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Uncle Jeds Barbershop


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About the Author

Margaree King Mitchell is the author of the Coretta Scott King Honor Book Uncle Jed's Barbershop, illustrated by James E. Ransome, and Granddaddy's Gift. She is the creator of the Everybody Has a Dream program, which empowers students in urban and rural areas to shoot for the stars with aspirations for their lives. Margaree lives in Kansas City, where she is a member of the Midwest Children's Authors Guild.

James E. Ransome's highly acclaimed illustrations for Before She Was Harriet received the 2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. His other award-winning titles include the Coretta Scott King winner The Creation; Coretta Scott King Honor Book Uncle Jed's Barbershop; Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt; and Let My People Go, winner of the NAACP Image Award. He frequently collaborates with his wife, author Lesa Cline-Ransome. One of their recent titles is Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams, which received four starred reviews and was an ALA Notable Children's Book. James is a professor and coordinator of the MFA Illustration Graduate Program at Syracuse University. He lives in New York's Hudson River Valley region with his family. Visit James at


PreS-Gr 3-Uncle Jed, a black, itinerant barber in the pre-Depression South, dreams of opening his own shop. He saves for years, but first his niece, who narrates the story, needs an operation, and then the bank in which his money is kept fails. The man's spirit never flags, however, and he finally starts his own business at age 79. Sarah Jean, whose life was saved by her uncle's generosity, is by this time a middle-aged adult, and shares in his pleasure. Mitchell's text is eloquent in its simplicity. Straightforward, declarative sentences explain such concepts as segregation and sharecropping without emotional overtones, while her subdued prose makes readers keenly aware of the injustice of segregation. Through Sarah Jean's eyes, readers see both the poverty and discrimination endured and the sense of community and caring shared by her family and friends. Ransome's richly textured oil paintings, uncluttered and direct, beautifully complement the text. These are strong characters captured with forceful brush strokes, yet the illustrations also include such details as a crocheted saddle blanket. Both touching and inspirational, this book is ideal for story hours featuring favorite relatives, and it could start children saving for their own dreams.-Louise L. Sherman, Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ

First-time author Mitchell crowds several themes--segregation, racism, the Depression, the American Dream--into her enterprising story. Sarah Jean's great uncle Jedediah, ``the only black barber in the county,'' hangs on to his ambition to open a barber shop, despite a lifetime of obstacles that deplete his savings. First, Sarah Jean requires an expensive operation; later, the bank failures of the Depression wipe out his painstakingly replenished account. The author's convivial depictions of family life are enhanced by Ransome's ( Red Dancing Shoes ) spirited oil paintings, which set the affectionate intergenerational cast against brightly patterned walls and crisp, leaf-strewn landscapes. The defining element of the book, however, may well be the narrator's measured descriptions of the racial climate of the 1920s: ``In those days, they kept blacks and whites separate. There were separate public rest rooms, separate water fountains, separate schools. It was called segregation.'' These starkly imposed social studies lessons, presented as interruptions to Uncle Jed's progress, also interrupt the narrative; readers will be impatient to attend his grand opening celebration at age 79 (along with a now-grown-up Sarah Jane). Ages 4-7. (Aug.)

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