Hopkinson, Deborah Steamboat School Disney, 2016. $17.99. PICTURE BOOK
This is a based on a true story, leaner more towards non-fiction than historical fiction. This book tells the story of a young free African American named James who lives in Missouri in 1847. He and his sister attend a secret school run by the Reverend Meachum in a dark basement, here they learn reading, writing, and more. But it turns out there is a law against African American education and the school must be shut down. But James doesn’t give up and neither does Reverend Meachum, who has an ingenious plan to thwart the law.
This is a fantastic story! I think there are quite a few picture books about slavery and the civil war, but not as many about free African Americans during that time period, who are still facing much adversity and discrimination. The author does a great job of creating interest by having readers follow a young learner to school. I also love this story because it helps, even in some small way, to show how grateful we should all be for the education we are receiving. What teacher doesn’t like that lesson? The illustrations are very stylized and dark, not great to share with a group.
EL(K-3), EL – ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.