Jonkonnu: A Story from the Sketchbook of Winslow Homer

Jonkonnu: A Story from the Sketchbook of Winslow Homer

by Amy Littlesugar, Ian Schoenherr
     
 

Cilla doesn't know much about Yankee painter Winslow Homer, who is staying at her mama's inn in Virginia. So one day she follows him and she's surprised to discover that Mr. Homer has posed freed slaves in colorful costumes while he paints a tribute to Jonkonnu, the African-American holiday that celebrates freedom from slavery. Size D. 32 pp. 10,000 print. See more details below

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Overview

Cilla doesn't know much about Yankee painter Winslow Homer, who is staying at her mama's inn in Virginia. So one day she follows him and she's surprised to discover that Mr. Homer has posed freed slaves in colorful costumes while he paints a tribute to Jonkonnu, the African-American holiday that celebrates freedom from slavery. Size D. 32 pp. 10,000 print.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The creators of Marie in Fourth Position team up for an intriguing picture book based on Winslow Homer's visit to the town of Petersburg, Va., in the summer of 1876, where the famous painter went toe-to-toe with racism and prejudice. As the nation gears up for its centennial Independence Day celebration, Homer, a New Yorker, heads "down the red clay road" each day to sketch the African American freedmen and -women and their children. Ironically, blacks are barred from the Fourth of July festivities; instead they prepare to celebrate Jonkonnu, a freedom holiday that originated in slavery days. The painter's interest in the black community sparks a confrontation with angry (white) local rabble, who eventually back down. Told from the point of view of a white girl who observes the artist each day, the story unfolds in Littlesugar's colorful prose (this Southern town is "hot enough to still the cottonmouths in the creek"). This ably told tale exposes the lingering tensions of the Reconstruction era. The author also delves into Homer's creative process ("he'd spend hours lookin' at the sunshineat the way it washed over a cabin yard") and his appreciation of his subjects' family life, traditions and beauty. Schoenherr's sun-baked palette of earth tones splashed with the vivid greens of fertile farmland underscores the volatility of Homer's predicament. Fans of the famous painter will recognize the girls who later appear in The Cotton Pickers and, of course, The Carnival, Jonkonnu itself. A well-rounded portrait of the artist and his times. Ages 4-8. (Dec.)
Children's Literature - Donna Brumby
Ian Schoenherr offers simple, dignified illustrations appropriately kindred to the work of the artist central to Amy Littlesugar's story. Cilla, young daughter of the owner of the hotel where Mr. Homer is staying during his summer visit to the South, is drawn to the intriguing stranger that other townspeople are murmuring about. What does he go to see down the red clay road? Young Cilla is bound to follow and finds a new opportunity for understanding her fellowman and herself. This story is based on accounts of an actual visit by Winslow Homer to Virginia in 1876, and offers an enticing, glimpse into a little-known celebration, Jonkonnu.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 3-6Littlesugar and Schoenherr have taken a picture by Winslow Homer painted some 10 years after the Civil War and created a story around it. He had traveled to Petersburg, Virginia, where he had sketched the freed slaves who were celebrating "Jonkonnu." Sometimes adapted as a Christmas event, in Homer's painting it is a Fourth of July celebration of freedom from slavery. In this picture book, Homer's visit is described by the young girl whose mother runs the hotel where the artist takes a room. The narrative, descriptive of the heat and lush green growth of Southern summer, and with vocabulary and pronunciation suggestive of soft Southern speech, tells how the artist's daily visits to the folks "down the red clay road" bring criticism by the townsmen and other hotel guests. The climax of the story, a true incident from Homer's life, occurs when town bullies threaten the painter. He courageously stares them down and makes them retreat. Schoenherr's illustrations, which closely resemble the colors and figures from Homer's 1877 painting "Dressing for the Carnival," combine full-page scenes with pages in which individual figures derived from the painting are placed against white backgrounds. The original work is not reproduced here, but the story can inspire students to look up the artist's life and paintings, to research the festival of Jonkonnu, or "Johnkankus" as part of African-American culture, and to discuss the tensions in American society in the aftermath of Emancipation.Shirley Wilton, Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780399228315
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/29/1997
Pages:
1
Product dimensions:
6.70(w) x 10.16(h) x 0.43(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

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