One of the inaugural releases in the Family Heritage series, this story is based on a true incident. The husband-and-wife authors (the African-American Arts series) adopt the crisp and amiable voice of eight-year-old Daisy Turner, a former slave's daughter who was born in Vermont in 1883. Daisy's teacher announces that, for a school competition, each girl will hold a doll from a different country and recite a poem about that nationality. When she hands Daisy a rag doll "with a coal black face," the other girls giggle; and anger "bubbled inside me like hot tar." Daisy's father, Papu, advises her to memorize the poem her teacher has written, even though it obviously offends her. Disconcertingly, readers never learn any of the poem's contents. Daisy instead comments, "I had never really noticed the color of my skin. It was as if Miss Clark's poem had opened my eyes for the first time." On stage during the program, Daisy finds that her teacher's words "caught in my throat like a bone," and the child delivers an extemporaneous but prize-winning poem ("My Papu says that half the world/ Is nearly black as night./ And it does no harm to take a chance/ And stay right in the fight"). Johnson's (Knoxville, Tennessee) spare representational paintings capture the narrative's emotion-charged tenor. A concluding page offers historical background as well as tips for rhyming games and for writing poems. Ages 6-10. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
K-Gr 2-Based on the real Daisy Turner's family stories archived in the Vermont Folklife Center, this book, set in the 1890s, is about an eight-year-old African-American girl's awakening racial awareness. For the end-of-school program featuring poems about different nations of the world, Daisy's teacher announces that a prize will be given for the best speaker. Each girl receives a doll to carry and a poem to memorize for the occasion. Daisy gets "a rag doll with a coal black face" and her poem makes her angry. When she confides in her father, he reassures her that to him she is the prettiest girl in their town. When she stands on the stage with her white classmates in her shabby school dress, for the first time Daisy feels "-ashamed of the way I looked." Instead of the poem her teacher had written, the child makes up a new one on the spot-a proud, defiant poem that startles the audience but earns her first prize for "the most original and honest presentation." Though the storytelling suffers from a didactic tone, the book is a historically accurate period piece. The composition and execution of the impressionistic paintings seem disappointingly uneven at times. Still, pair this unique tale with Alan Govenar's Osceola: Memories of a Sharecropper's Daughter (Jump at the Sun, 2000) for an authentic, child-centered look at the black experience around the turn of the 20th century.-Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Old Greenwich, CT Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
The state of Vermont conjures images of apples, maple sugar candy, individualism. Individualism is expressed in the state's diverse history and in two new children's books. The first is about a gutsy small daughter of a former slave and the second, about immigrant brothers who fled oppression and poverty in Prussia. The charm of these handsomely illustrated books from The Vermont Folklife Center is that they are about real Vermonters.
Daisy Turner is an eight-year-old African-American girl living in Grafton, Vermont, in the 1890s. She is aware of her skin color for the first time when her teacher gives each girl a rag doll representing a nationality. During a contest, the girls must read a teacher-prepared speech about the assigned doll. The white girls, who received white dolls, giggle when Daisy is handed a coal black one.
Daisy's father, trying to boost her morale, tells her she is pretty and encourages her to participate. "You can present your black doll in the program and be just as proud as anyone," he says. Daisy, however, feels the words of her teacher's poem "catch in her throat like a bone." Then she sees her father smile. "I took a deep breath and stood tall, just like the pine trees that surround our house." Daisy makes up her own poem, confronting the issue of her doll's color head on. She wins for her "original and honest presentation."
The tale of two immigrant brothers from Prussia is also true with a surprising twist. Heinrich makes his way to America first, is given a new name by officials and is sent to Vermont to work for a farmer. "As he milked, he would look through the open barn door at the dark green mountains and think, 'I love it here. I have come tothe right place.'" He works hard, learns English and hopes to send for his family. When his brother Friedrich emigrates he does not know his brother's new name or whereabouts, but is also sent to Vermont. The brothers meet months later when they are asked by their respective employers to mend a fence, unaware that they've been living only a mile apart. The folksy yet industrial quality of the illustrations reinforces the labors and struggles of the immigrants in their new land.
The books are as fresh as fall color and as satisfying as cold cider. They each conclude with storytelling or rhyming activities for young readers, and further verification of the authenticity of the story. Heinrich's grandson, Edward, became Vermont's Commissioner of Agriculture. Daisy became her family's historian.
Grants from the Fund for Folk Culture and the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation supported the books.