From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 2-5–Set in the rural South in the early 1920s, this simple, respectful story examines one community's efforts to build a new school for African-American children with seed money provided by the Julius Rosenwald Fund. Each spread features a prose poem told in the voice of a student. Readers learn about the difficult decision to accept the challenge–which the Sears Roebuck executive extended to more than 5000 communities–and then to build a decent schoolhouse for the children of sharecroppers and other poor families. Land, lumber, and labor were all donated or purchased cheap; cast-off books and furnishings from more affluent communities appeared; and within a year, the students who used to study in a drafty shack walked into the first building they could truly call their own. Christie's gouache and colored-pencil illustrations have the variegated look and stylized layout of collage art–a good complement to the child's rough-around-the-edges narration. An afterword explains Rosenwald's impact on thousands of poor black communities. An uplifting and inspiring story about the buildings that are all too frequently taken for granted.–Catherine Threadgill, Charleston County Public Library, SC
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In the early 1920s, Julius Rosenwald, the president of Sears, Roebuck, was inspired by Booker T. Washington to give millions to build schools for African American children in the rural South, on condition that the local community raised money too. This picture book tells the story from the viewpoint of Ovella, 10, part of a sharecropper family, who attends a rough one-room schoolhouse when she is not picking cotton ("Instead of learning long division / I'll be working in the fields"). Weatherford's short lines in clear free verse and Christie's exuberant gouache and colored-pencil illustrations show Ovella as part of a vibrant family and community, hard at work, passing the plate in church, and, finally, thrilled to be welcoming the teacher to the exciting new school ("no more eight grades in one room"). The story ends with the child's dream: "One day, I'll be a teacher." Hazel Rochman
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