Both the author, Eloise Greenfield, and the illustrator, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, came from families that participated in the Great Migration. This movement of American blacks from the South to the North and West took place from 1915 to 1970 and involved approximately six million people. The mass movement profoundly changed the cultural and political landscape of the United States.
Many Americans today only know about this phenomenal internal migration thanks to The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, the highly praised 2010 book by Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson. (The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, among other prizes.)
Wilkerson tells the true story of three people who made the decision to participate in the Great Migration, a watershed in American history. Greenfield takes an analogous approach for children, personalizing the story with impressions spoken by migrators of different ages and from different walks of life. Beautiful collage artwork by Gilchrist accompanies each segment.
Some of those who are leaving are unhappy:
Saying good bye to the land
Puts a pain in my heart.
I stand here looking at the green
growing all around me,
and I am sad.”
But others have no regrets, like this woman:
I can’t wait to get away.
I never want to see this town
Again. Goodbye, town. Goodbye,
Work all day for almost no pay,
Enemy cotton fields, trying
To break my back, my spirit.”
And the children don’t know what to think!
I wonder what it’s like. Anyway,
As long as Mama and Daddy
Are there, I know I’m going
To be happy.”
In a forward, Eloise Greenfield writes about why the South had become unsafe for African Americans and why they felt they had to leave. She notes:
…when they reached the North, they found that it was far from perfect. They had not escaped racial discrimination. Even so, things were better, and most people stayed in their new cities and worked hard to earn a living and take care of their children.”
Both Greenfield and Gilchrist have won many awards. This lovely book will show you why.
Published by Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2011
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages
For more multicultural picture books, check out all the resources at The Birthday Party Pledge, a new website dedicated to promoting gifts of multicultural books to the children in our lives.
For more reviews of books for children and teens, go to Booking Mama’s feature, Kid Konnection, posted on Saturdays. If you’d like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children’s books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, leave a comment as well as a link on her site.