Title: The Listeners
Author: Gloria Whelan
Illustrator: Mike Benny
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Concepts: slavery, human resources
Review: Ella May and her friends Bobby and Sue are sweet children born into the bonds of slavery. Although they work long, hard hours in the cotton fields and around the plantation, they reap no returns from their labor. They do, however, benefit from another important job they do for themselves and their families in the evenings. Ella May, Bobby, and Sue sit quietly outside the plantation-house windows and eavesdrop on conversations between the owner and his wife. In this way the children can pass along valuable information about plantation business and national politics that can help their families prepare for changes and hope for freedom.
With its restrained text and expressive illustrations, this book makes a good choice for teaching the youngest learners about the institution of slavery in U.S. history. Children will get a sense not only of some of the economic forces behind slavery, but also the injustice and heartache experienced by slaves of all ages during this period.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children