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I Have Heard of a Land

I Have Heard of a Land

by Joyce Carol Thomas, Floyd Cooper (Illustrator)

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I have heard of a land
Where the imagination has no fences
Where what is dreamed one night
Is accomplished the next day

In the late 1880s, signs went up all around America - land was free in the Oklahoma territory. And it was free to everyone: Whites, Blacks, men and women alike. All one needed to stake a claim was hope and courage, strength and


I have heard of a land
Where the imagination has no fences
Where what is dreamed one night
Is accomplished the next day

In the late 1880s, signs went up all around America - land was free in the Oklahoma territory. And it was free to everyone: Whites, Blacks, men and women alike. All one needed to stake a claim was hope and courage, strength and perseverance. Thousands of pioneers, many of them African-Americans newly freed from slavery, headed west to carve out a new life in the Oklahoma soil.

Drawing upon her own family history, National Book Award winner Joyce Carol Thomas has crafted an unforgettable anthem to these brave and determned people from America's past. Richly illustrated by Coretta Scott King Award honoree Floyd Cooper, I Have Heard of a Land is a glorious tribute to the Afrian-American pioneer spirit.

00-01 Sequoyah Children's Book Award Masterlist

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Inspired by her own family's history, Thomas's (Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea) stirring picture book explores the little-known experiences of African American pioneers who settled in Oklahoma during the late 1800s. This moving, poetic account of a brave black woman who stakes a claim "where the cottonwood trees are innocent/ Where the coyote's call is a lullaby at night/ And the land runs on forever" offers a new perspective on an era otherwise well-documented in picture books and school texts. In almost palpable imagery, Thomas describes the natural beauty of a bold new frontier as well as the hopeful, strong and passionate people who created new lives there and realized their dreams. In his third collaboration with Thomas, Cooper (Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea, Gingerbread Days), an Oklahoma native, completes the mood with his signature grainy, dreamy oil-wash portraits. His landscapes, dotted with trees, crops and cabins, glow in soft pink, yellow and brown hues. Scenes of a girl soaring on a homemade swing, neighbors worshipping in the open air and building a log house are particularly uplifting. The book stands alone as a pleasant slice of historical fiction, but will also hold much appeal for teachers and students. Thomas's author's note about the book's origins adds a special resonance to the proceedings. Ages 7-11. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Scott S. Floyd
In a style reminiscent of Maya Angelou, the author takes us back to the time of settlements in the Oklahoma Territory. Families and individuals gather their belongings and make the pilgrimage to find the free land that they have dreamed of. This piece reflects particularly on the history of blacks finding their place in this land. The main character in this story is a woman who, with help from her neighbors, feels the freedom and fulfills her dreams of a place all her own. What better way to retell your family's history than in a picture book? Stunning artistry and beautiful prose make this book a must for every shelf. The educational integration of this text is limitless in every writing or history curriculum.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4--All who gave their hearts to Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea (HarperCollins, 1993) will have to clear a spot for I Have Heard of a Land. Thomas and Cooper shine again in this powerful tribute to the African-American pioneers who participated in the Oklahoma land runs of 1889 and 1893. This gem reveals some hidden facets as it singles out a lone woman who hears of a place where she has only to "Lift up her feet running for the land/As though running for her life/And in the running claim it," a place where "Her possibilities reach as far/As her eyes can see/And as far as our imaginations can carry us." Thomas's evocative poem is exalted by Cooper's warm, joyous, and majestic paintings of people living out their dreams. The layout and design of the book capture the expanse of the prairie with full double-page spreads and carefully placed text. In an author's note, Thomas provides some historical and personal context. Both she and Cooper demonstrate a love for the raw beauty of the land. Though good readers can enjoy the book alone, this lyrical poem sings when read aloud.--Jody McCoy, Lakehill Preparatory School, Dallas, TX
Kirkus Reviews
Land was a symbol of freedom to African-Americans, many of them former slaves, who settled the Oklahoma Territory in the late 1800s. The territories they staked out became their homes and then communities where their children could be raised as free. Using an omniscient first-person narration and one woman as the focus of the experience she delineates, Thomas portrays how something as plain as the vast prairie, as simple as a sod hut, could look beautiful to these new settlers. In lyrical language, she also makes clear the hardships of settling the land and surviving cold winters. She recreates in fiction the histories of women, unrecorded except in diaries and anecdotes passed down through generations of her family; a note informs readers of where the facts and writer's license diverge. Cooper's dusty drawings portray both the isolation of the settlers' new life on the prairie, and the strong human bonds that helped them endure; his use of color gives the Oklahoma the look of paradise without sentimentalizing the work such a place entails. (Picture book. 7-11)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Trophy Picture Bks.
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.00(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Joyce Carol Thomas is an internationally renowned author who received the National Book Award for her first novel, Marked By Fire, and a Coretta Scott King Honor for The Blacker the Berry and for her first picture book, Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea. Her picture book I Have Heard of a Land received a Coretta Scott King Honor and an IRA/CBC Teachers' Choice Award and was an ALA Notable Book. Her other titles include The Gospel Cinderella, Crowning Glory, Gingerbread Days, and A Gathering of Flowers. Ms. Thomas lives in Berkeley, California.

Floyd Cooper received a Coretta Scott King Award for his illustrations in The Blacker the Berry and a Coretta Scott King Honor for Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea and I Have Heard of a Land. Born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mr. Cooper received a degree in fine arts from the University of Oklahoma and, after graduating, worked as an artist for a major greeting card company. In 1984, he came to New York City to pursue a career as an illustrator of books, and he now lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, with his wife and children.

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