Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Listeners - Gloria Whelan

Illustrated by Mike Benny
Tales of Young Americans Series
Sleeping Bear Press, 2009
40 pages
For: Kids old enough to understand slavery
Rating: 4.5
Endpapers: White (a tiny drawback...)

I begin with Gloria Whelan's "Author's Note," found at the beginning of the book: "The lives of slaves depended on circumstances beyond their control. They had nothing to say about whom they would work for or where they would live. They never knew when they might be separated from their children or their spouses. Hoping to learn their fate, they sent small children to hide near the windows of their masters' homes to listen.

Authors are listeners, too, that's how they find their stories. They listen. Sometimes they hear stories from people who have lived them. Sometimes they hear words spoken long ago and set down in books. It's what writers do; they listen, and like Bobby, Sue, and Ella May they pass the stories along."

This information for kids is twofold - it talks to the reader about slavery AND about being a writer.

This book looks at slavery from a slightly different angle, it looks at the hard work that even very young children do, and it looks at how some of the massive groups of slaves were able to find out any information about what was going on in the country and in the world of their plantation. It is a thought-provoking tale about three young kids who listen outside the window of their "owner's" to glean any kind of news that might be relevant to them.

Dark, glorious illustrations going all the way to the edge of the page richly accentuate this gracefully told story. Outstanding.

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