A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Barbara O'Connor (How to Steal a Dog), Pat Cummings (Clean Your Own Room, Harvey Moon! ) and Lois Ehlert (Chicka Chicka Boom Boom).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Kay Thompson (1909â€“1998), Eloise.
- Mary Robinson is elected Irelandâ€™s first female president in 1990. Read Madam President by Lane Smith and Madam President: The Extraordinary, True (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politics by Catherine Thimmesh.
- Itâ€™s Chaos Never Dies Day. Read Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech and Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers.
- World Freedom Day commemorates the fall of the Berlin Wall. Read The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis.
On November 9, 1731, American astronomer, mathematician, clockmaker, and surveyor, Benjamin Banneker, called â€śthe first black man of science,â€ť was born in Elliottâ€™s Mills, Maryland. Banneker published an almanac, becoming the first black man to do so. His life has been frequently presented in books for children, including Andrea Davis Pinkneyâ€™s Dear Benjamin Banneker.
When I was Publisher of Childrenâ€™s Books at Houghton Mifflin, one day I picked up a small manuscript, just three pages in length, which literally sent a chill down my spine. It presented the story of Benjamin Banneker in a way that I had not encountered, told by African-American storyteller and authorAlice McGill.
The finished book, Molly Bannaky, still gives me chills. Molly Walsh, a servant girl in England, spills her lordâ€™s milk and is sentenced in a court of law. Because she can â€śtake the book,â€ť or read from the Bible, she is not executed but sent as an indentured servant to the colonies. There Molly works hard, becomes a free woman, and heads out to start her own farm close to the wilderness. But she needs help and, consequently, she buys an African slave, promising to free him after a period of time. After they fall in love, Molly once again breaks the law by marrying a black man. However, the couple gains the acceptance of their community; they help neighbors and raise their children and grandchildren. In the final scene, we see Molly teaching her grandson how to read and recording his name in the family Bibleâ€”Benjamin Banneker.
By telling Mollyâ€™s story, Alice McGill examines an aspect of Colonial America that rarely gets discussed in childrenâ€™s books, the life of an interracial couple. As the grandson of a slave, Benjamin Banneker would have been denied access to books. But because of his grandmother, he received the gift that he needed to become an intellectualâ€”the ability to read.
Artist Chris Soentpiet extends the story in his luminous watercolors. A large-format book, the characters seem bigger than life, their story bold and important. Chris delights in historic research, the telling detail of a composition. The book makes it possible for children to feel they have walked back into Colonial America. A spare, lyrical text, lush and vibrant artwork, and an important story from a different point of view all add to the power of Molly Bannaky.
Happy birthday Benjamin Banneker. Iâ€™d like to celebrate this day by recognizing all the grandparents who have kept literacy alive in their family. They have truly made a difference, not only in their own families but also to the world.
Hereâ€™s a page from Molly Bannaky:
Originally posted November 9, 2010. Updated for .