Monday, January 14, 2013

Non-Fiction Monday: Fifty Cents and a Dream: young Booker T. Washington by Jabari Asim

Illustrated by Bryan Collier. 48 p. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, December, 2012. 9780316086578. (Borrowed from public library.)

Booker T. Washington may have been born into slavery and forbidden to learn to read, but that did not stop him from dreaming or stealing glances at the school books he had to carry for his master's daughter or eavesdropping on her lessons int he school house. The Civil War ended before he was ten, but young Booker had to work to help support his family. Still, his mother presented him with a primer and, when a school for young negroes opened, Booker would work his hours, then rush to the schoolroom. When he learned of a boarding school 500 miles away, he started saving in order to attend, then walked there. By the time he arrived, his meager savings were spent, so he had to find work and start saving again. He eventually found work as a janitor in the school, which helped pay for his room and board. A scholarship was found for him to help pay the tuition. This is the story of a person who refused to let his dreams die.

All this is told in spare, powerful blank verse along the outer edges of each double-page spread. The 1 & 1/4 pages (3/4 page spread) remaining are filled with watercolor collages equally powerful and so stunning that they beg closer examination. Indeed, with each rereading, I have found details missed on earlier readings. And the paper! It's creamy, thick and luscious. 

Additional facts about Booker T. Washington are listed at the end, followed by a timeline of his life, an author's note, an illustrator's note and short bibliography. I was unaware of the controversy surrounding his approach to Civil Rights. I'm happy that the author addressed it. 

I sincerely hope that this gets some serious consideration by the Caldecott committee. 

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