This child’s view of the long day’s work in the cotton fields, simply expressed in a poet’s resonant language, is a fresh and stirring look at migrant family life. “With its restrained poetic text and impressionist paintings, this is a picture book for older readers, too.”Booklist
About the Author
An award-winning fiction writer, playwright, and poet, Sherley Anne Williams (1944-1999) is best known for her widely acclaimed novel Dessa Rose. Her interest in children's literature was nurtured by story-telling sessions for her son, Malcolm, and his friends.Working Cotton is based on poems from The Peacock Poems, a National Book Award nominee, and his her first book for children.
Carole Byard (1941-2017) was an artist and illustrator whose books for children twice won the Coretta Scott King award.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Shelan and her family arrive at the cotton field before dawn and work until nightfall picking the fluffy white crop. Williams uses poetic almost song-like language to add a unique voice to her characters. The illustrations throughout are poignant, contrasting the beautiful landscape with the hot sweaty faces of the workers.
Some books that I read do not catch my eye right away, but this one caught my eye for a couple of reasons. For one, this book reminded me of the stories that my grandmother used to tell me about when she would be in the fields picking cotton. Two, this book does not make picking cotton sound like a bad thing at all. When my grandmother would tell me stories about being in the cotton fields, the stories would never sound bad, or harsh. Her stories made me want to pick up this book and read it. This book is about a little girl named Shelan who goes to the fields every morning to go pick cotton with her family. Her family consists of her father, mother, her two older sisters, and her baby sister Leanne, who her mother has to carry while she picks cotton. The story is told through Shelan's eyes, from the time that they get on the bus at dawn, to the time they leave the fields at sunset. The illustrations were as vivid as the little girl telling the story. The pictures were hazy, just like a very hot day, where there are no trees. I thought that was very symbolic. I liked this book a lot, for different reasons. But I do have one or two concerns about this book. For one, the book may not be suitable to teach to just 'any' child. I think that a children's book is supposed to move at a comfortable pace. Not make the child think too hard, but just enough to spark some creative ideas. Every child is not going to be able to relate to this book, like others would. To make it plain, I do not think that a Black child would have as much trouble understanding this book, as opposed to children of other ethnicities. I (a Black male) understood the dialect in this book very well and I enjoyed reading the 'broken language' because that was what I was used to as a child. I did not think twice about the dialect until I had to analyze it. After I read the whole thing, I wondered if children of other backgrounds would be able to understand this book. The author was not trying to think 'politically correct,' but rather, correct in the eyes of the little girl. Shelan doesn't know any better than to talk the way that she does. Just like any little child does not recognize their 'grammatical speaking errors.' I think that whoever is going to read this book to a class of little children should be conscious of what children they are reading it to. The makeup of the class who receives this book is very important. Just like Nappy Hair, this book is very real as far as language and vivid images are concerned. This book is very good nevertheless, and hearing a great storyteller tell this story would be a treat to the senses.