These Hands

Overview


Joseph’s grandpa could do almost anything with his hands. He could play the piano, throw a curveball, and tie a triple bowline knot in three seconds flat. But in the 1950s and 60s, he could not bake bread at the Wonder Bread factory. Factory bosses said white people would not want to eat bread touched by the hands of the African Americans who worked there.

In this powerful intergenerational story, Joseph learns that people joined their hands together to fight discrimination so ...

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Overview


Joseph’s grandpa could do almost anything with his hands. He could play the piano, throw a curveball, and tie a triple bowline knot in three seconds flat. But in the 1950s and 60s, he could not bake bread at the Wonder Bread factory. Factory bosses said white people would not want to eat bread touched by the hands of the African Americans who worked there.

In this powerful intergenerational story, Joseph learns that people joined their hands together to fight discrimination so that one day, their hands—Joseph’s hands—could do anything at all in this whole wide world.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Floyd Cooper is a four-time recipient of the Coretta Scott King Honor.

"For all the many titles that appear on segregation and protest for younger readers, this one stands tall not just for delving into a piece of labor history not previously covered, but for its ability to relate history with heart and resonance."—Kirkus, starred review

". . . stirring pictures celebrate the historic civil rights and union protests that brought attention to the issue . . . The story’s roots in rarely told history will widen the audience for this moving title to older readers, too."—Booklist

"It's a moving study of multigenerational relationships and triumph over discrimination."—Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
An African-American man addresses his grandson in Mason's (Inside All) gently told story, repeatedly bidding him to "Look at these hands, Joseph." Gracefully segueing between present and past, the grandfather mentions feats he once performed ("Did you know these hands used to tie a triple bowline knot in three seconds flat?") and what his hands accomplish now ("Well, I can still help a young fellow learn to tie his shoes—yes, I can"). Working in oil wash with kneaded eraser to create gauzy paintings in a sepia-heavy palette, Cooper (A Beach Tail) shows the man helping his grandson play the piano and perfect his baseball swing. Narrative and art then flash back to a time when "these hands" were not allowed to mix dough in the Wonder Bread factory, but instead swept floors and loaded trucks. Yet that changed after many hands joined together to sign petitions and carry protest signs, and now "any hands can mix the bread dough, no matter their color." An author's note provides historical context. It's a moving study of multigenerational relationships and triumph over discrimination. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Joseph's grandfather tells him repeatedly, "Look at these hands," as he shows him how he can use them to tie shoes, play the piano, "waterfall shuffle" cards, throw a curve ball, and hit a line drive. As he teaches Joseph, he repeats, "—yes I can." But then he tells Joseph that years ago those skilled hands were not allowed to touch the bread dough in the Wonder Bread factory where he used to work, sweeping the floor and loading the trucks. The bosses told him white people would not eat bread touched by African American hands. Grandpa tells Joseph how the black workers organized and fought until "...any hands can touch the bread dough...Yes, they can." And Joseph's hands can do it all as well. Cooper uses a muted oil wash with a rough surface textured with kneaded erasers. The double pages depict appealing naturalistic portraits of Joseph and his grandfather along with other characters from this tersely told chapter of African American history. A note adds factual information on this "shocking" true tale. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 1–5—This picture book based on oral history from the Civil Rights Movement abounds in the rich, concrete symbolism that young readers will understand and retain. The narration is poetically told in the African-American oratory style made famous by Rev. King, and Grandfather's voice sets the tone, made strong through repetition: "Look at these hands.../Did you know these hands/used to make the ivories sing/like a sparrow in springtime?/Well, I can still show a young fellow/how to play 'Heart and Soul'/—yes, I can." Piano playing is only one of things the man shares with grandson Joseph. His booming narration then shifts in a dramatic, yet unsentimental manner: "…Did you know that these hands/were not allowed to mix/the bread dough/in the Wonder Bread Factory?/…Because the bosses said/white people would not want to eat bread/touched by these hands." Expansive spreads in Cooper's signature muted, earth-toned oil-wash style follow, chronicling what those hands did to confront that injustice: writing petitions, carrying signs. Joseph takes over the final part of the narrative and tells his grandfather how his hands now can hit a ball, play piano, and even bake bread. Children need to know that they "can do anything./Anything at all in this whole wide world." An author's note gives the provenance of this provocative story and other examples of "unwritten rules" for African-American workers prior to 1964.—Sara Lissa Paulson, American Sign Language and English Lower School PS 347, New York City
Kirkus Reviews

With tenderness and pride, a grandfather shares the many skills of his hands with his grandson, who is a happy student. Those hands can tie knots, play the piano, perform card tricks and swing a baseball bat. The text is beautifully cadenced. "Well, I can still teach a young fellow / how to do a waterfall shuffle / —yes I can." But then comes the mood-shattering remembrance. Those hands, not so very long ago, could not touch the dough in the Wonder Bread factory. Those hands did not stay still: They joined in protest with many other hands and voices and achieved equality. The little boy learns all his lessons well, with a tasty loaf of bread as his crowning achievement. The author has based her story on conversations with an African-American bakery union activist, according to her author's note. Cooper's signature artwork in muted shades of yellows and browns intensifies the warmth of the intergenerational bonding. The faces are particularly expressive. For all the many titles that appear on segregation and protest for younger readers, this one stands tall not just for delving into a piece of labor history not previously covered, but for its ability to relate history with heart and resonance. (Picture book. 4-8)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780544555464
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/1/2015
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,458,559
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author


Margaret H. Mason lives in Ferndale, Michigan. She learned about the Detroit Wonder Bread factory's discriminatory policies in the 50's and 60's from an old friend and Bakers Union stalwart whose voice still trembled 30 years later when he talked about the humiliation he and his co-workers endured in the past.

The illustrator of more than sixty children’s books, Floyd Cooper is a past recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration and a four-time recipient of the Coretta Scott King Honor Award. He lives in Pennsylvania with his family. Visit his website at www.floydcooper.com.

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