cover image Sweet Land of Liberty

Sweet Land of Liberty

Deborah Hopkinson. Peachtree Publishers, $16.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-56145-395-5

Hopkinson's (Sky Boys) accessible, conversational narrative relays the little-known story of Oscar Chapman who, as a white boy in racially charged post-Civil War Virginia, was asked by his teacher to select a picture to decorate the bare walls of his two-room schoolhouse. In a junk shop, Oscar chooses a picture of Abraham Lincoln, not realizing that this is a portrait of the recent controversial president. The boy is expelled temporarily for his selection, and realizes that he ""had seen injustice all around him. And now he was being treated unfairly too."" After a member of the school board removes Lincoln's picture from the wall, the plucky lad climbs through the schoolhouse window and re-hangs it. He knew he ""was stirring things up, just like Mr. Lincoln. But maybe that was the only way to get things to change."" The story then fast forwards to 1939, when Chapman is serving as assistant secretary of the interior under Franklin Roosevelt. He and his friend, NAACP head Walter White, start ""stirring up trouble"" after they learn that Marian Anderson has been barred from singing in Constitution Hall because of her race. They obtain Roosevelt's permission for the celebrated soloist to perform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where 75,000 people show up to hear her sing ""America"" (My Country 'Tis of Thee). Featuring bright swirling pastel patterns against deep blues and browns, Jenkins's (Langston's Train Ride) collage-like mixed-media illustrations deftly dramatize this illuminating and inspirational behind-the-scenes look at a triumphant moment in the civil rights movement. Ages 6-10.