Author: Amy Hill Hearth
Illustrator: Tim Ladwig
Publisher: Abingdon Press (out-of-print but available on internet)
Audience: Ages 6 and up
Summary: This book introduces young readers to the Delany sisters, two African- American women who grew up on the campus of St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, NC in the l890’s. They both lived to be over 100 years old!
Literary elements at work in Story: As Bessie and Sadie tell about their childhood, readers learn about this time period when African-Americans were transitioning from slavery to freedom. Sadie and Bessie have daily chores, attend prayer service in the chapel each morning led by their father, play instruments in the family band, and learn to “reach high” with their goals even though their family has little money. Through direct quotes, vivid illustrations by award-winning Tim Ladwig, and episodic details, the book presents this time period and these sisters in a way that teaches and inspires young readers.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story?: The book includes the sociological complexities of this era. Bessie and Sadie’s father, a former slave, is vice-principal of the school, and their mother is a teacher. Bessie and Sadie must obey the new Jim Crow laws that discriminate against them for their dark skin. Mama helps cook for, and take care of, some former slaves who are very poor, lonely and need help adjusting to freedom. The sisters are taught by former slaves who are learning to be teachers as well as by an educated white woman from New England named Miss Moseley.
Theological conversation partners: The Delany family values faith, prayer, worship, cleanliness, diligence, education and kindness to those in need. Although life for the Delaney sisters is not always easy, they are optimistic and grateful. Sadie calls her childhood “blessed” and explains that they had “faith in the Lord” as well as love and happiness that they carried with them throughout their lives.
Faith Talk Questions:
- The Delaney family played music together. Does your family like music? Do you sing together in church or at home? What are your family’s favorite songs?
- What does Bessie mean when she says, “We lived a clean life, but Lord, we had a good time”?
- How did the Delaney family help Uncle Jesse and Mr. Holloway? Why did they help them even though they were not relatives? Who do you know in your neighborhood or community that might need help?
- Why do you think Mr. And Mrs. Delany made sure all their children were clean and neat every morning before they left the house? Do you think it is important to be clean and neat? What did Mr. and Mrs. Delaney want for their children?
Anne Rankowitz, Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna, is responsible for our review this week.