by Cheryl Wills, Illustrated by Sue Cornelisoon
Publication Date: Jan 01, 2020
List Price: Unavailable
Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
Target Age Group: Picture Book
Imprint: Lightswitch Learning
Publisher: Lightswitch Learning
Parent Company: Sussman Sales
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TV journalist Cheryl Wills previously gripped readers with her popular illustrated children’s book The Emancipation of Grandpa Sandy Wills. The best-selling book is her intimate story about her great-great-great grandfather Sandy Wills and his transformation from Tennessee slave to courageous Civil War soldier fighting for his own freedom. Now, Cheryl is once again using her voice to speak for the silenced and forgotten in her sequel book, EMMA. Emma was Sandy’s wife, a brave and strong enslaved woman. Emma dreamed of being free and literate. She never let her dreams die. Emma had to fight for everything in her life – her freedom, her hope, and the pension she was entitled to as the wife of a deceased soldier. Emma introduces themes like perseverance, leadership and initiative to students while educating them about historic events. If Emma could achieve her goals, perhaps so can all the girls that have come after her, like her great-great-great granddaughter, Cheryl Wills. Today, Emma continues to speak with encouragement, love and discipline to readers so that they, too, can dare to dream and achieve!
Journalist Cheryl Wills reaches back through her family tree for a story of freedom and self-determination.
Little Emma is enslaved on the Moore plantation in Haywood County, Tennessee, in 1858. She works in the house, caring for and playing with the white master’s children—but not learning with them. More than anything, she wants what they have but she can’t: freedom and literacy. With the end of the Civil War, she gains one but not the other. Emma marries a former black Union soldier and has children, milestones recorded by others. When he dies, she applies for survivor’s benefits but is denied twice due to bureaucratic quibbles about her husband’s name. (The use of this same tool to deny voting rights today goes unmentioned, but the parallels are clear for adults who wish to draw them.) Her third application, based on the records of her children’s births, is approved. It’s an unusual plot for a picture book, but Wills pulls it off, emphasizing both Emma’s unrealized desire to read and write and the importance of literacy to the successful negotiation of power structures. Copious backmatter includes a note on primary sources, discussion questions and activities, and a two-page glossary.
The message is clear and convincingly conveyed: Literacy is survival.
- Education / Elementary
- Education / History
- History / African American
- History / United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877)
- Juvenile Nonfiction / Biography & Autobiography / Cultural Heritage