Saturday, March 23, 2013

Brick by Brick by Charles R. Smith Jr. and Floyd Cooper: Book Review

Brick by Brick By Charles R. Smith Jr. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper Brick by Brick
Author: Charles R. Smith Jr.
Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
Publisher: Amistad, 2013

Age: 5 to 8, Picture Book

Slowly, slowly, “brick by brick,” freedom is earned by African American slaves in this compelling story of slavery. It was the year of the nation’s first president, and President George Washington needed a special home. Slave owners were hired to help build the nation’s first White House, and they promptly ordered their slaves to work. “Black hands, white hands, free hands, slave hands,” Smith Jr. writes, worked hard to build the mansion, but for the slaves alone, the labor was brutal, often painful, and always without pay. They toiled seven days a week, twelve hours a day, men and women together, young and old, under the slave owner’s watchful eye. Some African Americans, however, learned a marketable skill or trade during enslavement and found ways to earn money—enough for many to buy their freedom. This is their story and the price they paid for that freedom. Names are real in Brick by Brick, and each face shows individual emotion. Yet Cooper’s overall use of brown shades gives a sense of unity to their struggle. Youth will come away with admiration and respect for the slaves that helped build America. A brief history of the White House is included at the end. Brick by Brick is a Coretta Scott King Award winner.

Copyright 2013 © Sharon M. Himsl

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