From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up—Twenty-four sonnets tell the story of Prudence Crandall and her efforts to educate young African-American women in Canterbury, CT, 1833-1834. The school began as a boarding school for white girls; when two black women inquired about taking classes and Crandall agreed, the townspeople withdrew their daughters. As she accepted more black students, the town became more vocal in its resistance, poisoning the school water supply, refusing to sell it supplies, and charging Miss Crandall and others with a variety of "crimes." The sonnet format is challenging but compelling. Each poem addresses an individual aspect of the story; therefore, the tone and cadence change depending upon the person speaking or the event being depicted. The introduction gives essential information, but readers with no background will still need help understanding the political, social, and historical context. Cooper's pastel mixed-media illustrations sometimes illuminate the poems, but at other times seem solely decorative. His portraits for "Tao of the Trial" and "Miss Ann Eliza Hammond" are powerfully rendered, while the nature scenes add little to the poetic experience. The art's sketchiness, however, does suit the poetic form. There are empty spaces in the pictures just as the language of the poetry leaves openness for readers' interpretation. A heartfelt, unusual presentation, this book rewards patient readers.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
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* "A glorious poetic celebration of the teacher and students at a Connecticut school that defied mid-19th-century convention to educate African-American girls." --Kirkus Reviews, starred review
* "The images in their poems and in Cooper's quiet, dramatic pastel illustrations compellingly capture the haunting history." --Booklist, starred review
"Deftly crafted, interweaving colloquial and lofty language; reading aloud will emphasize the sonorous strength of the language, while the individual perspectives suggest possibilities for reader's theater." --Bulletin of the Center for Children's Book