Tuesday, April 12, 2011

These Hands

These Hands
written by Margaret H. Mason; illustrated by Floyd Cooper
(Houghton Mifflin Books for Children) 2011
Source: Mebane Public Library

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Joseph's grandfather says to him, "Look at these hands, Joseph." His grandfather goes on to explain that his hands used to be able to "tie a triple bowline knot in three seconds flat." Grandpa's hands could also do card tricks, throw vicious curve balls, and play wonderful melodies on the piano. One thing Grandpa's hands could not do was mix the bread dough at the Wonder Bread factory. His hands were considered good enough to sweep the floors and load the trucks, but the color of his skin was not considered good enough to touch the bread dough. Grandpa's hands worked with the hands and voices of others to create a change so his grandson's hands could think about doing "anything at all in this whole wide world."

This story is based on the experiences of baker Joe Barnett who was a friend of author Margaret Mason. It is a superb way to talk about our past with young students. The text is spare, yet powerful. Floyd Cooper's illustrations convey the pain brought by discrimination and also the determination to defeat it. You also see a wonderful relationship between a grandfather and his grandson in These Hands. I would use this book in a unit on change over time, self-esteem, or with older students when studying the history of the civil rights movement. It would make a great mentor text when teaching inference as well.

Other reviews of These Hands:
Publisher's Weekly

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