Sunday, May 19, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Fifty Cents and a Dream

Fifty Cents and a Dream
written by Jabari Asim; illustrated by Bryan Collier
2012 (Little, Brown and Company)
Source: Mebane Public Library

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Having to walk his master's daughter to school was extra cruelty for a young Booker T. Washington. He carried her books and longed to learn how to read them. Unfortunately, it was against the law for a slave to receive any instruction in reading. He could only watch through the classroom window and dream about learning to read. Booker's family moved to West Virginia after the Civil War and he worked in a coal mine. His mother surprised him with a spelling book that was his gateway to learning about letters and beginning to read. Booker worked and went to class to learn more. When he was a teenager, he heard about a school called Hampton Institute which was hundreds of miles away. Distance didn't matter to him when it came to fulfilling his dream and the dream of others who would never have the same opportunity. With little money in his pocket, Booker headed west through the mountains of Virginia to reach the boarding school. His money was gone by the time he reached Richmond, and he was still 82 miles away from Hampton. Instead of giving up, Booker found work and saved until he had enough to travel to school. He finally arrived at Hampton with only fifty cents in his pocket, but his dream was on its way to being fulfilled.

Fifty Cents and a Dream reveals the struggles of young Booker T. Washington and his dream of receiving an education. It's a great example of perseverance and the power of education. The story is gripping and the illustrations are amazing watercolor collages. I appreciate the author's note which touches on some of the complexities that surround Washington's legacy. Readers of all ages will be able to understand his struggles and his inability to give up on his dream. This book would be an excellent addition to your biography collection.


  1. It's just unbelievable to me that people would prevent others from getting an education. Thanks for participating in Nonfiction Monday!

  2. You might enjoy As Fast as Words Can Fly, as well. A bit later in time, but also Civil Rights.

  3. He was a controversial figure later on with the school he founded - but, his early life and struggles make for inspiring reading. Thanks so much for sharing this!


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