Written by: Margaree King Mitchell
Illustrated by: Larry Johnson
For ages: 5 years and up
Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Modern Back Freedom Struggle, Voting Rights, Family, Activism, Racism, Strength, Resilience, Education, Own Voices, Historical Fiction.
Summary: This story is told from the perspective of a young girl, who everyone calls Little Joe on account of the fact that she follows her grandfather Joe around everywhere. She and her siblings live with their grandparents on a farm in the South. Little Joe tries to skip school one day, but her grandpa catches her and on the drive to school she complains about the ragged books the school gets handed down from the white schools.
Things change a bit for the family when Granddaddy volunteers to try and register to vote, agreeing to take the test on the state constitution. He studies and passes, but the community church is set on fire and burns to the ground as retribution for exercising the right to register. Undeterred, more members of Little Joe’s community vow to study and register themselves to vote.
This story is an introduction to the struggles that African-Americans faced trying to register to vote before the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. The violence within the story is light, with no one being injured in the church fire and instead using the arson as reason to have more folks register to vote. The story is appropriate for children, and we would consider the book a primer about the Modern Black Freedom Struggle for younger audiences, to prepare them later for more complex storylines surrounding the topic of both the struggle and the voting registration activism that took place (ex: SNCC, bussing, boycotts, etc.). Great read with beautiful illustrations!
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Margaree King Mitchell is the author of Uncle Jed’s Barbershop (Simon & Schuster), Granddaddy’s Gift (Scholastic), When Grandmama Sings (HarperCollins), The People In The Park (Watershed Books), and Woman In The Pulpit (Castlewood Books). From her “about” section of her website:
She has been “featured on the PBS show Reading Rainbow, Uncle Jed’s Barbershop is on a multitude of school lists of required reading throughout the United States. It is also reprinted in several international textbooks.
The team of David Wohl, Kenneth Grimes, and Susan Einhorn has adapted Uncle Jed’s Barbershop into an award-winning musical featuring Broadway veteran Ken Prymus as Uncle Jed. Uncle Jed’s Barbershop was a featured show in the New York Musical Theater Festival and won the National Music Theater Network’s Directors Choice Award.
In my books for children I use history to encourage students to shoot for the stars with aspirations for their lives. If they can see the accomplishments of people who lived long ago who achieved their dreams in less than ideal situations, I hope students will be inspired and know they can do even more with their lives.
Several years ago I visited with students who didn’t believe they were special. They certainly didn’t believe they had special gifts to share with the world. I was surprised that no one in the entire room thought they had within them the power to change the world. I asked why. They said no one had ever told them so. Therefore, whenever I speak to children, I try to inspire them to dream big dreams for their lives and believe those dreams can come true.
In my teen fiction book, The People In The Park, I explore what happens in the lives of teens when something devastating happens through no fault of their own. Teens are blamed for lots of what’s wrong in the world. But there are teens who are good students and good citizens who successfully navigate life changing situations. I thought it would be interesting to show through a story how they work through their issues and return to normal, while becoming better for having gone through the experience.
I hope teens groups use The People In The Park for discussion.
Teens throughout the country are weighing in on Lauren (the main character in The People In The Park) and her situation. Lively discussions are taking place on whether teens agree or disagree with Lauren and the decisions she makes.
I wrote Woman In The Pulpit after listening to several friends, who are female ministers, talk about their experiences in the pulpit. Through the book I attempt to show the challenges women in the ministry face as they seek to carry out their calling.”
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Larry Johnson attented The Boston Museum School of Fine Arts. For over thirty years Johnson was the Editorial Sports cartoonist for The Boston Globe, The National Sports Daily, ESPN’s Quickie page and Weei.com.
Larry has been an illustrator for over twenty five years in book publishing, magazines and agencies. His work includes assignments for Fortune magazine, Lee Low, Scholastic, Little Brown, The Boston Globe, ESPN.com. Hill Holiday and the Sporting News. He has illustrated biographies on Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph and The Wilt Chamberlain story. His work has been acknowledged in New York’s Society of Illustrators.
As a Fine Artist, Johnson has had much success selling his original work to celebrity clients such as Oprah Winfrey and Vernon Jordan. Corporate clients include Pepsi-Cola, Hallmark and The National Football League. His work has been seen on The Cosby Show and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Johnson works in all mediums. His ability to capture a likeness as well as draw people of every ethnicity makes him very sought after talent for commissioned assignments. His greatest asset is his ability to work in a plethora of styles from a literal rendering to wonderful children’s books.e to edit.