Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys

Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard, Author, E. B. Lewis, Illustrator
Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard, Author, E. B. Lewis, Illustrator Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-689-80076-4
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Paperback - 32 pages - 978-0-689-87793-3
Prebound-Other - 24 pages - 978-0-606-33378-8
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-7569-5088-0
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Howard (Chita's Christmas Tree) plucks fruit from her family tree for this stellar story of an African-American girl determined to get an education just like her brothers. Narrated by the young C.C. (Howard's grandfather), the tale is set during Reconstruction, when schools sprang up all over the South to help educate the children of freed slaves, and it is based on the particular school attended by the real-life C.C. and his siblings in Jonesborough, Tenn. Virgie, the youngest of the siblings and the only girl, is determined to attend the school, despite the protests of her family (""You scarcely big as a field mouse. And school's seven miles from here!""). Finally, her parents acquiesce, sending her off with her five brothers with a week's worth of food and clothing in a bucket. Undeterred by a slip in the creek and a scary trek through the woods (""Didn't I tell you about Raw Head and Bloody Bones? Get you if you're not good, folks said. Might get you anyway""), Virgie is a radiant heroine. The easy flow of vernacular effortlessly propels the story, and Howard proves herself adept at plucking a large-scale episode from history and adapting it to the scale of a picture book. Lewis's (The Bat Boy and His Violin) luminous watercolors capture both the rhythms of C.C. and Virgie's rural existence and the story's emotional subtext, and his character studies fairly burst with life. Ages 6-8. (Jan.)
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