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A Sweet Smell of Roses Paperback – December 26, 2007
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From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3–This quiet, gentle story pays tribute to the many unnamed children who participated in the African-American struggle for civil rights. It opens: "After a night of soft rain there is a sweet smell of roses as my sister, Minnie, and I slip past Mama's door and out of the house down Charlotte Street." They head toward the curb market where folks, mostly adults, are gathering to listen to and march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Large, powerful charcoal images dominate the pages with particular attention paid to facial expressions. The artist shows the strength and resolve of the marchers in the face of "people who scream, shout, and say, 'You are not right. Equality can't be yours.'" Once the speeches are over, the sisters race home and are met at the door by their worried mother, "And as we tell her about the march, the curtains flow apart, and there is a sweet smell of roses all through our house." The only color that appears in this book is the deep red of the ribbon around the neck of Minnie's teddy bear, the U.S. flag, and the roses. Without going into much detail, this book nonetheless drives home the fact that children were involved in the movement and makes the experience more real for those just learning about this chapter of American history.–Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
K-Gr. 2. History and politics get personal for young readers in this dramatic, large-size picture book about an African American child and her younger sister who steal out of the house to join the Civil Rights marchers and listen to Dr. King speak. The child's clear, first-person narrative draws on the language of the struggle ("we look farther down the road"), and Velasquez' realistic charcoal pictures, in black and white with an occasional touch of red, evoke the news footage of the time. The protestors confront the glowering police, and there are children among the racists who yell, "You are not right. Equality can't be yours." But this book is not only about segregation; it's also about the crowds of people "walking our way toward freedom," the thrilling portrait of Dr. King, and the two brave kids who cross the line. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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A Sweet Smell of Roses had penciled drawings with a define meaning and well-drawn purpose of demonstrating two young girls who sneaked out of the home to hear the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, shouting about freedom equality, and marching with other men and women as these two kids are aroused by "letting freedom ring" in their hearts and cling to the words of the speaker. Angela Johnson, the author, kept the focus on the sweet smell of roses: like the sweet justice Black people in America prayed, believed, and eventually received but also showcased how our young daughters were included in the march of such equality! It sings and rings sweet essence of unity for equality of all people and races.
Adrienna Turner, author of ten books
This is what REAL Black Power looks like. Strong, committed adults and hopeful, cherished children. God bless America.
The book opens early one morning as two girls sneak out of their house to join a civil rights march. They run through the streets and upon meeting the others, listen as Dr. King talks of peace, love, and nonviolence. They then join the march as protestors shout along the sidelines and police observe the group. Finally, they stop in the middle of town as King again takes center stage. Afterwards, they run back home late in the afternoon to find their mother waiting, with a worried face.
THE SWEET SMELL OF ROSES is written as a tribute to the many children and young adults who took part in the fight for justice during the Civil Rights era. Though I can't really imagine younger children leaving their houses without permission, racing through the streets alone, joining a march, and staying out all day, it could've happened, as the times were a bit safer for our children. Additionally, there are likely other areas they participated in as well and I would've loved to see that incorporated in the book. Better yet, to have them joining their parents in the march would've been more age-appropriate.
The illustrations are highly detailed, done in black and white, capturing the tone of the book. Additionally, the writing is easy to understand and children may enjoy it in a reading circle type of scenario, but I wouldn't recommend it otherwise. It doesn't fit the projected age group. It is, however, a great look into the history of the Civil Rights Movement and a nice way to introduce children to it.
Reviewed by Tee C. Royal
of The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers