The Sittin' Up

Overview

When Mr. Bro. Wiley, Bean's adopted grandfather and the last slave man around, dies in the summer of 1940, Bean and his very best friend Pole are some kind of hurt. Everyone in the Low Meadows is. Despite their grief, they are proud and excited to be included in their very first Sittin' Up—a wake for the dead. Bean and Pole know this special week will be one to remember, especially if the coming storm has its way and riles up Ole River enough to flood the Low ...

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The Sittin' Up

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Overview

When Mr. Bro. Wiley, Bean's adopted grandfather and the last slave man around, dies in the summer of 1940, Bean and his very best friend Pole are some kind of hurt. Everyone in the Low Meadows is. Despite their grief, they are proud and excited to be included in their very first Sittin' Up—a wake for the dead. Bean and Pole know this special week will be one to remember, especially if the coming storm has its way and riles up Ole River enough to flood the Low Meadows right in the middle of Mr. Bro. Wiley's Sittin' Up.

Shelia P. Moses tells her most charming story yet. Laced with humor and a lot of heart, this is an affecting, fun tale from a storytelling master.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA, February 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 6) - Marla Unruh
It is summer in North Carolina, and it is raining hard on the tin roof of the little brown house. Inside the house, hearts are heavy because Mr. Bro Wiley has died. Born in 1840, he knew both slavery and freedom in his one hundred years, and his wisdom and love have been the underpinning of the community. Ma and Papa and their son, Bean, feel the loss keenly. Together with friends and relatives, they simultaneously mourn and praise God in their expressive ways. But just as the wake, or “sittin’ up,” is getting started, the river overflows and the fast-rising waters force them to escape to the roof. The next day they must boat to higher ground—where the white folks are. The writer of regional color must strike a balance between in-depth portrayal of speech and customs and making that portrayal accessible to those unfamiliar with the specific setting. Moses does it well. The dialectic voice of narrator Bean—truly a twelve-year-old coming of age in a crisis—pulls the reader in. Through his eyes, readers see characters so distinctly and lovingly drawn that they root for them wholeheartedly. The regional idiom never gets in the way. Pacing is a little slow, but young people wise enough to see the beauty in this novel will be rewarded with a good read. Reviewer: Marla Unruh; Ages 11 to 15.
School Library Journal
01/01/2014
Gr 5–8—The year is 1940, and Mr. Bro. Wiley of the Low Meadows community near Rich Square, North Carolina, has died. The last man in the area who was born a slave, he was beloved by his friends and neighbors. The Stanbury Jones family, with whom he lived after his wife died, is especially saddened by his death. Three quarters of the book describes in excruciating detail the reaction of individual members of the community to his death and their preparations for the sittin' up. (As was customary, the deceased was returned to the house the day before the funeral so that mourners could view the corpse, say their final good-byes, reminisce about the departed, and enjoy a bountiful meal.) The story is told by Bean Jones, who loved Mr. Bro. Wiley and, at almost 12, is just old enough to attend his first sittin' up. The night of the event, Low Meadows floods and the residents evacuate to the town of Rich Square, where they remain until the waters recede. The whites and the coloreds (the term used throughout the book) work together with the Red Cross to help those affected. This is more of a description than a story of a close-knit community on the verge of major changes in the way African Americans are viewed and treated. There is very little action, and the subject of historical funeral rites will appeal to a limited audience.—Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-23
Moses presents a tale of sorrow and hope that recalls the simple pageant of life in a close-knit community of tobacco sharecroppers. Bean got his nickname after folks in Low Meadows began calling his best friend, Martha Rose, Pole, as in, "skinny as a beanpole." Narrated by Bean in a folksy vernacular, the tale examines the two children as they approach a rite of passage for young people in their community--the right to participate in the weeklong mourning ritual known as "the sittin' up." The death of revered former slave Mr. Bro. Wiley at the beginning of the work turns the community on its ear and provides the backdrop for Bean and Pole's coming-of-age. Through her quiet exploration of the ritual, Moses illustrates how people in desperate times find dignity and joy amid their trouble. The National Book Award winner and Coretta Scott King honoree folds the harsh reality of sharecropping into poetic language that is easy on the ear. That said, the book's slow pace ultimately feels dreary. The constant filling in of back stories bogs the plot down, and the frequent colloquialisms begin to grate, like an affected Southern accent. Ultimately, the story is a victim of its own charm. Like sweet tea with sweet-potato pie, it's too much sugar, not enough spice. (Historical fiction. 8-12)
various
"A rich tapestry . . . the reader always feels wrapped up in the warm arms of this loving cvommunity."—The Horn Book

"A tale of sorrow and hope that recalls the simple pageant of live in a close-knit community."—Kirkus Reviews

"The real value here is fom the evocation of the community and the carefully detailed description of funeral rites and customs from the time period."—BCCB

"A story of a close-knit community on the verge of major changes."—School Library Journal
 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399257230
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 1/9/2014
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 494,834
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 740L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Shelia P. Moses is the award-winning author of several books for young readers, including National Book Award Finalist, The Legend of Buddy Bush and I, Dred Scott. She's also the co-author of New York Times bestselling Callus on My Soul, comedian and activist, Dick Gregory's memoir. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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