Reviews for Ellen's Broom


Booklist Reviews 2012 February #1
Set during Reconstruction, this story bursts with one family's joy as Mama and Papa, both former slaves, legalize their marriage. When Deacon announces the new laws on Sunday, Ellen doesn't fully understand, but she knows Mama's tears are happy ones. Previously, slaves marked their unions with broom weddings. A couple would place a broom on the floor, hold hands, and leap over it "into life together." And so as Mama and Papa head to the courthouse to add their names to the wedding registry, Ellen carries the broom, which has since hung over the hearth as a link to the past. An author's note reveals that Lyons' discovery of the 1866 Cohabitation List of Henry Country, Virginia--a document of a time when slave marriages weren't protected by law--inspired the book. Minter's vibrant, hand-painted block prints, filled with period detail, nicely enhance this testament to remembering the trials of the past and celebrating hard-won freedom. Use as a springboard for discussion with elementary-age children. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
Newly freed slaves, Ellen and her family are thrilled to learn that "all former slaves living as husband and wife" will be allowed to legally register their marriages. Her mother explains the custom of jumping over a broomstick to symbolize a union even though couples were frequently separated and sold away. Vibrant linoleum block prints capture the purposeful story's moods.

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Kirkus Reviews 2012 January #1
Ellen cheerfully watches as her parents, former slaves, legally register their wedding at a Freedman's Bureau during Reconstruction. There's happiness in the air for Ellen, her family and all their neighbors as they attend church services celebrating the end of slavery and the beginning of freedom. The announcement from the pulpit that slave marriages can now be recognized brings more joy to Ellen's parents, who share stories with their children of the forced separation of families and the importance of the broom that was used in their own wedding, a broom with a place of honor over the fireplace. It is Ellen's idea to weave flowers through that broom for the new ceremony. The broom will stay with the family now as a symbol of the past and as a part of family tradition. Stories for young children set during Reconstruction are not common, and Lyons has called upon her own family stories and marriage to shine a spotlight on the period. Minter uses hand-painted linoleum block prints for a bright, sunny and upbeat accompaniment. Scenes of slave times are colored in sepia to set them apart. A spirited story filled with the warmth of a close family celebrating a marriage before God and the law. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-7) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 November #4

Lyons's (One Million Men and Me) modest story, set during Reconstruction, illuminates a historical milestone as well as the African-American slavery-era wedding ritual of broom jumping. After slavery ends, Ellen and her family rejoice with other members of their church when the deacon announces that the law will now recognize the marriages of former slaves. This includes Ellen's parents, who tell their children about the tradition of "broom weddings," in which slave couples (whose unions were not always honored by their masters) "held hands and leaped into life together" while jumping over a broom. Ellen carries the broom her parents used as they join other couples walking to the courthouse to officially register their marriages; she then decorates the broom with flowers to create a bouquet for her mother. The narrative has a loving, homespun tone, though the story's emotions feel subdued. Minter's (The First Marathon) vibrant linoleum block prints--which use springtime colors for the present day and sepia tones for flashbacks to the time of slavery--give the book more of an emotional charge. Ages 5-8. Agent: Dwyer & O'Grady. (Jan.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 January

K-Gr 3--According to an author's note, while Lyons was researching family history, she learned of the role played by the Freedmen's Bureau in authenticating the unregistered marriages of former slaves. This Reconstruction-era story imagines what that experience would be like. After their preacher announces the opportunity to register and be considered legally married, Ellen's parents and siblings gather around the broom hanging above their hearth. Papa explains the custom of "jumping the broom"--the ritual enacted by slaves to signify marital commitment: "we put this here broom on the ground, held hands and leaped into life together." The family then walks to the courthouse where Mama and Papa are married, with Mama holding the broom, which is later hung above the fireplace. Minter's striking hand-painted linoleum block prints create a range of physical and emotional settings as the parents reflect on their past and celebrate the significance of being "legal." Warm brown faces reflect the brilliant golden rays filling the church in a colorful opening imbued with joyous reverence. A muted palette with softer borders is employed for flashbacks, such as that of a husband and wife being cruelly separated by a master. The pink of the protagonist's dress connects to the flowers she and her sister gather to decorate the broom, as it becomes a link between their heritage and futures. Lyons's homespun and heartfelt dialogue combines with Minter's exquisite use of line, color, and composition to produce a story that radiates deep faith and strong family bonds.--Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library

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