When Grandmama Sings

Margaree King Mitchell, Author, James Ransome, Illustrator
Margaree King Mitchell, illus. by James E. Ransome. HarperCollins/Amistad, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-688-17563-4
Reviewed on: 11/28/2011
Release date: 01/01/2012
Library Binding - 978-0-688-17564-1
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Mitchell and Ransome, the team behind Coretta Scott King Honor–winner Uncle Jed’s Barbershop, reunite for another story set in the early 20th century, in which intimate family relationships are set against a backdrop of racial segregation. Eight-year-old narrator Belle lives with her parents and Grandmama in the fictional town of Pecan Flats, Miss. Grandmama’s singing voice has earned her local fame, and when a man offers to “book her and a band on a small singing tour of the South,” she agrees, bringing Belle along for the ride. Written in the past tense, Belle’s narration has an elegiac quality, but while the band encounters plenty of discrimination on the road, triumphs outweigh setbacks (and Grand-mama doesn’t come to any serious harm). Ransome’s lovely, naturalistic watercolors draw out a wealth of emotions from the characters, particularly Grandmama, whose expressions range from weariness to passion while she’s singing, and determination, such as when she slams money on the counter of a restaurant that won’t serve them. It’s a stirring reminder that it’s never too late to chase one’s dreams, no matter the obstacles. Ages 5–9. (Jan.)
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