Title: Miss Crandall's School for Young Ladies & Little Misses of Color
Author: Elizabeth Alexander and Marilyn Nelson
Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 5.9
Concepts: discrimination, education
Review: Prudence Crandall, a young schoolteacher with a Quaker upbringing, started a boarding school for female students in Canterbury, Connecticut in 1831. Although the townspeople had helped to establish the school, their support soon changed into outrage when Ms. Crandall accepted a young African American woman from Boston. Outrage led to withdrawal of the white students as Ms. Crandall admitted a second student of color, and by early 1833 the school had only black girls in attendance.
Efforts by the townspeople to close the school intensified as they arrested and briefly jailed Ms. Crandall, harassed the students, stopped selling provisions to the school, and ultimately ransacked the building and set it on fire. Although the town succeeded in closing the school, Ms. Crandall continued to speak out about social justice across the country, and ultimately the town of Canterbury made reparations for their wrongful actions.
Elizabeth Alexander (poet for the 2009 inauguration of President Obama) and Marilyn Nelson (poet laureate of the state of Connecticut, 2002-06), use a series of carefully-crafted and beautiful sonnets to relate the story of Prudence Crandall and her students. The uncertainties of leaving home for a boarding school, the joys of gaining new knowledge, the frustration in encountering resistance from the town, and the fears of experiencing harassment are all captured in the powerful verses. Floyd Cooper’s moving illustrations work extremely well in helping the reader to interpret the poems. This unique book of poetry provides teachers and parents with a new opportunity for teaching important lessons about discrimination, education, and U.S. history.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children