Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree

Overview

Based on the autobiographical writings of acclaimed novelist Zora Neale Hurston, this book tells the "poignant saga of how one of our most signigficant storytellers learned to dream" (Essence). Watercolor illustrations throughout. A Reading Rainbow selection.

This lyrical, beautifully illustrated book illuminates a little-known episode in the childhood of renowned African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston, one of the most important voices of the Harlem Renaissance. ...

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Overview

Based on the autobiographical writings of acclaimed novelist Zora Neale Hurston, this book tells the "poignant saga of how one of our most signigficant storytellers learned to dream" (Essence). Watercolor illustrations throughout. A Reading Rainbow selection.

This lyrical, beautifully illustrated book illuminates a little-known episode in the childhood of renowned African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston, one of the most important voices of the Harlem Renaissance. William Miller presents an uplifting account of how Zora was inspired by her dying mother to pursue her dreams.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Van Wright and Hu "neatly capture the emotions in this lucidly told story," said PW of this retelling of an episode from the childhood of the well-known African American author. Ages 4-up. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
The author focuses on Hurston's early life and the division of her home. Zora's father sought to limit her because of her sex, while her mother helped her dream, question, and see the vitality of the world. The book ends with Hurston's response to her mother's death. With great determination Zora climbs the Chinaberry tree to view the world her mother showed her, and she utters a promise "she would never stop climbing, would always reach for the newborn sky, always jump at the morning sun!" Illustrations highlight the beauty of the relationship between mother and child and their connection to the natural world.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
Miller shows us a young Zora Hurston, curious and dreaming dreams of the world outside her community. The tree symbolizes Zora's dreams and it is the place that is a sanctuary when her mother dies. Her mother's influence led Zora to her career as a folklorist and writer. Beautiful illustrations evoke scenes of a past time and bring to life the rich community life that Zora knew.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Hurston's difficult childhood is a challenging subject for a picture book, and Miller is not entirely successful in his treatment. The story is framed by scenes of the child in a chinaberry tree, imagining what lies beyond the horizon. The blurry edges of the watercolor images work well to suggest the worldview of a young girl prone to dreaming. The problem lies with what is left unsaid in the brief narrative. With only three sentences to characterize her father, children may be confused to learn that ``Zora only listened to her mother.'' However, it is the treatment of her mother's death that is most problematic. As the child spies on the men and boys telling stories around the campfire, she hears about ``...Death, the great square-toed one...who sat on a platform made of palm leaves and ruled with a sword in his hands.'' Two pages later, her mother dies. No explanation of the reference to death or of the family's funereal customs is given in the text or in the author's note. More importantly, the impact of the girl's beloved relative's death is not satisfactorily resolved by showing Zora climbing her chinaberry tree. More narrative is needed to help readers understand the unique setting and dynamics surrounding this character and to cushion the effect of this traumatic event. Stick with Patricia and Fredrick McKissack's Zora Neale Hurston (Enslow, 1992) and A.P. Porter's Jump at de Sun (Carolrhoda, 1992) for a more developed sense of the subject and her milieu.-Wendy Lukehart, Dauphin County Library, Harrisburg, PA
Hazel Rochman
Zora Neale Hurston, African American author and folklorist, wrote movingly about her strong bond with her mother and the trauma of her mother's death when Zora was nine years old. Miller's picture-book biography tells the story of the child's sorrow. Though he dramatizes Zora's clash with her father, who tried to subdue her spirit, the focus here is on the inspiration her mother gave Zora to go everywhere and give everything a voice and listen to the people's stories. When her mother dies, Zora climbs high in the chinaberry tree as her mother taught her; she reaches for the newborn sky and jumps at the sun. No source is given for this particular episode, but it's lyrically told, and children will get the metaphor. Handsome, light-filled watercolor paintings show the sturdy girl in overalls confronting her father, listening to the townspeople's stories, grieving for her mother, and surveying the wide, beckoning world her mother has given her.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780613029988
  • Publisher: Demco Media
  • Publication date: 4/28/1996
  • Series: Reading Rainbow Bks.
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.72 (w) x 10.18 (h) x 0.39 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 31, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    *Inspires readers to "climb the tree" and reach for th

    *Inspires readers to "climb the tree" and reach for the sky. *Simple sentence structure is good for young readers, not too wordy or overwhelming. *Wonderful tale. *May be used to encourage having a private place to go and think and dream.

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