With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School

With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School

by Suzanne Slade, Nicole Tadgell

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When Booker T. Washington arrived in Tuskegee, Alabama to teach, he found many eager students, but no school. So Booker and his students decided to build their own school--brick by brick.See more details below

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When Booker T. Washington arrived in Tuskegee, Alabama to teach, he found many eager students, but no school. So Booker and his students decided to build their own school--brick by brick.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Slade highlights Washington’s devotion to education by focusing on his role in the creation of a schoolhouse for black students in Tuskegee, Ala., which would eventually grow to become Tuskegee University. The construction process is arduous: digging for clay to bake bricks was difficult enough; thousands of bricks were ruined when two kilns Washington built broke. Squirrely pencil lines and milky watercolors lend an ephemeral quality to Tadgell’s art. The focus on the hard work at the heart of accomplishment makes this story especially rewarding and relatable; a closing quote from Washington drives home the underlying message: “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” Ages 7–10. Illustrator’s agent: Christina A. Tugeau. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Peg Glisson
Young Booker T. Washington was nine and living in West Virginia when slaves were freed, but it was not until he was sixteen that he began to fulfill his dream of attending a school for black students. In the intervening years, he worked in the mines to help support his family while teaching himself to read. Less than five years after his graduation, he traveled to Tuskegee, Alabama, to teach young blacks himself. The small, ramshackle wooden building provided quickly proved insufficient to house Washington’s growing number of students, leading him to buy land and begin construction of a new school. Slade focuses her narrative on the construction efforts undertaken by Washington and his students, resolutely trying again and again to successfully build a workable kiln to bake their handmade clay bricks needed for the walls. When his discouraged students want to quit, his single-mindedness keeps them going until they begin to see the kiln working. Youngsters should respond to this relatable episode of goal setting, trial and error, and determination. Slade includes enough biographical details in the text to help readers understand Washington’s significance and provides more about him in the back matter, where she also places a selective bibliography and source notes for quotes in the text. Tadgell’s soft, muted watercolor paintings with pencil lines are somewhat dreamy, but realistic enough to allow youngsters envision the time, place, people, and events. Reviewer: Peg Glisson; Ages 6 to 9.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—Booker T. Washington is a well-known historical figure, but the story of how he built the Tuskegee Institute by hand is not quite as common. This picture book brings the tale to light accessibly and engagingly. Young readers are sure to marvel at the accomplishments of Washington and his perseverance in spite of obstacles. The story is told simply, with beautiful watercolor and pencil illustrations. An endnote goes into more detail about Washington's life and struggle to bring education to all. While this is not an all-encompassing biography, it is certainly a notable story about a lesser-known aspect of his life. Readers will enjoy this title, and it will easily tie in to school units as an enticing read-aloud.—Ellen Norton, White Oak Library District, Crest Hill, IL

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Product Details

Whitman, Albert & Company
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.10(w) x 10.10(h) x 0.50(d)
AD830L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 7 Years

Read an Excerpt

With Books and Bricks

How Booker T. Washington Built a School

By Suzanne Slade


Copyright © 2014 Suzanne Slade
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8075-0897-8


From sunrise to sunset, young Booker worked hard. He carried water to the fields. He carried corn to the mill. He carried rocks from the yard.

All day long, Booker lugged heavy loads with a heavy heart because he was a slave.

But one day he was told to carry something new-books for his master's daughter. When he arrived at the schoolhouse on top of the hill, Booker stole a long look inside.

He saw strange lines on the blackboard that formed letters. He saw groups of letters that made words. And suddenly, Booker's heavy heart felt a little lighter. He knew there was something special about those letters. He felt magic in those words. Booker wanted to learn to read more than anything. But his dream seemed impossible.

After Booker turned nine, America's battle over slavery was finally over. The Civil War had ended. All slaves were free! Booker didn't feel free. He had to work long hours in a salt mine so his family could survive. All the schools near him were for white students only.

So Booker begged his mother for a book of his own. And somehow, as often happens with mothers, a miracle appeared. Without a penny in her pockets, she got Booker an old Webster's spelling book. He studied those shapes called letters. He learned groups of letters that made words. He taught himself to read! But he wanted to learn more.

Then Booker went to work in a coal mine. While shoveling heavy piles of coal all day, he thought of only one thing—school. One morning whispers echoed through the mine.

"A school for black students ..."

"Somewhere in Virginia ..."

Booker couldn't believe his ears. A school for him!

But Virginia was five hundred miles away. He had no money for a train ticket. No money for books. So Booker kept working and saving and dreaming of school.


Excerpted from With Books and Bricks by Suzanne Slade. Copyright © 2014 Suzanne Slade. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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