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Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School Hardcover – February 13, 2018
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From School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—A winning tribute to Lilly Ann Granderson, the Midnight Teacher. Granderson, who was enslaved, secretly learned to read and write as a child and passed on this dear knowledge to hundreds of other enslaved people despite the great risks. To avoid the notice and suspicion of white masters and patrollers, she hosted her school in the middle of the night. Halfmann's narrative follows Granderson's life pre— and post—Civil War, including Granderson's involvement in educating newly freed black people in the South. In the afterword, Halfmann delves further into this hero's legacy: her grandchildren and great-grandchild would go on to become college grads, U.S. congressmen, and more. Ladd's illustrations, rendered in acrylic and colored pencil, are realistic and done in an earthy palette of sandy browns and rich greens. Ladd adroitly conveys the tone of the narrative with dioramalike scenes and uses perspective to add intensity. VERDICT A top choice for any library serving elementary school—aged children.—Shira Pilarski, Farmington Community Library, MI
STARRED REVIEW. An unsung hero and literacy champion whose teaching changed many lives. Halfmann and Ladd tell the remarkable, true story of Lilly Ann Granderson, an enslaved woman born around 1821 in Petersburg, Virginia. Following the death of her mother, Lilly Ann was sold to a Kentucky slave owner. The master's children would often play school and included Lilly Ann, teaching her to read. They even gave her an "old ragged blue-back speller...to use and keep," which she used to practice in private and teach others on the plantation. However, when her master died, she was sold to a cotton plantation in Natchez, Mississippi, where it was illegal for slaves to learn to read. Though Lilly Ann faced much higher penalties there in restarting her school, she expanded her education efforts. However, when the patrollers caught her leading her slave school the punishment for which was 39 lashes the authorities found "no law against a slave teaching a slave." This picture book's detailed, realistic illustrations were created using acrylic paint and colored pencil. Ladd's artwork shows Lilly Ann's determination to improve lives through literacy and will also familiarize readers with the book's historical settings. An informative afterword and bibliography will make this a useful addition to U.S. history lessons. An excellent homage to an African-American woman who taught ahead of her time. --Kirkus Reviews
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Even as a child, she confronted the serious risks of teaching other enslaved children, sneaking off with them to share the keys to literacy, and they welcomed Lilly Ann's brave efforts. Lilly Ann continued her calling to teach despite numerous changes, including being sold from border state Kentucky to deep-south Natchez, Mississippi.
Each scene in this descriptive narrative is accompanied by deep-toned, thought-provoking images. Text and illustration combine to provide readers with remarkable insights into the driving forces that kept Lilly teaching throughout her life, long after the Civil War and slavery ended.
The cover image is quite literal, illustrating that Lilly had to sneak through the darkest nights to pursue her goal of teaching others. It is also deeply symbolic, suggesting that education, literacy, and knowledge are the flames of FREEDOM, and not just freedom from enslavement. I believe that Lilly Ann Ganderson would agree that teachers are not simply transferring factoids and details, not meant to measure success in tests or by echoing back simple facts. Teachers are LIGHT BEARERS, providing a beacon, working to open the eyes and guide the way for learners. When one of Lilly's students surprised her by using newly acquired understanding of the alphabet to write FREEDOM, it brought tears to her eyes.
Ms. Halfmann put a lot of careful research into bringing this story to students, teachers, and librarians. At the back of the book is an Afterword about accomplishments directly attributable to Lilly Ann Granderson’s teaching and efforts to establish schools; plus, there’s information on the lives and contributions of her descendants. Ms. Halfmann has included several excellent Selected References for further reading and study.
This is a great historical addition to classrooms and school libraries to show how important literacy and education are to people’s lives, especially to people like Blacks and other minorities who have constantly been denied equal educational opportunities throughout their history in America. Midnight Teacher is highly recommended for students, teachers, and librarians. Lee and Low Books list this book for reading level grade 2 to 6. The detailed illustrations by artist London Ladd clearly show and clarify what is happening in Lilly Granderson’s story, which helps lower grade students to visualize and better understand the seriousness of that period in history.
I'm a long time children's and YA book reviewer. I'm grateful to the publisher, Lee and Low Books for my review copy.
Most recent customer reviews
Hide, sneak, and risk your life to learn to read under the dark cloak of midnight.Read more
Excellent research and writing in this book that highlights a little known African American.Read more