cover image Daisy and the Doll

Daisy and the Doll

Michael Medearis, Angela Shelf Medearis. Vermont Folklife Center, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-916718-15-2

One of the inaugural releases in the Family Heritage series, this story is based on a true incident. The husband-and-wife authors (the African-American Arts series) adopt the crisp and amiable voice of eight-year-old Daisy Turner, a former slave's daughter who was born in Vermont in 1883. Daisy's teacher announces that, for a school competition, each girl will hold a doll from a different country and recite a poem about that nationality. When she hands Daisy a rag doll ""with a coal black face,"" the other girls giggle; and anger ""bubbled inside me like hot tar."" Daisy's father, Papu, advises her to memorize the poem her teacher has written, even though it obviously offends her. Disconcertingly, readers never learn any of the poem's contents. Daisy instead comments, ""I had never really noticed the color of my skin. It was as if Miss Clark's poem had opened my eyes for the first time."" On stage during the program, Daisy finds that her teacher's words ""caught in my throat like a bone,"" and the child delivers an extemporaneous but prize-winning poem (""My Papu says that half the world/ Is nearly black as night./ And it does no harm to take a chance/ And stay right in the fight""). Johnson's (Knoxville, Tennessee) spare representational paintings capture the narrative's emotion-charged tenor. A concluding page offers historical background as well as tips for rhyming games and for writing poems. Ages 6-10. (Sept.)