Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington

by Jabari Asim (Author) Bryan Collier (Illustrator)

Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
Booker dreamed
of making friends with words,
setting free the secrets
that lived in books.

Born into slavery, young Booker T. Washington could only dream of learning to read and write. After emancipation, Booker began a five-hundred-mile journey, mostly on foot, to Hampton Institute, taking his first of many steps towards a college degree. When he arrived, he had just fifty cents in his pocket and a dream about to come true. The young slave who once waited outside of the schoolhouse would one day become a legendary educator of freedmen.

Award-winning artist Bryan Collier captures the hardship and the spirit of one of the most inspiring figures in American history, bringing to life Booker T. Washington's journey to learn, to read, and to realize a dream.
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Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

The founder of the Tuskegee Institute is portrayed as a boy and young man who never gives up on his dream of an education. Going from illiterate slave to child worker to student, a near-penniless Washington walks an incredible 500 miles to attend school. Collier's (Dave the Potter) sophisticated design elements will have readers revisiting his extraordinary collages. In one, a contemplative Washington sits in a clearing, as ethereal faces and hands--representing those who figuratively support him--fill the dark brown bark of the trees that literally "stand behind" him. "Booker listened/ and carried their dreams with him." An artist's note points out other symbolic touches (e.g., Booker's shirt is made up of pieces of maps), while author notes and a time line flesh out the rest of Washington's life story, including criticism that labeled him as too willing to compromise in the face of overt racism. Asim's (Boy of Mine) lyrical narrative is succinct yet illustrative, and, combined with the artwork, makes an impressive addition to any biography collection. Ages 3-6. Agent: Joy Harris, Joy Harris Literary Agency. Illustrator's agent: Marcia Wernick, Wernick & Pratt. (Dec.)

Copyright 2012 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 2-4--Here sits a barefooted boy leaning against a tree trunk, eyes closed, dreaming about reading. Here he is following his master's daughter to school, carrying her books, feeling their "magic seeping into his hands." Booker was born a slave, and slaves were forbidden to read. Emancipation came while he was still young. He worked with the men in his family, first shoveling salt, then in a coal mine. He learned to read from a spelling book his mother gave him. He attended the school for Negroes after work and dreamed of Hampton Institute, where he could study writing. He walked there-hundreds of miles through the mountains of Virginia, unloading ships in Richmond when his food money ran out. A janitor job at Hampton paid his room and board. Written in simply stated narrative, in a font that looks hand-printed, this story covers more of Washington's life and offers more detail than Marie Bradby's More Than Anything Else (Orchard, 1995), a brief, movingly told, beautifully rendered introduction to Washington for younger children. Collier's patterned and textured watercolor and paper collage paintings perfectly mirror the narrative, reiterating details and settings in handsomely constructed glimpses of the young Booker at school and at work; the teen-aged Booker traveling on foot toward a better education; the student dreaming of great things to come. His dreams are shown as luminescent bubbles or rays of light that reach toward the sky; his shirt is map-patterned. Two pages of biographical endnotes include a time line of his significant accomplishments. An inspirational life, memorably presented.--Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Public Library, OH

Copyright 2012 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

A School Library Journal 2012 Editor's Choice List
A Kirkus Best Children's Books List Selection
A Fall 2012 Parent's Choice Silver Award Winner
An NAACP Image Award Nominee
A 2013 CCBC Choices list selection
Jabari Asim
Jabari Asim is an associate professor of writing at Emerson College and a recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. He has written for the Washington Post and is the editor of the NCAAP magazine, The Crisis. He lives in Boston, with his wife and five children.

Bryan Collier began painting at the age of fifteen and earned a B.F.A. with honors from the Pratt Institute in New York. He has illustrated over 20 picture books and has won numerous awards, including three Caldecott Honors. He lives with his wife and children in Marlboro, New York.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date
December 20, 2012
BISAC categories
JNF007050 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Cultural Heritage
JNF018010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JNF007020 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Historical
Library of Congress categories
Childhood and youth
African Americans
United States
Washington, Booker T.
Jefferson Cup
Honor Book 2013 - 2013
Parents Choice Awards (Fall) (2008-Up)
Silver Medal Winner 2012 - 2012
South Carolina Childrens, Junior and Young Adult Book Award
Nominee 2014 - 2015

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