Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy Birthday, Carole Boston Weatherford - February 13

Happy Birthday, Carole Boston Weatherford - February 13

On January 23, 2017, Freedom in Congo Squarewritten by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, was awarded a Caldecott Honor Award. I had just checked out the book from the library and decided to read it that night to my children before bedtime instead of waiting a couple of weeks for our birthday celebration. I shared with them, "Today this book received a Caldecott award."

My six-year-old asked, "The gold medal or the silver one?"

I said, "The silver one. The Caldecott Honor."  He said, "Oh, that's cool." I reminded my children that we met the author at the Chesapeake Children's Book Festival last summer.  Then, I started reading.

My nine-year-old son interrupted me on the second page, "I remember this book. I remember her voice. I remember the way she said the words."

I remembered too. Hearing Carole Boston Weatherford read Freedom in Congo Square was the highlight of my experience at the Chesapeake Children's Book Festival. Carole believes, "poetry makes music with words." Her words were music. Her words made a lasting impression on me and my son.

Carole Boston Weatherford is the author of over 40 books in a wide variety of genres. Her poetry, historical fiction, biographies, and more are enjoyed by children and adults. Many of her books have received awards including, Becoming Billie Holiday, a Coretta Scott King author award recipient in 2009.

Her parents were instrumental in recognizing her gift for writing. Her mother stopped the car after Carole read her a poem from the back seat. She asked Carole, just a first grader, to repeat the poem so she could write it down. Her father, a high school printing teacher, made Carole's poems extra special when he printed them for her on notecards. ( She said in an interview with the The Brown Bookshelf, "The Creator called me to be poet. I hear words strung together in my head just as a composer hears notes and chords."

Carole went on to study Persuasive Communications and Promotions at American University. Shortly after graduating she was successful publishing a poem in a magazine. She told Bookpage, "When I saw that poem in print, I thought, that's what I want to do! I came out of the closet as a poet, I always say."

After getting married, having children, and pursuing another master's degree she decided to write for children. She was inspired by the multicultural books she found during her trips to the library with her own children. (Bookpage). In 1995, she published her first book Juneteenth Jamboree.

Carole continues to "mine the past for family stories, fading traditions, and forgotten struggles." ( Two of her most recent books are perfect examples this, Voice for Freedom Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of Civil Rights Movement, a 2016 Caldecott Honor Winner, illustrated by Ekua Holmes and You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmenillustrated by her son, Jeffery Boston Weatherford.

Our birthday celebration activity was inspired by Carole's first book to receive a Caldecott Honor (2007), Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People To Freedom, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Listen to Carole talk about Moses in the short video below:

We traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. 
The museum staff suggested that we start our tour on the top floor at the From Slavery to Freedom exhibit.
The amount of information was overwhelming. We tried to soak up as much as we could.
Whenever I saw something about Harriet Tubman or the Underground Railroad I read the information to whoever would listen.
We would have failed this test. 
We learned that Ohio played an important role on the pathway to freedom for many. 
We learned that Harriet Tubman later served as a spy during the Civil War.
The most powerful piece in the museum was the Slave Pen. This building was once used to hold slaves for sale. Read more about this exhibit on the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center's website.
There were chains in this box. They could not believe that chains were used on people.

My children learned a lot from the interactive exhibit that had them make choices to see if they would be able escape to freedom or get caught. They got caught when they chose to climb a tree to avoid a few stray dogs.
This wagon had a false bottom to aide in moving slaves to a safe area.
We learned that there were many paths to freedom, including to Mexico.
My son was intrigued by all the hiding places that were utilized in houses.

A memorable learning day with my family.
After the museum we visited the Blue Manatee Children's Book Store. It was only about 15 minutes away.
We found Voice for Freedom Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of Civil Rights Movement on display at the store.
Carole, we are so happy to have met you at the Chesapeake Children's Book Festival. Thank you for sharing your birthday with us so we could celebrate. Also, thank you for writing books that helped us learn from the struggles and triumphs of others. We hope you have a wonderful birthday!

Check out Carole Boston Weatherford's new book, THE LEGENDARY MISS LENA HORNE, released January 24, 2017:

2. Video Interview - Reading Rockets, PBS - NC Bookwatch
3. Interview - The Brown Bookshelf, School Library Journal, Cynsations (2016), Cynsations (2009), Poetry for Children,
4. Audio Interview - Brassy Brown
5. CAROLE BOSTON WEATHERFORD: Sunday's Respite is Full of Song - Bookpage
7. Teacher's Guide - MOSES
8. 2010 NC Award Winner - YouTube Video (Great video!)

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