Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Non-Fiction Picture Books Tell Truth

art by Sarah S. Brannen
           Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From her post and others, you will discover and want to celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books! 

I am grateful for Michele Knott who shared this wonderful book earlier HERE! It is still another inspiring biography of this woman named one of "The Most Significant Americans of All Time" by Smithsonian Magazine in 2014, according to the author's note at the back. 

           One year when I taught, my students studied biographies and one assignment was to discover a little-known person in history, research her or him, and create a scrapbook of that life as if they were the persons they chose. One of my students chose Sojourner Truth. Now I wish I had that scrapbook to look at again. Most of what I remember is that she had accomplished so much that took great courage, like walking away as a slave and being helped by some abolitionists. I know that my student would have loved seeing this picture book.
          As the story evolves, the illustrator Daniel Minter chose to create a poetic page in the same style every few pages, serving as a comment on what has occurred or what's to come. It begins with “In Slavery Time, when Hope was a seed waiting to be planted.” 

                 Most of Isabella’s brothers and sisters were sold away before she could remember, but her mother told her that the same moon and stars looked down upon them all. Then Isabella was sold and separated from her mother, at age nine! 
                She was made to work hard, like doing the house laundry at night, then working in the fields in the day. She was made to marry, had several children, then, by her third owner, promised freedom but not granted it. It was then, with amazing resolve, she “seized Freedom with her own hands.” She walked away, was taken in and helped, as I wrote above, by a couple who were abolitionists.

               Her son was sold away from her, and she used the law to get him back. After reuniting with some of her own siblings, she decided to make “a journey—a sojourn—to tell the truth about Slavery.” Schmidt shows the places where she stops and quotes words she used to speak her truth. (The bibliography describes the manuscript from which her words are quoted.) Along the way, we again experience the sorrow as well as the continuing resolve to fight for her people, then after the war, she also fought for women. 

             Minter’s art is emotional and haunting, as you can see in that picture above, the terrible times of Sojourner's people. His art adds to this powerful story. In his artist's note, he shares that those special vertical pages like the two I've shown, "are loosely planted in the times of legal slavery but that parallel the feelings of struggle in today's streets--the feeling that you may be buried, but you are surrounded by soil that nourishes you."

           There is a biographical note, a good explanation of the bibliography and questions about sources from Sojourner's Life, plus the above-mentioned artist’s note. It is a beautiful book to see and to take inspiration from.


  1. "art is emotional and haunting"--Yes!

  2. Can't get enough about Ms. Truth! She is one of my personal heroes. Appreciations!

    1. Love hearing that you love this, Jan, and Sojourner Truth. It is a gorgeous book and so filled with information about her life. Thank you!


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