open fire, eating apples and popping corn while listening to the old ones tell glorious stories about their homeland and the past. We are tenacious traditionalists and sentimentalists.... With each retelling our stories gain a little more Umph!"

Studying in the United States and Australia, Patricia Polacco has earned an M.F.A. and a Ph. D. in art history, specializing in Russian and Greek painting, and iconographic history. She is a museum consultant on the restoration of icons. As a participant in many citizen exchange programs for writers and illustrators, Patricia Polacco has traveled extensively in Russia as well as other former Soviet republics. She continues to support programs that encourage Russo-American friendships and understanding. She is also deeply involved in inner-city projects here in the U.S. that promote the peaceful resolution of conflict and encourage art and literacy programs.

The mother of a grown son and a daughter, Patricia Polacco currently resides in Michigan, where she has a glorious old farm that was built during the time of Lincoln.

copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

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