From School Library Journal
Grade 3-6?Littlesugar and Schoenherr have taken a picture by Winslow Homer painted some 10 years after the Civil War and created a story around it. He had traveled to Petersburg, Virginia, where he had sketched the freed slaves who were celebrating "Jonkonnu." Sometimes adapted as a Christmas event, in Homer's painting it is a Fourth of July celebration of freedom from slavery. In this picture book, Homer's visit is described by the young girl whose mother runs the hotel where the artist takes a room. The narrative, descriptive of the heat and lush green growth of Southern summer, and with vocabulary and pronunciation suggestive of soft Southern speech, tells how the artist's daily visits to the folks "down the red clay road" bring criticism by the townsmen and other hotel guests. The climax of the story, a true incident from Homer's life, occurs when town bullies threaten the painter. He courageously stares them down and makes them retreat. Schoenherr's illustrations, which closely resemble the colors and figures from Homer's 1877 painting "Dressing for the Carnival," combine full-page scenes with pages in which individual figures derived from the painting are placed against white backgrounds. The original work is not reproduced here, but the story can inspire students to look up the artist's life and paintings, to research the festival of Jonkonnu, or "Johnkankus" as part of African-American culture, and to discuss the tensions in American society in the aftermath of Emancipation.?Shirley Wilton, Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Ages 7^-9. According to the author's appended comments, this picture book fictionalizes a trip that Winslow Homer made to Petersburg, Virginia, in the summer of 1876, when African Americans were not allowed to celebrate Independence Day. There he made studies for the painting Dressing for the Carnival
, posing a freed man and his family as they prepare for "Jonkonnu, a colorful old freedom holiday from slavery days." Cilla, a young white girl whose mother owns the hotel where Homer stays, tells the story. She observes Homer as he visits the African American family down the road and when he stares down a group of stereotypical rednecks who threaten him and then back off. The dropped g
in words like lookin', hopin',
is an unfortunate dialect device, and the story as a whole seems rather static. It is also peculiar that the book does not offer a reproduction of the painting around which it is centered. Still, Littlesugar creates a sense of a different time and place, and Schoenherr's atmospheric paintings offer a series of beautiful tableaux. Carolyn Phelan