I've written many times how I really adore the different series put out by Sleeping Bear Press, especially the "Tales of Young Americans" series. Always written in a fictional, picture book format, these books give younger children a glimpse into history, without being too fact-filled. Just really nice stories, always beautifully illustrated, that can help start up family (or school or library) conversations about moments of our history.
The latest edition to the series is The Listeners, written by Gloria Whelan and illustrated by Mike Benny, telling the story of a Ella May, a young slave girl on a plantation. Every night Ella May and her friends are sent to do the "listening" by the big house, basically meaning they eavesdrop on the Master's conversations. It's the only way the slaves get any sort of news about the world or about what is going to happen to them.
Having no control over the amount of food they eat, the clothes they wear, or the treatment they get, the slaves are eager for any tidbit of information Ella May and her friends bring back. And when one bit of information is about Abraham Lincoln being elected President, the families finally have something to look forward to: a future filled with freedom.
The book is very nicely written, exhibiting the emotions of the children and their families without being overly melancholy...a good thing being the targeted age range for this book is listed as 6-10. Definitely could be read to younger children and older children could use this as an additional project resource.
The illustrations are beautifully done and the cover drew me in immediately. Very soft drawings done with muted colors that emphasize the character's features. Beautiful and lovely!
There is a really neat teacher's guide to go along with The Listeners, which you can find here: www.gale.cengage.com/pdf/TeachersGuide/ListenersGuide.pdf.
You can also find teacher's guides for other Sleeping Bear Press titles at: www.sleepingbearpress.com/educators.
(For some reason the links won't work when I embed them. So I typed out the sites for you :)
You can purchase the books here and here. Or click on the book cover above and link to Amazon.
Sleeping Bear Press