Working Cotton

image-14Title: Working Cotton

Author(s): Sherley Anne Williams

Illustrator/Photographer: Carole Byard

Publisher and Year: 1975-Wesleyan University Press

Number of pages: 26

Tags/Themes: Danielle Burge, Caledcott Honor, Migrant Labor, Cotton Picking, Family, African Americans, California, Child Labor, History, Civil War, Dialect, Hardship

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: In the book, Working Cotton, a little African-American girl, Shelan, describes her daily work adventures in the cotton fields of California. Shelan elaborates extensively on the hardships for each individual in her family and how the daily tasks affect her personally. The story is written through the dialect of Shelan and is frequently grammatically incorrect. But it adds a sense of authenticity to the story while exhibiting a challenging lifestyle. She begins with describing how her parents, brother, and sisters arrive safely to the cotton fields before sunrise until nighttime filling sacks of cotton. Throughout the story, Shelan passes little negative judgment and enlightens on many positive experiences when cotton picking with her family. Overall, Shelan narrates a sense of pride and significance when discussing the daily task of working in the cotton fields with her family from dawn till dusk.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: In this story the cultural diversity is evident with the story plot being about a African-American migrant working family laboring in the Cotton Fields of California. Although some object to the interpretation of African American’s picking cotton, this story creates a respected picture of a family embracing life and doing whatever it takes to have success in life.

The language in this story is simple and easy to follow along with. The story is narrated through the dialect of a little girl who relates to someone with little proper English education. Her language makes sense but has frequent grammatical errors. Readers will be able to determine the particular dialect quickly.

Interdisciplinary Connections: I would use this particular book when correlating Children’s Literature into a Social Studies lesson. Students would read about the Civil War in some informational text option. Educators could either read this story aloud to their students or have them read the story individually. Then have the students compare and contrast the texts and fully explain the evident differences and similarities between the two.

Other Information: Overall, I really enjoyed this book because it was during a controversial period in history through a child’s perspective. I was easily able to relate to the book and enjoyed hearing the different dialect narrated vs. the dialect I speak. Also, the illustrations in this book are visually appealing because they are all oil pastel based. Each page has significant detail and you are able to visualize what the text is portraying. I would highly recommend this book to be used in an elementary classroom setting because it will be easy for the children to relate to.



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