, February 09, 2008
Priscilla and the Hollyhocks by Anne Broyles, illustrated by Anna Alter
Anne Broyles has written a wonderful tale, based on a true story, about an African American slave torn from her mother's arms when only four years old. We follow Priscilla's childhood as she is sold to family after family as easily as one would buy new furniture. The only thing that gives her comfort, are the hollyhocks that remind her of her mother. In each new home, she plants hollyhock seeds and creates a refuge to hide in. She makes hollyhock dolls and floats them across the water, dreaming of home. But even when her Cherokee Indian master is forced to leave his own home and travel the "Trail of Tears", Priscilla remains their slave. It is only when she sees a white man from her youth, Basil Silkwood, that she sees an opportunity for a better life. She remembers that he had once told her that she should be in school. She runs to him, introduces herself and tells him, "I still want to learn". Mr. Silkwood buys Priscilla and sets her free, adopting her into his own large family of fifteen children.
Anne Broyles discovered the story of Priscilla while doing research for a YA book on the Cherokee Trail of Tears. It’s a story of courage and strength as Priscilla plants her hollyhock seeds as she travels across the country.
“Wasn’t much I wanted to ‘member from my first home but Ma. Pink hollyhocks kept her livin’. Surely if I thought on her, she might think on me, too, where’er she was.”
Anne has done a wonderful job of capturing a complicated story in simple phrases and uncomplicated language. We fall in love with her character immediately while learning about how complicated slavery could be in America.
Anna Alter does an amazing job with the illustrations, creating a gentle folk art style, while still giving illustration to a horrific time in our history.
This book includes instructions for making a hollyhock doll and an author's note that talks about the true story of Priscilla Silkwood. To celebrate the book’s release, there will be some partying going on for those of you in the Boston area.
Saturday, February 9, 1 p.m. (Anna and Anne)
Book launch--Wellesley Booksmith, Wellesley, MA
Saturday, February 16, 3 p.m. (Anna and Anne)
Book launch--Jamaicaway Books Jamaica Plain, MA
Wednesday, February 20, noon (Anne)
Boys and Girls Club, Lawrence, MA
Saturday, March 1, 12-2 p.m. (Anne)
Borders Books, Methuen, MA
Tuesday, March 4th, Time TBA (Anna)
Valente Branch of the Cambridge Public Library
Wednesday, March 5, 10 a.m.-noon (Anne)
South Elementary School, Andover, MA--SAIL event
Saturday, March 15, 11a.m.-1 p.m. (Anne)
Book signing at Annie’s Books, North Andover, MA
Saturday, March 29, 2 p.m. (Anne)
Multi-Author Book Launch--First UU Church, Belmont, MA
Saturday, April 12 (Anna)