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Don't Say Ain't Paperback – February 1, 2004


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 9 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 4
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge (February 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 157091382X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570913822
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 9 x 0.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,183,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 2-4-Dana and her friends Cindybelle and Ellamae live in Harlem in the 1950s where Dana's godmother reminds them, "Don't say ain't, children. People judge you on how you speaks!" When her goddaughter's high scores on a special exam provide access to an advanced, integrated school, the girl isn't quite as enthusiastic as Godmother. Children snicker when her teacher corrects her speech, while at home, her friends call her "Miss Smarty Pants." One day, her teacher announces plans to visit each student's home, and Dana is first on the list. When she arrives, Dana is surprised to learn that "-Godmother knew Mrs. Middleton's mother back in Charleston, South Carolina." However, she is absolutely stunned when her teacher exclaims, "Honeychile, I ain't gonna eat more than one piece of your famous peach cobbler." Confused at first by the woman's use of nonstandard English, Dana is smart enough to discover an essential truth. She reconciles with her friends and announces, "If you want to say `ain't,'-/Just say it at home./And when you roam,/Speaking proper sets de tone-." Engaging, richly hued oil illustrations effectively capture the characters and setting. The flap copy notes that New York City schools were first integrated in 1957, and Smalls portrays the advantages open to a select group of students with subtlety. This perceptive and useful title can be used to generate discussion on a variety of issues.
Alicia Eames, New York City Public Schools
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gr.1-3. When Dana gets the highest grade on the city test and is accepted into the advanced integrated school, her godmother boasts about it in the inner-city neighborhood. But Dana doesn't want to leave her old friends on the street, and she feels uncomfortable with the teacher and kids in her new school. The time is 1957, but the issues of class and prejudice are timeless, and Bootman's handsome, realistic oil paintings capture both the period setting and one child's personal conflict. There's not much of a story (Dana learns to hold on to her roots even as she succeeds at school with "correct" English), but the immediate words and pictures will bring children up close to the individual characters. Most moving is the portrait of Dana's godmother: she embarrasses Dana in public ("She's goin' to grow up to be a doctor!") and nearly smothers the child with attention. Yet the best scene shows Dana teaching the older woman to read. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
School is a subject that is familiar to most children. And, attending a school outside of one's neighborhood is a subject that is becoming more and more familiar to youngsters today. At times, that situation presents adjustments and even problems. Such is the spot young Dana finds herself in.
Our story is set in Harlem in the 1950s. Dana loves her neighborhood, and her friends. But, when she scores in a high percentile on a citywide test she is sent to a newly integrated advanced school. What a change!
Some of the students at the new school are less than accepting, and even her teacher comments on Dana's language usage, saying, "Do not use `ain't' in school." When Dana attempts to change the way she talks then her old friends in the neighborhood withdraw wondering if Dana now thinks she is better than they are.
It's a challenge for Dana to find her place in two very different worlds, both of which are changing.
There are good lessons for all in this candid, affirming story illustrated with colorful oil paintings.

- Gail Cooke
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Ellingwood VINE VOICE on November 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
This story to me is very sad. In order to obtain a better education, the girl has to travel outside her community and face a culture that she barely understands. It seems formal and loveless to her, unlike her old friends and neighborhood. How to reconcile the two? It happens in a small way when her teacher from the "advanced" school visits her home. Her teacher speaks the same dialect Dana (our protagonist) does at her home but when she leaves, returns to the formal "correct" way of speaking outside her door. It is so sad to think that getting an education is a choice in leaving a way of life and culture behind. It is not true just for African-Americans but for many people as well. I am an ESOL teacher and many of my students have left their homes to come to the US to learn English, the language of power in the world, and get a better education. This book highlights the loss people go through, and is a kind of mourning for life and loss.
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By Leah Green on October 17, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is exactly what I wanted to find in regards to a research study I want to implement in the near future. I want to eventually get my Ph.D in sociolinguistics with an emphasis in African American Vernacular English. This book provided me with what I needed. Plus, it was such a eye opening experience on how people talk in different contexts.
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