by Sherley Anne Williams, ill by Carol Byard
read March 2009
My daughter had a bit of trouble with this book. She just didn’t get it. She doesn’t have enough experience and knowledge of American history to understand slaves working in a cotton field.
She didn’t even understand why they were picking cotton, or that what they were picking was what her shirt was made out of. I don’t think that many 5 year-olds would know about how cruel life was for slaves picking cotton and how cotton is made into clothing.
The language was also difficult for her. It was written with period cultural slang. She asked me why the little girl was talking like that. While it was a good experience to get the topic open, it was a bit over her head. I will be interested to see what my 7 year-old thinks of it. They are studying the Civil War and learning about the lives of slaves. She also understands the how dialect differs from culture to culture and from different time periods and locations.
With all of those negatives out of the way, did I think it was a bad book? No. It was nicely illustrated and a good historical insight into the lives of a family of slaves forced to work long hours picking cotton all day. It even showed an odd sense of pride from the little girl at how good her papa could pick the cotton and how good her older siblings were. She also had a desire to be as good as them.
This book received the 1993 Caldecott Honor.