Title: Alec's Primer
Author: Mildred Pitts Walter
Illustrator: Larry Johnson
Publisher: August House
Concepts: slavery, education
Review: Five-year old Alec, born into slavery on a tobacco plantation in Virginia, had a sense of humor and an independent streak. These qualities did not sit too well with the plantation owner, Mistress Gouldin, who reassigned him from kitchen work with his mother to difficult outdoor work monitored by the plantation overseer. The passing of several years brought Alec an unexpected opportunity to learn how to read under the tutelage of the plantation owner’s daughter, Zephie. Alec’s initial fear of breaking the rules gave way to a deep desire to learn to read from the small primer that Zephie gave him. Empowered by the ability to read, Alec risked his life to escape from the plantation and join the union army during the Civil War.
Based on true events in the life of Alec Turner, this compelling book is a useful resource for teaching younger children about the harsh realities of slavery in U.S. history. Using age-appropriate text and rich illustrations, Alec’s Primer effectively communicates the hard work that was expected of plantation slaves, the dangers of breaking the rules, and the glorious feelings that came with freedom and social justice. This important book makes a valuable addition to any collection of picture books loaded with substantive content.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children