More Than Anything Elseby Marie Bradby, Chris K. Soentpiet, Chris K. Soentpiet
Nine-year old Booker works with his father and brother at the saltworks but dreams of the day when he'll be able to read.
Children's Literature - Marilyn CourtotThe sky is dark, but two young boys and an older man with shovels over their shoulders are heading off by lantern light to the salt works. Thus begins the story of Booker T. Washington, who set out each day hungry for food and hungry for an education. "More than anything else," he wanted to learn to read. Then one day he sees a man reading a newspaper to folks gathered around him. He seeks out the newspaper man who teaches him the meaning of the letters and how to write his name. Beautiful double-page watercolors use campfire, candle, and lantern light to highlight facial expressions that match the story perfectly. When Booker jumps for joy, you know that nothing will stop him from being "the one children will crowd around," so he can teach them to read.
Children's Literature - Jan LiebermanSet is 1865 in West Virginia, Booker, 9, is consumed by a desire to read. There is no one who works in the salt mines who can read. Only his mother understands his dream. One day he hears a newspaperman reading aloud and for the fist time he knows "hope" and says, "It is brown like me." This story packs a powerful wallop through the simplicity and eloquence of the text and the drama of the lantern lit paintings which cast a golden hue on each scene. This is based on the life of the famous African American educator Booker T. Washington.
School Library JournalPreS-Gr 3A fictionalized story about the life of young Booker T. Washington. Living in a West Virginia settlement after emancipation, nine-year-old Booker travels by lantern light to the salt works, where he labors from dawn till dusk. Although his stomach rumbles, his real hunger is his intense desire to learn to read. Back in town, the boy sees a man reading aloud from a newspaper; he envisions himself possessing this magical knowledge and passing it on to others. When his mother presents him with an alphabet book, he studies the letters and ``...tries to imagine their song.'' Just when he is feeling frustrated, he finds the newspaper man, who explains the letters. An exuberant Booker throws his arms in the air, then settles down to learn how to write his name. Bradby's text is eloquent, presenting phrases and spinning images that capture the intense feelings in the story. Throughout the poetic narrative, Booker glows with his desire to read, and the inspiring tone of the language predicts a bright future. Soentpiet's watercolors create a realistic sense of time and place, perfectly matching the emotional level of the text. Booker awkwardly lifting a heavy shovel of salt, his straight-backed posture when accepting the book from his mother, his look of concentration while practicing his letters by candlelight, his face shining with satisfaction when he has written his nameall of these images, underscored by a dramatic use of shadow and light, work with the words to create a moving and inspirational story.Joy Fleishhacker, New York Public Library
Hazel RochmanThe spare, lovely narrative of this picture book, based on the childhood of Booker T. Washington, is in the voice of a nine-year-old boy. He tells of leaving his cabin before dark to work all day shoveling salt with his father and older brother: "All day long we shovel it, but it refuses to grow smaller." Despite the community poverty and toil, there's a sense of freedom now, something different: "All people are free to go where they want and do what they can." What Booker wants is to read. Finally, he finds someone to teach him his letters, and it's as if he's reborn. He will read, and he'll teach others to read. Soentpiet's beautiful watercolor paintings show individual portraits lit up from the surrounding darkness. There's some idealization: even in the saltworks the pictures focus not on the back-breaking, skin-tearing labor, but on the child's view of himself and his world. Booker dreams of the light of literacy and the freedom it will bring. The story will hold kids and make them want to find out more about the person and the history.
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