For teachers and students looking for books about slavery and its effects, this is a good read-aloud. It shows another facet of the institution of slavery, especially how it differed in North Carolina from many of the states in the Deep South. George isn't physically abused, but he is separated from his family when their owner decides to divide up his estate. George is able to use his gift for words to earn money and nice clothing when he visits Chapel Hill on the weekends, but he still has to work all week on the farm. Even after he becomes a published author and others offer to help him buy his freedom, his owner refuses. It is not until the Emancipation Proclamation that George is finally a free man.
The way bits of poems are worked into the illustrations helps to show how big a part of his life these words were. The list of helpful sources that is provided at the end of the story is great for anyone who wants to learn more. I also found the author's note very helpful. His explanation of why he originally chose not to work on books that dealt with slavery shows how the topic can still cause many conflicting emotions in people. I think this book would be wonderful to pair with Dave the Potter, another story of extraordinary creativity.
Visit Curious City DPW for poetry workshop ideas.
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.
*Update - We won a copy of the book from a giveaway and it will be added to our library. (11/02/2015)