Molly Bannaky
  • Alternative view 1 of Molly Bannaky
  • Alternative view 2 of Molly Bannaky

Molly Bannaky

5.0 3
by Chris K. Soentpiet, Alice McGill

View All Available Formats & Editions

On a cold gray morning in 1683, Molly Walsh sat on a stool tugging at the udder of an obstinate cow. When she spilled the milk, she was brought before the court for stealing. Because she could read, Molly escaped the typicalpunishment of death on the gallows. At the age of seventeen, the English dairymaid was exiled from her country and sentenced to work as an


On a cold gray morning in 1683, Molly Walsh sat on a stool tugging at the udder of an obstinate cow. When she spilled the milk, she was brought before the court for stealing. Because she could read, Molly escaped the typicalpunishment of death on the gallows. At the age of seventeen, the English dairymaid was exiled from her country and sentenced to work as an indentured servant in British Colonial America. Molly worked for a planter in Maryland for seven long years. Then she was given an ox hitched to a cart, some supplies-and her freedom. That a lone woman should stake land was unheard of. That she would marry an African slave was even more so. Yet Molly prospered, and with her husband Bannaky, she turned a one-room cabin in the wilderness into a thriving one hundred-acre farm. And one day she had the pleasure of writing her new grandson's name in her cherished Bible: Benjamin Banneker.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The oversized format and stunning watercolor paintings turn this fictionalized biography of the grandmother of Benjamin Banneker into an exciting visual experience. . . . A good story in a fabulous artistic package." School Library Journal

This handsome, large-sized picture book shows her [Molly Bannaky] as a woman who was strong enough not only to survive harsh times but also to break new ground. Booklist, ALA

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This sketchy, ultimately unfocused picture book introduces the spirited British exile who would become grandmother to Benjamin Banneker, the first black man to publish an almanac. After a cow knocks over a pail of milk, Molly, a 17-year-old dairy maid, must go on trial for theft--a crime punishable by death in 1683 England. However, because she can read the Bible, the court spares her life and instead deports her to America as an indentured servant. McGill effectively portrays Molly's determination when her servitude ends and she stakes her legal claim to farmland: "That a lone woman should stake land was unheard of, but Molly's new neighbors saw the way she jutted out her chin." However, the narrative glosses over the evolution of Molly's relationship with Bannaky, an enslaved African she buys to help her work her land, as well as any social complications that may have arisen when she falls in love with Bannaky and later marries him. The abrupt conclusion conveniently introduces Benjamin Banneker and circles back to Molly's life-saving gift of literacy (she is shown teaching her grandson to read). A historical note fills in a few gaps in the story with some additional information about Molly Bannaky and Benjamin Banneker. Unfortunately, neither the note nor the story explains how the surname changed from Bannaky to Banneker. Soentpiet's watercolors span scenes of both public pageantry and private moments, but seem uncharacteristically stiff and undramatic. For example, the climactic spilt milk scene is left to readers' imagination. In addition, the illustrations of Molly are inconsistent; she looks almost like a different person from one spread to the next. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
Benjamin Banneker, a respected scientist and mathematician, published an almanac that featured astronomical tables and scientific essays in 1791. What is as fascinating as this almanac is the story of Banneker's grandmother whose story is told in this stunning picture book. In 1683, Molly, a dairymaid accidentally spilled the cow's milk. According to English law, she could be hung. Since she could read the Bible, her life was spared. She was shipped to Maryland as an indentured servant. Seven years later, she won her freedom, a plow, tobacco, and corn seeds to begin a new life. She bought a slave to help her run her farm. They married, which was a shock to the locals because she was white! They raised four daughters, one of whom was Banneker's mother. Soentpiet's paintings glow with humanity. The panoramic scenes leave indelible mind images.
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
The heroine of Alice McGill's picture book is neither black, nor American. She was a 17th century woman who defied social, racial, and gender prejudice, and was also the grandmother of celebrated African-American scientist and mathematician, Benjamin Banneker. As a young woman, Molly Bannaky committed a minor misdeed and only escaped an English death sentence because she could read and thus became an indentured servant in America. After release, she bought a farm and an African slave, who later became her husband. The introduction of Benjamin Banneker comes at the very end of the story and is a lovely surprise for those who know of him. The illustrations by Soentpiet are realistic and his obvious research and predominately monochromatic watercolors represent the period well. For those who don't know of Banneker, I recommend preceding a reading of Molly Bannaky with the recent paperback, Dear Benjamin Banneker (Harcourt, Ages 6 to 10, $16.00) by Andrea and Brian Pinkney. Scratchboard illustrations and writings filled with quotations give a sense of this man of mixed race who corresponded with Jefferson about social injustice, unraveled mysteries of the skies and seasons and published almanacs to share his knowledge with others. 1999, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 6 to 10, $16.00. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
Kirkus Reviews
A sneeze and a cow kicking over the milk launches this true tale of a 17-year-old dairymaid in England in 1683; Molly was subsequently accused of stealing her lordship's milk and brought before a court. Sentenced to seven years of bondage in America, she then struck out on her own, staked a claim and raised tobacco. She bought an African slave named Bannaky, who taught her about irrigation and crop rotation; when they fell in love, she freed him so that they could be legally married. Molly eventually taught her grandson, the famed Benjamin Banneker, how to read and write. McGill's telling is fine and sure, except for an unwieldy flashback in the beginning that explains a previous spilling of milk. Soentpiet adds to the drama of the story with bold, atmospheric paintings. The problem comes in the matching of text to art; the pacing, for children, is horrible at first, with a scene of Molly facing a courtroom of stone-faced men before she has even spilled the milk (the text to gets the courtroom mid-paragraph). Later, the scene of her working for someone else with two oxen is too similar to her striking out on her own with one ox; the scene of her realizing she can't manage on her own shows several other people working alongside her. These don't destroy the suspense, but will compromise the accessibility of the story for children. (Picture book. 4-8)

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.63(w) x 13.25(h) x 0.13(d)
AD720L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Alice McGill is an award-winning author and professional storyteller. Among her books is the ALA Notable Molly Bannaky, winner of the 2000 IRA Picture Book Award and the 2000 Jane Addams Award. Alice McGill has toured to collect and tell stories in thirty-nine states, Canada, the West Indies, and South Africa. She lives with her husband in Columbia, Maryland.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Molly Bannaky 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Molly Bannaky is a book of great magnitude. The main character, Molly, portrayed in the book is very courageous, inspiring, and determined. From a banished indentured servant, to a tobacco plantation owner in the New Colony, and to marrying her own slave, she has challenged all rules of her time. This book has elevated women's merits, especially women's rights during her time. Molly Bannaky is a remarkable book and will capture my students' interest.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Molly Bannaky is a wonderful picture book teaching about the life in early, colonial America. McGill writes an intriguing history of Benjamin Banneker and his ancestors. Definitely a great addition to a child's library.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Molly Bannaky is a marvelous book. It always has a way of drawing my students in. In the book an unlikely pair, an English indentured servant and a freed African slave, join in marriage and become successful pioneers. This is an excellent book to encourage children to realize how odds can be overcome...and that love can overcome prejudice. Since it is a true story, Molly Bannaky is particularly inspiring. The artwork is lovely and also a topic for discussion.