Ellen’s Broom

Kelly Starling Lyons, illus. by Daniel Minter. Putnam, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-25003-3
Lyons’s (One Million Men and Me) modest story, set during Reconstruction, illuminates a historical milestone as well as the African-American slavery-era wedding ritual of broom jumping. After slavery ends, Ellen and her family rejoice with other members of their church when the deacon announces that the law will now recognize the marriages of former slaves. This includes Ellen’s parents, who tell their children about the tradition of “broom weddings,” in which slave couples (whose unions were not always honored by their masters) “held hands and leaped into life together” while jumping over a broom. Ellen carries the broom her parents used as they join other couples walking to the courthouse to officially register their marriages; she then decorates the broom with flowers to create a bouquet for her mother. The narrative has a loving, homespun tone, though the story’s emotions feel subdued. Minter’s (The First Marathon) vibrant linoleum block prints—which use springtime colors for the present day and sepia tones for flashbacks to the time of slavery—give the book more of an emotional charge. Ages 5–8. Agent: Dwyer & O’Grady. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/28/2011
Release date: 01/05/2012
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