PPBF: It Jes Happened

Author: Don Tate
Illustrator: R. Gregory Christie
Publisher: Lee & Low Books, 2012
Age Level: 6 and up
Themes: African American painters, folk art, Alabama, biography
Opening: It was early summer in Montgomery, Alabama, 1939. On downtown Monroe Avenue, an elderly man sat on a wooden crate. With a board laid across his lap and the stub of a pencil grasped in his hand, he began to draw a picture on the back of a discarded laundry soap box.
Summary: A biography of twentieth-cenury African American folk artist Bill Traylor, a former slave who at the age of eighty-five began to draw pictures based on his memories and observations of rural and urban life in Alabama.

Why I like this book: This is a beautifully written story of a very poor man whose light certainly shined within (Traylor is now considered to be one of the most important self-taught folk artists). Here another excerpt: ‘Rectangles became bodies; circles became heads and eyes; lines became outstretched arms, hands, and legs. He filled in shapes with sketchy lines and smoothed out edges.’ In researching this post I was surprised to find out that Tate is better known as an illustrator. I was so taken by the story that I asked, and found out, that there will (hopefully) soon be a site where we can view Traylor’s original work.
Resources/Activities: Check out the teacher’s guide on Don Tate’s website, by Debbie Gonzales.

For more PPBF picks, go to Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog – HERE