- Age Range: 6 - 10 years
- Grade Level: 4 and up
- Hardcover: 32 pages
- Publisher: Collins (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: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,584,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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We Troubled the Waters Hardcover – October 20, 2009
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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
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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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The poetry hits the heart. The poetry made me really feel how strong African Americans are as a people. I was also greatly moved by each painting. The paintings are wondrous. Each one painted by Rod Brown whom I can't wait to learn more about as an artist and painter or book illustrator. No poem is unnecessary. No poem drags, wanders or is dull. What a powerful "child's" book.[...]
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!
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. They haunt and trouble even those adult readers familiar with the Civil Rights Movement from study and having lived through those times.
WE TROUBLED THE WATER is a powerful, emotional look inside an important part of American history. WE TROUBLED THE WATER reaches that poetic place inside a reader/viewer, that quiet place that recognizes suffering and cries out for justice. WE TROUBLED THE WATER is an important resource for teaching American history because the images and poetry bring alive the very heart of the period in a way an academic text is unlikely to do. WE TROUBLED THE WATER shows the power, energy and vibrancy in history and society. WE TROUBLED THE WATER would also be a great choice for the bookshelves of those adult readers who lived through these times. Few books capture the suffering, struggle and hope as well. WE TROUBLED THE WATER would be a great resource for parents and grandparents to share with their children and grandchildren, reading aloud and sharing their memories of this period. Whether this book is used as a resource for teaching or during Black History Month celebrations or read by individuals and families, WE TROUBLED THE WATER is unforgettable. A keeper!
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