Freedom School, Yes!
Amy Littlesugar. Philomel Books, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23006-6
The skilled author-illustrator team that introduced readers to 1930s Harlem in Tree of Hope here explores another dramatic chapter in African-American history: the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project. In the summer of 1964, Jolie's family plays host to Annie, a 19-year-old white woman who has volunteered to teach Freedom School. The segregated community of Chicken Creek is rattled by this arrangement--blacks are skeptical of learning about their history and their heroes from a white stranger; whites are suspected of violent efforts (burning down the church, throwing bricks through windows) to drive Annie away. Despite the unrest and tension in the air, Annie helps open Jolie's eyes to her heritage and to the great test of courage that the Freedom School poses to all involved. Littlesugar personalizes the events of an era by colorfully detailing one girl's experience. Vivid imagery and realistic emotion will quickly grab readers' attention. But the story stumbles a bit, rushing to mention a list of African-American historical figures and slightly inflating Jolie's role in comparison to that of Harriet Tubman. Cooper's grainy-textured oil washes, as radiant as ever, depict the strength shining in faces of people newly enlightened. His portraits of various Chicken Creek residents capture their mix of fear, wonder, faith and determination. An author's note includes more information on the Freedom School project and the real-life heroes who inspired this story. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/15/2001