Written by: Gwendolyn Hooks
Illustrated by: Simone Agoussoye
For ages: 9-12 years old
Topics Covered: Enslavement, Historical Figures, Historical Events, POC-Centric Narratives, Black Culture & Identity, American History.
Summary: Ona Judge is a woman enslaved by George Washington. Yes, that George Washington. Ona is very intelligent, and in moving around with the Washingtons to various cities, she becomes aware that she could be freed and live amongst other free Black individuals. Ona gets word that she is going to be given as a wedding present to a relative, and knows the time to escape is upon her. Ona hid on a ship, stowing away to Portsmouth and frees herself. This book is a story of a strong woman who refused to endure a life of enslavement, even when she was found by associates of Washington, she did not surrender herself and instead led a fulfilling life on her own terms.
Simone Agoussoye is an incredibly talented artist, you should definitely check out her website below! Our only concern with the style of art in this particular book is that readers may interpret the story as being for younger children. The cover art is stunning, we wish all of the illustrations were done in that style. Because of the seriousness of the subject matters covered in the book, and the sophisticated language inside of it, we would love for the illustrations to match it. However, we love this book very much and the story of Ona Judge is one that everybody should be exposed to.
This book was sent to us by Capstone for consideration in the Best Books of 2019 List put on by the Read With River book club, but all opinions are our own!
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Gwendolyn Brooks is one of the most “highly regarded, influential, and widely read poets of 20th-century American poetry. She was a much-honored poet, even in her lifetime, with the distinction of being the first Black author to win the Pulitzer Prize. She also was poetry consultant to the Library of Congress—the first Black woman to hold that position—and poet laureate of the State of Illinois. Many of Brooks’s works display a political consciousness, especially those from the 1960s and later, with several of her poems reflecting the civil rights activism of that period. Her body of work gave her, according to critic George E. Kent, “a unique position in American letters. Not only has she combined a strong commitment to racial identity and equality with a mastery of poetic techniques, but she has also managed to bridge the gap between the academic poets of her generation in the 1940s and the young Black militant writers of the 1960s.”
Washington, DC born artist, Simone Agoussoye, “has been honing her skills in portrait artistry for the past several years. Always known for her creative depiction of people, Simone blended her portrait skills with new non conventional techniques which has driven her to become more of a contemporary artist.
Simone’s evolution in portrait artistry has allowed her to explore using materials such as broken crushed glass in her portrait work. The use of this material has sharpen her craftsmanship and execution proving that she is very talented and creative having a drive to continue to grow and develop as an artist. Although known for her portrait artistry her subject of paintings vary from animals, to landscape, and abstract art.
As a child and throughout her life Simone received prizes for her artistic ability and creative talent. From a young age she knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up which was an artist. She pursued her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Art Institute of Washington and graduated class of 2011. She is also the recipient of various Awards from Country Fairs and State Competitions.
Simone’s artwork has been showcased at exhibitions in Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD and more including “Artist Evolutions” at the Art Avenue Gallery located at the National Harbor, Oxon Hill, MD. Her artwork is included in numerous private art collections throughout the U.S. and U.K. She has also created many commissioned works of art.”