Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fifty Cents and a Dream; Young Booker T. Washington

I love books. Most books. This biography of Booker T. Washington is informative and beautifull. I'm so happy we have such a variety of biographies available to us now like Doreen Rappaport's series. Strangely many low end readers though will still choose classic style biographies over picture book choices. Older versions are less complex, they have time lines in the back that give easy information so don't get rid of the old; just make room for the new.

Picture book style biographies thrill me though. I love reading them outloud to a class. The words vibrate and the phenomenal illustrations bring this person's life!

Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington by Jabari Asim; illustrated by the amazing Bryan Collier is a a well-told tale of Washington's early life as he went from slavery to a college-educated young man.  I've read other versions about him and this one gave me more details about Washington's life.  I had no idea he walked 500 miles from where his family lived to get to Hampton Institute where he was able to study as a young man. 


"His money had run out
by the time he reached Richmond,
about eighty-two miles from Hampton.
He was so tired and hungry
that he could barely take another step.
The big city seemed scary and confusing.
So many shadows, and not a friend in sight! (21)

He keeps moving forward by getting a job to earn enough to eat and continue his journey. This book conveys Washington's strong desire for education and his willingness to push himself to learn the alphabet, read, and go to school. He envisioned more for his life than what his parents had. It is hard to teach that willingness to throw yourself into education and I wish somehow I could time travel with (quite) a few select students back in time so they could see the reality of how special their public education is. No matter your color education is a priveledge previously only afforded to the wealthy and then mostly only males. While there is much reform that could be done to our educational system it is still a blessing to live in a world that educates all children.

Bryan Collier's illustrations are explained in the back as images on watercolor and collage on paper.  He added many fine details like as he begins his journey Washington wears a shirt made of  map paper and bubbles float on many pages detailing Washington's dreams. 

Thankfully we have books like this to allow for deeper understanding of a great man's life.  We should know more than just the bare facts.  Thank you to Little, Brown and Company for my review copy.  While they provided me with a copy of the book; this review shares my own thoughts and I was in no way paid for my words.  The book stands on it's own and I highly recommend it for all readers and collections.

Click to CBC Diversity for an excellent review and
Publisher's Weekly review.
Reading Rockets has a wonderful video of Bryan Collier to watch.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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