Oprah: The Little Speaker


The first six years in the life of the world’s most popular talk show host
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The first six years in the life of the world’s most popular talk show host
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Written in punchy, fragmentary sentences, Weatherford's (Racing Against the Odds) profile of Oprah Winfrey's preschool years underscores the values and ambition that fueled her success. Living with her grandparents in a rundown Mississippi house without indoor plumbing, Oprah performs her chores shoeless, “Her only shoes, for Sundays. Weekdays, barefoot.” Tutored by her grandmother, depicted as both disciplinarian and softhearted matriarch, Oprah was reading at age three and soon began reciting biblical passages in churches. Frequent references to God's presence in her life are used to almost beatific effect (“God guiding her every step”). The inspirational message comes through clearly, and Weatherford shows both the good and the bad sides of Oprah's upbringing, though the story closes on an oddly smug note, as Oprah's grandmother calls her over as she washes laundry. “ 'Come watch, child; you'll need to know how to do this someday.' And Oprah said to herself, 'No I won't.' ” The girl's drive and her grandmother's strength emanate from Ladd's (March On!: The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World) bold acrylic paintings, which feature closeup, lifelike portraits. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)
Oprah: a one-word name that's a magnet for worldwide attention. Although young biographies exist about this phenomenal woman, this picture-book account focuses solely on her childhood. An author's note at the beginning sets the stage for the true rags-to-riches story about a poor girl on a Mississippi pig farm who became an entertainer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. Her grandmother, Hattie Mae, was the driving force in Oprah's childhood, teaching her to read, write, and learn scripture at an early age. Oprah's first public speaking was in church, and she was so good that adults called her the "Little Speaker." The narrative portrays a bright, spunky child who didn't let poverty or ridicule stand in her way, while the softedged, acrylic illustrations paint a determined, sober-faced girl. The book ends with Hattie Mae boiling laundry and calling to Oprah: "'Come watch, child; you'll need to know how to do this someday.' And Oprah said to herself, 'No I won't.'" Even with the obvious message and religious asides, this is sure to be popular.
Children's Literature - Mary Hynes-Berry
Stories recounting the hardship-filled childhood of a great figure is a well established genre. In this case, Weatherford lets us know about the stern demands of little Oprah Winfrey's early years on her grandmother Hattie Mae's pig farm. The fairly spare text uses a colloquial tone: "No indoor plumbing, just an outhouse, not even a bed of her own." Every few pages are punctuated by an invocation that reflects the religious upbringing Oprah had. So after telling how many adults smiled to see the little girl preach in church, the page ends with this statement in italics: "Surely, God was smiling too." Ladd's acrylic paintings dominate the spreads. His palette favors warm earthy colors; his depiction of Oprah and her family are somewhat reminiscent of the intensity and emotion found in Jacob Lawrence's work. The book makes it clear that despite the odds against her, little Oprah was determined to lead a very different kind of life as an adult. Reviewer: Mary Hynes-Berry
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—For the first six years of her life, Oprah Winfrey lived with her strict but caring grandmother on a humble farm in Mississippi. Even as a small child, she performed in public by reciting and reading Bible verses in church. This picture book only deals with that part of the celebrity's life, showing the importance of her grandmother in Winfrey's childhood. On each spread Weatherford presents a short, lyrical paragraph about the child, then adds a single italicized sentence of religious commentary like, "God had shone a light on her." The choice of language and the extra commentary suggest the rhythms of speech and the religious culture that surrounded Winfrey as she grew up in the mid-20th-century South. Weatherford's text is similar in style to her writing in Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom (Hyperion, 2006). Unfortunately, this book is not as beautifully illustrated as that book. Ladd's painterly oils are well executed and do a good job of depicting the setting and time period but lack the emotional force found in Moses. Oprah fans will enjoy this book because it gives insight into the formation of her character, but for others it is a secondary purchase.—Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761456322
  • Publisher: Amazon Childrens Publishing
  • Publication date: 3/1/2010
  • Pages: 30
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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