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Working Cotton Paperback – February 15, 1997
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From Publishers Weekly
A hot, arduous and typical day in the life of a family of migrant cotton pickers is the subject of Williams's striking first picture book. Shelan describes how her parents, brothers and sisters arrive at the cottonfields before dawn and toil till night to fill sacks with the fluffy white harvest. At times both gritty and poetic, Williams's text is written completely in Shelan's dialect. Though the phrasing may require careful reading, it adds a necessary authenticity to the story while presenting a difficult way of life. However, the author does not pass a negative judgment here: her characters play, sing and admire nature--when they have the chance. Bayard's intense acrylic paintings capture the beauty of the California landscape as well as the intensity of human struggle--thoughtfully reflected in her cast's sweaty faces. Vast fields of white cotton tufts against an endless blue sky create an appropriate sense of isolation. Though some may object to the portrayal of African Americans picking cotton, Shelan's family is to be respected for embracing life and doing whatever it takes to make their way in the world. An auspicious debut. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Author's Note: Our shame as a nation is not that so many children work the fields but that so few of them have other options. That the life chances of too many are defined by the cycle of the seasons in environments characterized by minimums - minimum wages, minimum shelters, minimum food and education - individual character, the love of a family can only do so much, the rest is up to the country (Williams 1992 inside cover http://www.amazon.com/Working-Cotton-Sherley-Anne-Williams/dp/0152014829#reader).Working Cotton
There's a rhythmic quality to Williams' words as she remembers her childhood, as she pulls you in with that dreamy quality, in to Shelan's world, to show you what a day in the fields was like. The sense of competition between the sisters, that need to be like each other and yet not. Especially, *laughing*, as Shelan wishes to both grow up and be young enough to sit at the end of the row and watch the baby.
The manner in which Williams manipulates the grammar and sentence structure is another way to pull you in and indicates Shelan's educational level.
I know Byard's illustrations are in acrylics — it says so in the front of the book! But there's a feel of pastels about these intense colors, the soft smudgy feel of the graphics that make you feel the seriousness of it as well as that dreamy feel of Williams' memories.
It's a beautifully illustrated and written story of a day in the life of a family picking cotton.
It's cold that early in the morning, although the day will heat up fast enough, Shelan notes.
I'm growing up, but not enough yet to have my own sack while Daddy picks cotton so fast that you never see him do it while Mamma sings to while the day away.
Shelan is the young girl, the storyteller; her sisters include Ruise, Jesmarie, and baby Leanne. Mamma and Daddy are the kind of people who should have children. God knows, that's rare enough!
The Cover and Title
The cover has an Impressionist feel to it with its hazy cotton, blue summer sky, and Shelan in her turquoise green dress and brown jacket. The title is in a white serif font with an orange outline.
The title is what the day is all about, Working Cotton.
Do not white wash history. Do not tell children lies. Racism is real and prevalent in society today. To white wash slavery is to obfuscate that fact.