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We Troubled the Waters Hardcover – October 20, 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 6 Up—The events and people of the Civil Rights era, from the famous to the ordinary, are brought to life through stirring poetry and striking illustrations. In its opening pages, blue skies, warm sunlight, and lush greenery gives way to the unspeakable reality of Jim Crow in the form of a faceless body that tarnishes the tranquil scene. The simple day-to-day drudgery of scrubbing floors and washing laundry is eloquently described in "Cleaning Gal." A palpable sense of foreboding and terror is apparent as the perils of trying to cast a ballot in the segregated South are detailed in "You Vote/You Die." Unflinching words and stark artwork portray the horror of lynching in "Roadkill" and "Crying Trees." Paintings depicting solemn-faced children, some in tattered clothes and others nicely dressed, give visual testimony to the strong desire to obtain an education in "Booker T. Washington School, 1941." Inspirational verses express the philosophies of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks, capturing the essence of these Civil Rights icons and why they were special to so many people. Historical events like the March on Washington are given a new voice as poetic language and panoramic views express emotion in a manner that standard factual treatment cannot. The triumph of the spirit and the determination and bravery of famous and everyday people are expressed on each page of this exceptional book. It should be in every collection.—Margaret Auguste, Franklin Middle School, Somerset, NJ
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Ntozake Shange is a celebrated poet and author of many novels and plays, including the Obie Award-winning play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf, which was made into a feature film. Ms. Shange is also the author of several children’s books, including the Coretta Scott King Award-winning book Ellington Was Not a Street, illustrated by Kadir Nelson.



Rod Brown is a fine artist and the illustrator of We Troubled the Waters by Ntozake Shange, and From Slave Ship to Freedom Road by Julius Lester, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. His artwork has been displayed at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and on the Nickelodeon program Nick News with Linda Ellerbee, among other places. A native of Columbia, South Carolina, Rod lives with his wife in a suburb of Washington, DC.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 4 and up
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Amistad (October 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061337358
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061337352
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 0.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,360,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ntozake Shange, poet, novelist, playwright, and performer, wrote the Broadway-produced and Obie Award-winning For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf. She has also written numerous works of fiction, including Sassafras, Cypress and Indigo, Betsy Brown, and Liliane.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The children and their teacher proudly gathered together in front Booker T. Washington School in 1941. They were proud and they would learn to read, write and sign their names so they would one day be able to vote. In another setting someone's mother, perhaps one of theirs, struggles on her hands and knees to scrub a floor she has no ownership in. She mustn't stop because she has children to raise. Three garbage boys pose in front of the cans they have to tend to. They can't understand why people throw away perfectly good food while their bellies grumble with hunger.

It was a white world and what wasn't white was labeled "colored." A young boy, holding his little brother's hand, shows him two words he mustn't forget. Colored. White. He has to know the difference in a Jim Crow world. Shot gun houses can fit thirteen people or more and a little boy can sleep "right neath the kitchen table/ ever so warm & smellin so good." Then there are the "Crying Trees" where someone's son is hanging. They aren't much better than "Roadkill" in some people's eyes. Later Rosa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Brother Malcolm would care and the signs would come down. No more colored. No more white. Just people.

When I read this book I had no idea where to place it in the realm of children's literature. It is one of the most amazing, shocking and touching visual and poetic treatises on man's inequality to man I've seen in a book intended for the middle school child. The artwork was hauntingly beautiful. I've never quite seen anything like it and probably won't again for some time. Perfection is very difficult to duplicate. This is a masterpiece that you won't want to pass up if you are interested in the history of the African American!
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Format: Hardcover
I am stunned, as I sit here, trying to think how to describe this masterpiece. First of all, if you can get past the dedication page, without a gasp, and a few moments of shocked disbelief, then you did not look at it correctly, and you must go back, and look at it again; because the ugliness it shows us, there in the midst of the beautiful, calm, river painting, will take your breath away.

Then, all through this collection of astonishing poems--astonishing, yes, because tersely, briefly, vividly, they paint pictures just as brilliant as the ones on the pages they grace, somehow--there are the twined threads of terrible, terrible grief, and aspiring, uplifting hope.

I am fifty, white, and grew up in the North; I remember so many of the scenes from this book played out on the nightly news, and I still cannot believe it went on, don't want to believe it went on, but I know it did. It hurts to know it, but it helps, and somehow heals a little bit, to read great, great works like this one.

Thank you, Ms. Shange, and Mr. Brown. I cannot say enough good things about this book.
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Format: Hardcover
In startling verse and paintings, Ntozake Shange and Rod Brown tell the stories of the pain and suffering experienced before the Civil Rights Movement, the actions and leaders that led to historic change, and the vision of America as a country where race and religion no longer separate Americans. Individual poetic and visual tribute is given to the heroes from Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. The authors remember and honor those unknown Americans who were also part of the Civil Rights Movement--- the school children who learned and used their education to build up themselves, the cleaning woman and the garbage boys, and all those who stood up in protest.

Ntozake Shange and Rod Brown bring together powerful images of familiar history to those who lived through these times. WE TROUBLED THE WATER makes history come alive, allowing the reader/viewer to feel the suffering and the courage of those who lived through that time. WE TROUBLED THE WATER strikes the emotions in a very visceral way. The images and verse about real historic figures provide an educational resource for children (ages 9-12). Several lesser known historical figures (Marcus Garvey and Bull Connor) are mentioned, giving direction for those inquisitive readers who want to explore more history of the Civil Rights Movement. Some of the most compelling and shocking images emerge from the authors use of nature in the beginning river scene, "Crying Trees" and "Road Kill." These images trouble one deeply and yet few images anywhere capture the emotion behind the suffering and call for justice as these do. These images and words are not for the faint of heart.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a collection of 18 poems, from freed to the civil rights. Beginning with Booker T Washingtion School, 1941. About the first one room school for Black children and their teachers from Tuskgee.

There's a poem about Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. Brown's painting of Dr. King is amazing. Overall, Brown's art made me pause and take notice. They are simply could be hanging in a museum beautiful.

The three poems that stand out for me - Crying Trees, The Ku Klux Klan and Brother Malcolm.

Crying Trees - Is about Black men being lynched. Shange's words are enough to touch a readers heart. Though for this particular poem I noticed Brown's art first. A picture is worth a thousand words is a saying for a reason. Black men hanging from trees is an ugly truth of this countries past.

The Ku Klux Klan - This poem stood out for me for two reasons. 1. Like lynching, I think the Klan tends to get overlooked. 2. The last line is lovely.

"hatred dies hard death and the Klan aint dead yet"

Brother Malcolm - Malcolm X, seems to be excluded or forgotten from children's books. I am not sure which.

Fans of Ntozake Shange and Rod Brown will love We Troubled The Waters. This is a wonderful place to begin for people unfamiliar with their work. This collection will make you think, remember, teach and lead to discussions.
Ages 10 up
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