Ellen's Broom

by Kelly Starling Lyons (Author) Daniel Minter (Illustrator)

Ellen's Broom

A young girl learns a new meaning for freedom during the time of Reconstruction

Ellen always knew the broom resting above the hearth was special. Before it was legal for her mother and father to officially be married, the broom was what made them a family anyway. But now all former slaves who had already been married in their hearts could register as lawful husband and wife.

When Ellen and her family make the long trip to the courthouse dressed in their best, she brings the broom her parents had jumped so many years before. Even though freedom has come, Ellen knows the old traditions are important too. After Mama and Papa's names are recorded in the register, Ellen nearly bursts with pride as her parents jump the broom once again.

Ellen is a wonderfully endearing character whose love for her family is brought to life in Daniel Minter's rich and eye-catching block print illustrations.


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Publishers Weekly

Lyonss (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 Ellens 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 storys emotions feel subdued. Minters (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 & OGrady. (Jan.) Copyright 2011 Publishers Weekly Used with permission.

School Library Journal

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

Copyright 2012 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Kelly Starling Lyons
Kelly Starling Lyons is the author of Hope's Gift and Tea Cakes for Tosh. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and daughter and son, who love collecting rocks just like Jada.

Nneka Myers has been known to paint worlds filled with color, texture, life, and diversity. Based in Toronto as a character designer and illustrator, her artwork can be found in TV animation, children's books, comics, and social media illustrations. When she is not a busy bee, she can often be found looking for inspiration in vintage fashion, drinking tea with friends, or playing video games.
Classification
Fiction
ISBN-13
9780399250033
Lexile Measure
610L
Guided Reading Level
N/A
Publisher
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication date
January 20, 2012
Series
Coretta Scott King Honor - Illustrator Honor Title
North Carolina Children's Book Award
Nominee 2013 - 2013
Coretta Scott King Award
Honor Book 2013 - 2013

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