NONFICTION

Fifty Cents and a Dream

Young Booker T. Washington
. December 2012. 48p. 978-0-31608-657-8. 16.99.
COPY ISBN
Gr 2-4–Here sits a barefooted boy leaning against a tree trunk, eyes closed, dreaming about reading. Here he is following his master’s daughter to school, carrying her books, feeling their “magic seeping into his hands.” Booker was born a slave, and slaves were forbidden to read. Emancipation came while he was still young. He worked with the men in his family, first shoveling salt, then in a coal mine. He learned to read from a spelling book his mother gave him. He attended the school for Negroes after work and dreamed of Hampton Institute, where he could study writing. He walked there–hundreds of miles through the mountains of Virginia, unloading ships in Richmond when his food money ran out. A janitor job at Hampton paid his room and board. Written in simply stated narrative, in a font that looks hand-printed, this story covers more of Washington’s life and offers more detail than Marie Bradby’s More Than Anything Else (Orchard, 1995),  a brief, movingly told, beautifully rendered introduction to Washington for younger children. Collier’s patterned and textured watercolor and paper collage paintings perfectly mirror the narrative, reiterating details and settings in handsomely constructed glimpses of the young Booker at school and at work; the teen-aged Booker traveling on foot toward a better education; the student dreaming of great things to come. His dreams are shown as luminescent bubbles or rays of light that reach toward the sky; his shirt is map-patterned. Two pages of biographical endnotes include a time line of his significant accomplishments. An inspirational life, memorably presented.–Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Public Library, OH
The emphasis of this brief portrait of Booker T. Washington is on his quest for knowledge: as a young boy living in slavery, wanting to learn to read, and then as a young adult attending the Hampton Institute. Watercolor and collage illustrations show the powerful determination on the subject's face, and everything about the bookmaking reverberates with the importance of books and learning. Timeline. Bib.
The emphasis of this brief biographical portrait of Booker T. Washington is on his quest for knowledge: as a young boy living in slavery, wanting to learn to read, and then as a young adult attending the Hampton Institute. In 1872, with only a few coins in his pocket, Washington made the five-hundred-mile journey on foot to get to the school, working along the way to earn money for food. Once he was admitted, he worked as a janitor to pay his room and board. Asim's poetic text underscores Washington's determination to get an education and then to see to it that others would have the same opportunity. A fascinating author's note discusses Washington's political views -- especially his willingness to compromise -- as controversial among African Americans in his own time; the author also tells why he chose to focus on the journey to Hampton as symbolic of Washington's legacy. Collier's watercolor and collage illustrations show the powerful determination on his subject's face, while in many of the pictures, light, abstract shapes rise into the air above Washington, representing his dreams. Everything about the bookmaking here -- from the carefully chosen typography to the look of parchment paper to the endpapers taken from Webster's American Spelling Book -- reverberates with the importance of books and learning. kathleen t. horning

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