When Grandmama Sings

( 1 )

Overview

"Belle, tonight was special. I could feel all of those folks with me. I want us to feel this way all the time. I want to sing in a place where black people and white people aren't kept apart," Grandmama said. "That's the kind of world I want for you."

When Grandmama Coles gets a big chance, Belle gets one, too. Belle's going to spend the summer touring the South with Grandmama and a swing jazz band! Belle's never been outside Pecan Flats, Mississippi, and she can't wait to go on the road with Grandmama, helping ...

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Overview

"Belle, tonight was special. I could feel all of those folks with me. I want us to feel this way all the time. I want to sing in a place where black people and white people aren't kept apart," Grandmama said. "That's the kind of world I want for you."

When Grandmama Coles gets a big chance, Belle gets one, too. Belle's going to spend the summer touring the South with Grandmama and a swing jazz band! Belle's never been outside Pecan Flats, Mississippi, and she can't wait to go on the road with Grandmama, helping her read signs and menus and hearing her sing. There are so many new things to see on their travels through the Deep South. But some things aren't new. Everything is segregated, just like at home. But Grandmama stands up for what's right. And when she sings, Belle knows that Grandmama's song can bring everyone together.

From Margaree King Mitchell and James E. Ransome, the award-winning author and artist of Uncle Jed's Barbershop, comes this new picture-book collaboration about the gift of love, the beauty of music, and its power to bring people together—even in the segregated South.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Mitchell and Ransome, the team behind Coretta Scott King Honor–winner Uncle Jed’s Barbershop, reunite for another story set in the early 20th century, in which intimate family relationships are set against a backdrop of racial segregation. Eight-year-old narrator Belle lives with her parents and Grandmama in the fictional town of Pecan Flats, Miss. Grandmama’s singing voice has earned her local fame, and when a man offers to “book her and a band on a small singing tour of the South,” she agrees, bringing Belle along for the ride. Written in the past tense, Belle’s narration has an elegiac quality, but while the band encounters plenty of discrimination on the road, triumphs outweigh setbacks (and Grand-mama doesn’t come to any serious harm). Ransome’s lovely, naturalistic watercolors draw out a wealth of emotions from the characters, particularly Grandmama, whose expressions range from weariness to passion while she’s singing, and determination, such as when she slams money on the counter of a restaurant that won’t serve them. It’s a stirring reminder that it’s never too late to chase one’s dreams, no matter the obstacles. Ages 5–9. (Jan.)
Children's Literature - Emily Griffin
Eight-year-old Belle adores her Grandmama. Their family lives in the small and segregated town of Pecan Flats, Mississippi. Though her Grandmama cannot read, she sings—while cooking, in the garden, cleaning, at church, and parties. Everyone in Pecan Flats loves to hear Belle's Grandmama sing. When Grandmama is given the opportunity to leave their town for the first time and go on a small tour with a jazz band, Belle goes along to help out. As the group travels the South, they see firsthand how things are everywhere, and not just in their home, for African-Americans during Jim Crow. The power of music is evident as they play for audiences of all sizes. The final show is a sell-out in a large theater with a big and enthusiastic crowd, with white people on the main floor and blacks in the balcony. After, Grandmama tells Belle that though the night was special she hopes one day to sing in a place where black and white people are not kept apart. Ransome, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor winner for Uncle Ted's Barbershop, reinforces the gentle tone of the book with his warm art. Not only a good fit for Black History Month but an excellent choice for exposing young children to this intense period in history through fiction. A wonderful story of family, love, and following your passion. Reviewer: Emily Griffin
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—Set in the segregated South of the 1950s, Mitchell's poignant story features eight-year-old Belle and her loving, stalwart African-American family. When Grandmama, who can't read but whose singing voice captures the hearts of all who hear her, joins a jazz band for a tour of the South, Belle pleads to go along. Thrilled to expand her world beyond Pecan Flats, MS, she experiences firsthand the difficulties her people face: hotels marked "White Only," diners that refuse them service, police who search their cars and luggage for no reason. Through it all, Grandmama sings to growing crowds, believing in the power of music to bring people together. When, at the story's end, a recording contract beckons her "up north," Grandmama tells Belle to believe in herself and "sing her own song." Ransome's full-page images, rich in color and feeling, portray the landscapes of the South and the individual emotions of the characters with equal aplomb. Placed in the past, the message is still relevant for children today.—Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA
Kirkus Reviews
Belle joins her beloved grandmother, a jazz singer, on a summer tour of Southern towns and sees that segregation is everywhere--not just at home in Mississippi. Holding tight to her uncle's lucky rabbit's foot, Belle watches as Grandmama and the musicians face the ugliness of Jim Crow in diners and theaters and on the road. In Alabama, the police dump their belongings on the roadside, a state's welcome. She also listens as her grandmother shares her dreams for an integrated society and thrills to her resounding performance on stage in Atlanta, one that leads to an offer to make recordings for a company up North. It's a moment that inspires Belle to dream, because "the promise of her song helped me believe in myself." As in Uncle Jed's Barbershop (1993), for which Ransome won a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, Mitchell has crafted another compelling story of an African-American family both strong and determined despite the all-powerful clamp of racism. Ransome uses watercolors in warm tones of yellows and browns to reveal nuances of expression and the warmth of family and community. A gentle story that shows the everyday realities of segregation through the observant eye of a child. (Picture book. 5-9)
Pamela Paul
Ransome's inviting watercolors emphasize the story's theme of togetherness, helping to transcend its sorrows.
—The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688175634
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/3/2012
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 276,381
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD620L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaree King Mitchell is the author of the Coretta Scott King Honor Book Uncle Jed’s Barbershop, illustrated by James E. Ransome, and Granddaddy’s Gift. She is the creator of the Everybody Has a Dream program, which empowers students in urban and rural areas to shoot for the stars with aspirations for their lives. Margaree lives in Kansas City, KS, where she is a member of the Midwest Children’s Authors Guild.

James Ransome's work has appeared in nearly fifty books for children, including Uncle Jed's Barbershop, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, and This Is the Dream. His highly acclaimed illustrations for Let My People Go: Bible Stories Told by a Freeman of Color won the NAACP Image Award. He teaches illustration at Syracuse University and lives in Rhinebeck, New York, with his family.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 29, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Where is Peacan Flats? Grab this book and find out. The beauty o

    Where is Peacan Flats? Grab this book and find out. The beauty of the color illustrations is captivating, will capture the eyes of the readers, and if this book is used during read-aloud it will catch the eyes of the audience. The facial expressions are well detailed and will remind adults of people they have seen in real life and facial expressions they may have actually seen on their own faces. *A beautiful and simple storyline tells of a grandmother's powerful singing voice and the warmth as well as love of singing comes through in the story. Also, a history lesson is weaved into the storyline.

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