Booklist Reviews

Ages 4-8. The author and illustrator who collaborated on Tree of Hope (1999) tell a picture-book story based on the civil rights struggle in Mississippi in 1964, when volunteers from the north set up "freedom schools" for black students. Jolie, the child narrator, is frightened when her mother takes an 18-year-old white teacher, Annie, into their house. Tension mounts when local racists burn down the black church where Freedom School is held. But the classes continue outside, and Jolie, inspired by what Annie teaches about African American history, art, literature, and music, finds the courage to fight back. The saintly characters--beautiful, wise, and strong--keep the personal story at a distance. The drama is in the history: the flaming church and the community joined in song in the smoking ruins. The scene of the men building the new church has a Jacob Lawrence-like rhythm, evoking the heritage that makes Jolie brave. ((Reviewed February 15, 2001)) Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews

Horn Book Guide Reviews

In a moving if somewhat didactic story, Jolie doesn't think she needs Freedom School, but Annie, the young white teacher from up north, tells her about brave Harriet Tubman and about Benjamin Banneker, who shared Jolie's love of the stars. Glowing illustrations underscore the courage of the young people involved in the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project and those who dared house them. An author's note is included. Bib. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Guide Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

The team that created Tree of Hope (1999) returns to present a story of the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project. Jolie is frightened by the presence of Annie, the white Freedom Rider her mother has volunteered to host over the summer, and she is reluctant toattend the Freedom School Annie will teach. But when a brick crashes through her window, and the church that is to hold the school burns down, Jolie realizes that daring to learn about her heritage in the face of hate is the best way to fight back. Littlesugar's prose effectively captures the pervasive fear felt by the African-American community and evokes the almost electric excitement of learning about a proud history for the first time. "Annie spoke of a free black man from long ago. ‘Benjamin Banneker was his name,' she said. ‘He was a mathematician, a farmer, but more than anything else, he loved the stars.' " Cooper's muted, oil-wash illustrations are equally expressive when presenting a close-up of a stern Uncle Shad, admonishing Jolie not to let "bein' scared" get in her way, as when depicting a long view of Annie teaching under an old hickory tree, the children at her feet and 70-year-old Miss Rosetta in her chair. Some illustrations are not so successful (as when Annie appears to be almost shouting a lesson about Harriet Tubman at Jolie), but this slight unevenness does not mar the effect of the whole. A loving, touching, and inspiring presentation of an often-overlooked chapter of the civil-rights saga. Includes author's note and bibliography.(Picture book. 5-9) Copyright 2000 Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly Reviews

The skilled author-illustrator team that introduced readers to 1930s Harlem in Tree of Hope here explores another dramatic chapter in African-American history: the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project. In the summer of 1964, Jolie's family plays host to Annie, a 19-year-old white woman who has volunteered to teach Freedom School. The segregated community of Chicken Creek is rattled by this arrangement blacks are skeptical of learning about their history and their heroes from a white stranger; whites are suspected of violent efforts (burning down the church, throwing bricks through windows) to drive Annie away. Despite the unrest and tension in the air, Annie helps open Jolie's eyes to her heritage and to the great test of courage that the Freedom School poses to all involved. Littlesugar personalizes the events of an era by colorfully detailing one girl's experience. Vivid imagery and realistic emotion will quickly grab readers' attention. But the story stumbles a bit, rushing to mention a list of African-American historical figures and slightly inflating Jolie's role in comparison to that of Harriet Tubman. Cooper's grainy-textured oil washes, as radiant as ever, depict the strength shining in faces of people newly enlightened. His portraits of various Chicken Creek residents capture their mix of fear, wonder, faith and determination. An author's note includes more information on the Freedom School project and the real-life heroes who inspired this story. Ages 4-8. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 1-4-This is a fictionalized account of events that took place during the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project in which more than 600 volunteers risked their lives to teach black children in the deep South "-'bout people and places-'bout who you are." Annie, a 19-year-old white teacher from up North, is staying with Jolie and her family, and the child instinctively feels danger. When vandals throw a brick through her bedroom window, she wishes the teacher would head home. After arsonists burn down the Chicken Creek Church, Annie holds the Freedom School under an old hickory tree and Jolie begins her journey toward knowledge, learning about Jacob Lawrence, Countee Cullen, and Benjamin Banneker. Gradually, the girl comes to care deeply about Annie's safety and to realize that fears must be overcome in order to win real freedom. Littlesugar has created a slice-of-life story with a potent message. Through Jolie's eyes, readers see the frightening violence of the 1960s South. The courage exhibited by the volunteers and the families offering them shelter is never minimized. Characters are fully developed; Jolie is very real in her apprehension and anger. The illustrations are masterful and lush. Cooper draws faces with exquisite strength and real pain. A unique and poignant look at a moment in history.-Barbara Buckley, Rockville Centre Public Library, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.