Title: Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation
Author: Pat Sherman
Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Concepts: slavery, racial equality, social justice, discrimination, child schooling
Review: As a young slave in South Carolina during the mid-1800s, Ben quietly rebelled against the widespread practice of depriving slaves of an education by teaching himself to read. Empowered by the small head start he received from his father, who had taught him some of the letters of the alphabet, Ben studied the words on street signs and shop windows whenever he ran errands for the tailor for whom he worked in Charleston.
Months turned into years as Ben slowly but steadily became literate and helped other slaves to read as well. At a particularly bleak time when he was temporarily being held at a slave prison awaiting sale during the Civil War, he garnered a highly charged and emotional round of applause when he read aloud the Emancipation Proclamation from a Charleston newspaper to the other men.
Pat Sherman's carefully-researched text and the dramatic oil paintings from acclaimed illustrator Floyd Cooper make this new publication an important addition to children's book collections about slavery and the historical South. With its emphasis on child schooling, teachers and parents can use the book to discuss how education can help to promote empowerment, racial equality, and social justice.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children