Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation / by Patrice Sherman ; illustrated by Floyd Cooper.

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    • Notes:
      Includes bibliographical references.
    • ISBN:
      9780802853196 (alk. paper)
      0802853196 (alk. paper)
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    • Accession Number:
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Booklist Reviews 2010 February #2

"Don't let them know you can read" was the mantra of young Ben, a black slave in Charleston during the Civil War. Even though literacy was illegal for African Americans at the time, Ben learned the alphabet from his father and covertly practiced writing and word recognition. One night, after being imprisoned, he read aloud to his fellow inmates from a smuggled newspaper and discovered that Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This fictionalized account is drawn from the early life of Benjamin C. Holmes, who would go on to become a member of the famous Jubilee Singers and a teacher. The inspirational story is well-executed oil-on-board illustrations in sepia tones and rays of gold light, and the close-up depictions of Ben's face are realistically and nobly rendered. With moving language, Sherman clearly shows the ways that the young Ben both strengthened and hid his literacy skills, and how he put them to use as he dreamed of a better future. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Fall

Benjamin Holmes, a young slave, is determined to learn how to read. His endeavors culminate in reading the Emancipation Proclamation to fellow slaves. The narrative (with invented dialog) describes the creative ways Ben acquires reading material and how he hides his ability when it would prove dangerous. Cooper's warm-hued oil illustrations are expressive. Reading list, websites. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

PW Reviews 2009 December #1

Driven by Cooper's (The Blacker the Berry) textural, earth-toned oil paintings, this uplifting story spotlights the early life of Benjamin C. Holmes, born a slave in the 1840s. As a tailor's apprentice in Charleston, S.C., the boy discovers "all kinds of secret ways to learn how to read," deciphering words on street signs and in newspapers. In a memorable scene, Ben, on a rare visit home, reads the Bible to his illiterate mother, and she promises him a gold dollar when he learns to write. Sherman's (The Sun's Daughter) storytelling doesn't eschew the darker aspects of Ben's story: his father was sold off after teaching Ben the alphabet; he never sees his mother again after receiving the gold coin; and he's sent to a slave prison when the tailor flees as the Union Army approaches. Rumors that Lincoln has freed all slaves are confirmed when Ben reads a newspaper article announcing the Emancipation Proclamation to fellow slaves in the prison. Though Sherman's narrative ends there, a concluding note touches on Holmes's later life as a singer and teacher. Ages 8–12. (Jan.)

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