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In the Land of Milk and Honey

In the Land of Milk and Honey

by Joyce Carol Thomas, Floyd Cooper

I ease myself back in the window seat and breathe in as the train breathes out
We're on our way!
On our way to the Land of Milk and Honey

Lemons as big as oranges, the cool Pacific Ocean, mountains that rise up beyond the outstretched bay—California beckons as one girl makes her way west on a journey filled with excitement, hope, and the promise of a


I ease myself back in the window seat and breathe in as the train breathes out
We're on our way!
On our way to the Land of Milk and Honey

Lemons as big as oranges, the cool Pacific Ocean, mountains that rise up beyond the outstretched bay—California beckons as one girl makes her way west on a journey filled with excitement, hope, and the promise of a place where people from all paths come together and music fills the air.

This is the true story of author Joyce Carol Thomas's trip from Oklahoma to California in 1948, when she moved there as a girl. During that time, many people went west, drawn by warmth and possibility, reflected in the people of all cultures and ethnicities who started a new life there.

Coretta Scott King honoree Joyce Carol Thomas and Coretta Scott King Award winner Floyd Cooper capture the anticipation of a bright adventure and a world filled with freedom and opportunity.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The creators of I Have Heard of a Land recreate another chapter from Thomas's childhood, her family's 1948 move from Oklahoma to California. In an author's note, Thomas mentions her adopted state's special "quality of light" and the "joy and possibility" reflected in the faces of those who migrated there. Light and joy are integral to Cooper's hazy paintings, too: the narrator and her siblings jump up and down as their sunlit train pulls into the station; from the train window, the girl sees a smiling migrant worker in a bright field; and light shimmers on musicians and dancers at "the welcome party" in San Francisco. Thomas's free-flowing verse is also hopeful, heralding the promise of the family's future life. Her imagery spans the senses, as the girl takes in the sounds, sights, and even tastes of her new home: "Daddy says,/ ‘If the lemons are big as oranges/ if the oranges are big as grapefruits/ if you bite into a strawberry/ and taste heaven in your mouth/ why, you're in California/ the Land of Milk and Honey.' " Ages 4–8. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Sarah Maury Swan
Ms. Thomas tells her story of traveling to the Land of Milk and Honey, otherwise known as San Francisco, California. She was a young girl then and tells the story through the voice of her young self, seeing cactus and snakes and lizards as they ride the train across the desert. Young Joyce marvels at the earth changing from desert sand to rich loam producing luscious fruit and vegetables. She's glad she has come. She rejoices at the mixed ethnicity of San Francisco's people and the big ships moored at the wharf. She sings in the old mission church and knows she is in the Land of Milk and Honey. Everything from the snow covered mountains to the east and cool blue ocean beckon Joyce to stay in the Land of Milk and Honey. And she lives there still. The gentle tone of this book is brought even more to life by the charming illustrations which show Joyce to be an adventuresome child. Descriptions such as "waves as foamy as milk" and "mountains topped with ice cream snow" enhance the beauty of this book. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
This tale of a train journey from Oklahoma to California in 1948 is based on the author's own experience. Her parents' expectations of the supposed "land of milk and honey" are very high. Vivid descriptions of the passing desert landscape and the activities of the family on the train include some interior rhymes along with strong emotions, until finally California spreads "its sands of welcome." The train passes valleys rich with crops, where migrant workers sweat amid pungent aromas and mariachi songs. At the coast, there is a welcome party. Our narrator sings in the stained-glass choir of the old mission church, enjoying the encounters with the many cultures there. "Beyond the bay, mountains topped with ice cream snow rise..." in the land of milk and honey. The family feels welcome, and they stay. Tones of brown and grainy naturalism are used to represent the characters and various settings that invite the narrator and her family into the new land. Warmth and spirituality are felt on the double pages, particularly as the rays of sun through the windows illuminate the close-eyed singer with prayerful hands. The author's note fills in factual background. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—In lyric, poetic language, Thomas describes the journey her family took from Oklahoma to their new home in California in 1948. Her story captures the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the experience. Reading her words aloud will transport listeners along with Thomas on the train trip: "We ride into late afternoon/past a snake whose body is a pen/writing calligraphy/on the paper-dry earth." Oil wash paintings depict the love the family shares and the young girl's excitement, as well as the bountiful fruits and vegetables growing in the sunny environment. The time period is reflected in the clothes, train, and cars. The author's note explains that her mother's illness was the impetus for the move, but the story itself does not explore that aspect. Instead, California is depicted as a paradise of racial diversity and economic prosperity. Nostalgic and sweet, Thomas's word images truly present a "land of milk and honey."—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Based on her family's move from Oklahoma to California in 1948 when she was 10, Thomas tells of the train trip and her subsequent love for the "Golden State" in poetic language distinguished by strong verbs and striking images. It was a time soon after World War II, when many people of color relocated. She relates the long train ride to the "Land of Milk and Honey" and describes the state in its varied landscapes, from deserts to the agricultural richness of the Central Valley and the people who work the crops to "the city / where the ships sit / anchored in the coastal waters / like iron mountains / docked in the bay." Cooper's art, in textured sepia with bits of color to highlight action, shows the people--all of whom are African-American--as a young person might have experienced what she saw, reinforcing the text's homey details: The narrator chases her sandwich "with Grapette soda pop / the bottle streaked with marbles of cold." His paintings expand over full openings and carry the eye with portraits of people and places from Southern California to the Golden Gate Bridge. But both text and illustration concentrate on the people who found the "Land of Milk and Honey"--and remained. Thomas and Cooper have given us, especially Californians, a moving love song. (Picture book. 5-8)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.40(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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