Book of the Week-Working Cotton

working cotton

Title: Working Cotton

Author: Sherley Anne Williams

Illustrator: Carole Byard

Summary: A young black girl relates the daily events of her family's migrant life in the cotton fields of central California.


I picked this story up the other day at one of the centers to read.  I saw that it was a Caldecott Honor award and I looked it up to see when it won.  It was awarded this honor in 1993.

I was a bit shocked that it was an award winner until I remembered that this was awarded for the ILLUSTRATIONS…from illustrations this really does deserve the award.  They are gorgeous and I’m actually surprised it didn’t win that year.

These illustrations make you feel like you are there and really portray the feeling of the times that the book talks about.

The idea of the story is a great story line; however the way the book is written is off putting.  I like to consider myself a pretty good story teller.  When I sit with a group of children I can usually keep their attention through 4 or 5 books (I rarely do because that would break into their work time; but I can spend a good hour in the library at free choice time reading book after book on request).

This book is written from the perspective of the child in the story…and is written as a child would talk, especially a child from a cotton picking family would talk.

Now, I’m not opposed to having things quoted once in a while in the dialect of a culture or time period; but for the entire book to be written this way is a real struggle, not just for me as the reader, but also for the children.

I also think that children need to be hearing real language.  They are already struggling to learn to speak properly, this is just that much more confusing for them.

Would I say not to have it?  NO!  It shows cultures, the story plotline is valuable, and the illustrations are beyond words! 

Carole Byard Illustrator: Carole Byard

Sherley Anne Williams

Author: Sherley Anne Williams

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